Kimi Raikkonen Storms to Italian GP Pole


Kimi Räikkönen edged team-mate Sebastian Vettel to head a front-row lock-out for Ferrari in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton finishing third ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Räikkönen, whose last pole came at the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix, set a time of 1:19.119 to not only take his 18th career pole position but also to shatter the Monza lap record set 14 years ago by Juan Pablo Montoya.

The Finn set the early pace in Q1 with a time of 1:20.937, almost six tenths of a second clear of team-mate Vettel. The Ferraris were then split by Hamilton, who posted a time of 1:21.321.

Vettel though then moved to the front with a time of 1:20.758 and on a second attempt worked his way down to a time of 1:20.542 to head the session, in front of Räikkönen who also made an improvement and Hamilton.

Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo, who is facing a series of PU-related penalties for tomorrow’s race, completed just a single late run in the session, but it was enough to see the Australian through to Q2 in fourth place ahead of the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen.

At the other end of the order, in the drop zone as the session drew to a close were Williams’ Lance Stroll, McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, the twin Toro Rossos of Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, who is also facing engine-related penalties tomorrow.

And it was the Renault driver who managed to drag himself furthest up the order with a time good enough for 10th. Gasly and Stroll also hauled themselves out of danger with the Toro Rosso driver finishing in P12, four thousandths of a second ahead of the Williams man.

Racing Point Force India’s Sergio Perez was eliminated in P16 ahead of Sauber’s Charles Leclerc, Hartley, the second Sauber of Marcus Ericsson and McLaren’s Vandoorne.

At the start of Q2 is was Hamilton who set the early pace, the Briton becoming the first man to break into the 1m19s bracket with a lap of 1:19.798. Räikkönen slotted into P2, four tenths behind.

Vettel, though, was again running faster than both and the German drew a huge cheer from the partisan crowd when he jumped to the top of the order with a first run time of 1:19.785, edging Hamilton by just over a hundredth of a second. Behind them, Bottas slotted into fourth ahead of Verstappen, Ocon, Renault’s Carlos Sainz, the Haas cars of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen and the Toro Rosso of Gasly.

Vettel tightened his hold on top spot with his second run, this time lapping in 1:19.629 to make it into Q3 0.169s ahead of Hamilton, with Räikkönen third ahead of Verstappen who edged Bottas by just under a tenths of a second.

Lance Stroll put in a good lap to make it into Q3 in P8, the first time he had appeared in Q3 since the Italian GP of 2017.

Pierre Gasly, too, delivered an excellent final lap of the segment to make it through in P10.

That meant that eliminated in 11th place was Magnussen, with Sirtoking exiting in P12 ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. Hulkenberg and Ricciardo failed to set times and were eliminated in P4 and P15 respectively.

Vettel stranglehold on top spot ended in the first run of Q3 however. The German crossed the line in 1:19.497. Räikkonen was right behind him on track, however, and he edged past the German by four hundredths of a second. Hamilton though was running even faster and he claimed provisional pole with a time of 1:19.390.

There was no stopping Ferrari on home soil, however, though it wasn’t Vettel who made jumped to the top, but Räikkonen.

As Vettel dropped a wheel into the dirt on his lap, the Finn delivered a note-perfect performance on his final lap to shatter Juan Pablo Montoya’s absolute lap record for Monza of 1:19.525 set in 2004. Räikkönen’s pole, his first since Monaco 2017, was achieved with a lap of 1:19.199.

Vettel completed a Ferrari front-row lock-out with his final lap of 1:19.280 while Mercedes witll start from row two with Hamilton third ahead of Bottas. Verstappen took fifth place for Red Bull Racing ahead of Grosjean, Sainz, Ocon, Gasly and Stroll.

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