Hamilton takes Italian pole at record speed

Lewis Hamilton has defied rule changes in part aimed at slowing his Mercedes to storm to pole at the Italian Grand Prix with an all-time speed record.

Hamilton lapped the 5.793-kilometre Monza circuit in 1 minute 18.887 seconds. At an average speed of 264.362 kilometres per hour, it set the record for fastest lap in Formula 1 history.

It was enough to pip teammate Valtteri Bottas by a slender 0.069s in a Mercedes front-row lockout, though the Finn is optimistic he has better race pace than Hamilton in his mission to slice into his 50-point championship deficit on Sunday.

This article originally appeared in The Phuket News.

It made a mockery of rule changes that inhibited the Mercedes team from using its so-called engine ‘party mode’ — its highest-power setting reserved for qualifying.

Rivals had hoped it would draw the dominant German marque back into the pack, but the next-best car, Carlos Sainz’s McLaren, was more than 0.808 seconds adrift at the most power-sensitive circuit on the calendar.

It was nonetheless the Spaniard’s career-best qualifying result in an otherwise competitive top-10 shootout, with places three to 10 split by less than half a second.

Notably absent from the fray was home team Ferrari, which failed to get at least one of its cars into the grid’s top 10 for the first time since 1984.

Charles Leclerc qualified a disappointing 13th, but four-time champion teammate Sebastian Vettel was eliminated from Q1 in 17th, the first time the Scuderia has had a car start outside the top 15 since 1966.

Ferrari anticipated a painful homecoming, perhaps thankfully a closed-door event in the pandemic, but didn’t expect things to be this bad. While the car’s aerodynamic weaknesses aren’t as exploited by Monza’s slow corners, its sheer lack of horsepower left both drivers simply unable to compete — all but two of the cars that qualified behind Vettel are also Ferrari-powered.

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez qualified fourth in a resumption of his team’s strong form at low-downforce power circuits, relegating Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen to fifth on the grid.

Lando Norris qualified sixth in the second McLaren ahead of Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault. The Australian had hoped for more from the RS20 after a strong showing last week in Belgium but expects to be more competitive in race trim on Sunday.

Lance Stroll qualified ninth ahead of Thai driver Alex Albon, with Pierre Gasly rounding out the top 10.

AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat and Renault’s Esteban Ocon qualified 11th and 12th, unable to match their teammates qualifying for the top-10 shootout.

Leclerc followed as the highest-placed Ferrari, beating Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen and Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, who’s final flying lap was spoilt by running wide at the second Lesmo.

Romain Grosjean was eliminated in Q1 after sliding wide at the final turn with his final lap that would otherwise have taken him into the top 15.

Vettel was 17th, the third race in a row he’s failed to qualify in the top 10.

Antonio Giovinazzi qualified 18th for Alfa Romeo ahead of Williams duo George Russell and Nicholas Latifi.