If you thought nothing could top the farce of the elimination qualifying format used in early 2016, think again. Ferrari and Leclerc are on pole for the second race in succession, but it came almost by default. In similar scenes to yesterday’s Formula 3 qualifying, all of the top 10 battled for slipstream all through the outlap – meaning that Carlos Sainz was the only man able to set a time at the end of the session. That’s correct, nine drivers ended up running out of time.
Everything was cut very fine anyway, as the pitwall waited to see who would blink first, leaving all the cars to enter the track with around one and a half minutes to go. Nico Hulkenberg was at the head of the field, until he decided 300 metres later he didn’t want to be. Some tried to carve their way through the traffic, but stayed wary that they would lose the slipstream and promptly slowed down again. In response, the stewards are investigating the entirety of the last two minutes and we wait for the verdict of that.
Leclerc’s pole lap, a 1:19.307, ended up being his first Q3 run – with Hamilton and Bottas ahead of the second Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. Bottas was in danger of starting in seventh, having initially lost his first time due to a red flag for Kimi Raikkonen’s crashed Alfa Romeo at Parabolica. But the stewards reinstated his time due to the Finn only missing out on crossing the line by a mere fraction of a second.
In typical fashion, Mercedes looked to have clawed back the deficit to Ferrari in qualifying trim and could give the home favourite a hard time in Sunday’s race.
Vettel will start from fourth, should the grid remain the same following the Q3 investigation, ahead of the rejuvenated Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and Hulkenberg. Renault briefly fluttered with the front row through Hulkenberg earlier in qualifying, no doubt activating its 1000bhp trap card in time for Monza. Sainz was the slowest of the drivers who set a time in Q3 in seventh. Alex Albon, Raikkonen and Lance Stroll all failed to set a time.
Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen had their qualifyings ruined by engine troubles. Perez stopped at the Curva Grande and could only manage 17th place, while Verstappen – who has engine penalties for the race – left it late in Q1 to emerge from the garage and swiftly lost power. Not good news for the Spec 4 Honda unit
Have you ever seen anything like this?