Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Italian Grand Prix and in doing so claimed the record number of Formula One pole positions, which he had shared for the past week with Michael Schumacher. Hamilton did so in exceptionally difficult conditions and a after a delay of over two and a half hours, caused by heavy rain at the Autodromo Nazionale in Monza.
Hamilton had the car under him for the conditions and his skill in the wet was once again on display. He was followed by the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo in second and third, who exploited the conditions but will not benefit, with both drivers taking grid penalties. The Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel struggled, however, finishing seventh and eighth, respectively, but will start from fifth and sixth.
Lance Stroll in his first full wet qualifying session did exceptionally well to take fourth place for Williams, which means he will start from the front row for the first time on Sunday, while his team-mate Felipe Massa was in ninth.
Hamilton’s eighth pole of the season means has taken him to the outright record of pole positions scored in Formula One with 69, one more than Michael Schumacher. Hamilton has done so at his 201st grand prix, whereas the seven-time world champion took 243 entries. The Englishman has also taken the record for most poles at Monza, his six being one more than Juan Manuel Fangio and Ayrton Senna managed. Hamilton, who has excelled in the wet before, achieved it in difficult conditions, although a dry race is in prospect for tomorrow.
Hamilton has won here three times before, in 2012, 2014 and 2015, and after the win at the last round in Spa, trails the championship leader, Vettel, by just seven points. A fourth win in Italy would mean at worst he would be in a tie for the championship lead – a position he has not been in since the second round in China. The track should suit the Mercedes and the team have not been beaten at Monza since the turbo-hybrid era began in 2014. The mixed-up grid promises for a mighty race on Sunday.
In the final session the rain returned and full wet tyres were required, which Verstappen had chosen from the off rather than the intermediates Mercedes and Ferrari opted for. It gave the Dutch driver an early advantage and he set the pace in the opening laps. Due to the conditions, the cars kept lapping and the times came down, with Ricciardo and Hamilton both topping the timing screens.
The final moments were nail-biting, with Verstappen setting a fastest time. For a few moments he looked as if he had the pace until he was pipped by Hamilton’s final lap, a masterful drive. Ferrari in contrast looked unable to sufficiently work the heat into their tyres to set competitive times.
Ricciardo has a 25-place grid penalty for taking new power unit components. His team-mate Verstappen also has a 20-place grid penalty for using his fifth engine and MGU-H and a new gearbox. Esteban Ocon did superbly in the Force India to claim fifth place, which will be third on the grid.
McLaren looking to maximise their chances at the next round in Singapore and aware that Monza would be a challenge for their power deficient car, opted to take fit their upgraded spec 3.7 engine this weekend and accept the penalty here rather than in Singapore. Alonso was 13th fastest but has a 35-place grid penalty. His team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne, however, put in an enormously strong lap to reach Q3 and finished in 10th.