Italian Grand Prix – Carlos Sainz beat Max Verstappen to pole in Monza after a very close-fought fight between the Ferraris and the Dutch driver.
For this weekend’s qualifying we’re back trying the Alternative Tyre Allocation format. as trialled for the first time in Hungary, to cut down on the number of tyres Pirelli have to bring for the weekend, and it means that hard tyres must be used in Q1, mediums in Q2 and softs in Q3.
Noone was chomping at the bit to head out as qualifying started, the AlphaTauri and Haas cars though were the first to emerge, two minutes into the session. The Aston Martins and Esteban Ocon were the last to head out and did so just as the first times were being set. Yuki Tsunoda opened the timesheets with a 1:23.234, while Max Verstappen’s first effort, a 1:22.047, got deleted due to track limits.
With ten minutes to go it was the Williams of Alex Albon at the top of the times with a 1:22.123, about a tenth ahead of George Russell and Sergio Perez. Verstappen finally got another lap in a couple of minutes later, setting a 1:21.573 to go over three tenths up on the P1 time his teammate had just set.
While the Red Bulls and Ferraris were in the top four spots with five minutes left, Pierre Gasly, Oscar Piastri, Nico Hulkenberg, Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll were sitting in the elimination zone. Ocon had gone through the gravel and was getting his floor checked in the pits.
In the end, Piastri and Hulkenberg managed to save themselves, making it to P11 and P15, but Zhou, the Alpines, Kevin Magnussen and Stroll won’t be continuing on in qualifying this afternoon.
There will be an investigation after the session into both Ferrari drivers as the Stewards check whether they potentially failed to comply with the maximum lap time, a 1:41.0, that the Race Director had set in order to cut down on cars going unnecessarily slowly.
The Red Bulls were the first to head out on the medium tyre and Verstappen kicked things off with a 1:21.035, just as the Mercedes drivers emerged from their garages. Carlos Sainz made it into the 1:20s on his opening medium-shod effort, going 0.044 seconds ahead of the reigning champion with a 1:20.991 while Charles Leclerc slotted into P3 behind Verstappen.
With seven minutes to go there were only the Mercedes and McLarens still out on track, Lewis Hamilton not having a great first lap and only managing P12 while Tsunoda, Hulkenberg, Liam Lawson, Logan Sargeant and Valtteri Bottas were the other drivers outside the top ten at that stage.
The track emptied completely after that and there were two minutes of silence before the cars all emerged once again in a big queue for their final runs. Despite the chaos we’ve seen in previous years with cars jostling to not be the one giving a tow to this behind, all cars made it across the line before the chequered flag came out and in the end Verstappen got back ahead with a 1:20.937 though he was only 0.054 seconds ahead of the Ferraris.
Lando Norris managed to avoid the drop zone by just 0.013 seconds so he will compete in the pole shootout while the AlphaTauris, Hulkenberg, Sergeant and the Alfa Romeos will have to watch on from the sidelines.
The Red Bulls were once again the first to take to the track and were closely followed by the rest of their competitors. Verstappen started off with a 1:20.631 despite getting a wheel in the gravel but the two Ferraris gave the crowd something to cheer about as they both beat him, Sainz taking provisional pole with a 1:20.532 while Leclerc and Verstappen were just within a tenth of his effort.
All cars retreated back to the pits to prepare for their final runs and there were just less than three minutes on the clock as Fernando Alonso led the charge back out while the Mercedes cars were the last to go. All of the top three improved their times with first Leclerc, then Verstappen and finally Sainz holding the top spot, to the delight of the Tifosi. Sainz set a 1:20.294 with just 0.067 separating the first three.
Russell slotted into P4, nearly four tenths off the pole time, while Perez took P5. It was once again a fantastic showing from Albon who put his Williams into P6 ahead of the McLaren of Piastri. Hamilton ended the session in P8 while Norris and Alonso round out the top ten.
Following the end of the session, Race Control announced that the Stewards had decided there would be no further action against the Ferrari drivers for the maximum lap time investigation.