Italian GP – Kimi Raikkonen Takes a Historic Pole

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Kimi Raikkonen of Scuderia Ferrari stormed to a sensational pole position at the Italian Grand Prix, ahead of both Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. History was made as he broke the record for the all-time fastest lap in Formula 1, held for a long time by Juan Pablo Montoya at the ‘temple of speed’Monza. It was also the first Ferrari pole at Monza since 2010 and the first front-row lockout by the Scuderia since 2000. Raikkonen also became the oldest polesitter since Nigel Mansell in 1994. Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen rounded off the top five.

Kimi Raikkonen Takes a Historic Pole

Q1: Sebastian Vettel goes fastest as Sergio Perez drops out

The first  qualifying session started  under cloudy and humid conditions with air temperatures at 19 degrees C and  track temperatures at  28 degrees C. All cars started on the stickiest available Pirelli tyre, the supersoft tyres. Raikkonen set the initial benchmark time but was overtaken by Vettel within a few minutes. That new benchmark of 1:20.542s remained unbeaten in Q1 as Vettel topped the session.

Two big surprises in the session were: Sergio Perez dropping out and both the Williams cars scraping through to Q2. Racing Point Force India miscalculated and Perez sat in the pits while his seemingly comfortable time of 1:21.888s got knocked down by the Williams duo and Pierre Gasly. Others in the dropzone were Charles LeclercBrendon HartleyMarcus Ericsson and Stoffel Vandoorne.

Q2: Vettel tops again as Daniel Ricciardo sits out

Most teams started again on the red-striped supersofts, as Vettel was again in his elements with the fastest time of 1:19.629s. Fernando Alonso and Kevin Magnussen had an on-track moment as they touched wheels at turn 1. Both lost out as a result, falling into the dropzone. Their bosses – Zak Brown and Guenther Steiner – had an animated verbal exchange as well in the pitlane.

Others to drop out were Sergey Sirotkin, Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo.  Both Hulkenberg and Ricciardo have engine penalties to serve which will send them to the back of the grid.  So,  they chose not to try,  with Hulkenberg only coming out to help give a tow to his teammate Carlos Sainz. Lance Stroll was the surprise of the session, scraping through to Q3.

Q3: Raikkonen exorcises his qualifying ghosts

The emotions of the Tifosi before the top-ten shootout were palpable with expectations of a Ferrari pole after eight years at Monza. All was going well as per the script as their lead driver – Vettel – had topped both Q1 & Q2. None expected Raikkonen to choose this venue to remind everyone of his class.

The top-three drivers broke Montoya’s long-standing track record, it was Hamilton who took provisional pole. Vettel dug through deep to overshadow it the next time around. For a moment he thought he had clinched pole.  But,  it was not to be. Raikkonen had other plans. He set an incredible 1:19.119s lap time to claim a historic pole and redeem himself.

Most watching were stunned, while Minttu Raikkonen his wife  was shedding tears of joy and redemption on behalf of her man. Raikkonen, as usual, was his unflustered self. He was right in pointing out that the job for the weekend was still half done.

The Last Word

Ferrari got pole position as expected, but Mercedes cars, especially under Hamilton are too close for comfort for the tifosi. Raikkonen may have redeemed himself on Saturday, but he may need to dig deeper on Sunday to get the elusive win in his second stint for Ferrari. The championship equations may still tempt the team to swap positions with their lead driver for maximising the points for Vettel. It will be an emotional as well as an interesting watch on Sunday,  with lots at stake for the leading teams.

Italian GP Qualifying Results:

1 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:20.722 1:19.846 1:19.119 21
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:20.542 1:19.629 1:19.280 20
3 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:20.810 1:19.798 1:19.294 20
4 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:21.381 1:20.427 1:19.656 18
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:21.381 1:20.333 1:20.615 15
6 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:21.887 1:21.239 1:20.936 21
7 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 1:21.732 1:21.552 1:21.041 17
8 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:21.570 1:21.315 1:21.099 17
9 10 Pierre Gasly SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:21.834 1:21.667 1:21.350 24
10 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:21.838 1:21.494 1:21.627 14
11 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:21.783 1:21.669 12
12 35 Sergey Sirotkin WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:21.813 1:21.732 13
13 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN RENAULT 1:21.850 1:22.568 14
14 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:21.801 DNF 12
15 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:21.280 3
16 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:21.888 5
17 16 Charles Leclerc SAUBER FERRARI 1:21.889 10
18 28 Brendon Hartley SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:21.934 12
19 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 1:22.048 10
20 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN RENAULT 1:22.085 9

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