Hamilton takes record 69th pole at rainy Monza

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Italy, Autodromo Nazionale di Monzait

A rain-disrupted and difficult qualifying session eventually saw Lewis Hamilton take his 69th pole position, more than any other driver in history. Due to grid penalties for the Red Bulls that were second and third fastest, Lance Stroll is set to start from second, ahead of Ocon and Bottas.

Track conditions for qualifying were similar to those in FP3, with the entire circuit properly wet, rain still falling, and all drivers out on full wet tyres. The first runners also immediately reported that the track conditions seemed worse than in the 16 minute third practice session earlier.

With conditions unsure, and expected to get worse, Bottas headed a long queue of cars that were set to immediately go out on track. The Finn however went straight on through the first chicane on his first lap. Hamilton at the same time was told to make sue to complete the lap as more heavier rain was expected.

Moments later, Romain Grosjean found himself in the wall in the braking zone for Turn 1, triggering a red flag. The impact was relatively minor, although the front wing and possible the rear suspension were damaged. The right rear wheel certainly was ready to be scrapped. The Frenchman clearly acquaplaned after just having recorded the fastest top speed in wet conditions thus far at 297km/h, crucially on the pit straight, which has recently been resurfaced with a smoother layer of asphalt.

More than an hour of additional rain later, the session was still not re-started, and the situation remained unclear if qualifying would proceed.

The session was eventually restarted at 16:40 local time, more than two and a half hours after the stoppage of the first few minutes of running.

Predictably, numerous drivers queued up to get out on track, with Verstappen the first one out on track. Vettel's first lap however was immediately faster, soon after improved by both Mercedes. Hamilton interestingly was a full second faster than Bottas's first lap, and a further 3 tenths faster than Vettel. Ocon slotted into 5th, ahead of Massa, Ricciardo, Alonso, Stroll, Raikkonen and Sainz.

6 minutes from the end of the session, Alonso was the first to switch to intermediates, seconds later followed by Vettel. The first laps didn't provide an improvement, but Ricciardo, both Mercedes and a lot others switched to inters as well. That switch of tyres was a bit of a scary moment for Raikkonen as his left front brake caught fire while in the pits. The team let him go to cool it off while on track, only to almost his a Force India that turned into his own bitbox just ahead of him.

Raikkonen and Vettel did improve on inters before Bottas went fastest to end Q1 on top.

The second session was fairly straightforward, with nearly everybody again queuing at the pitlane to set a time before further rain arrived. All fast times were set on the intermediate tyres as the rain that did arrive was minor. Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull again ended up on the top end of the timesheet, behind which it was an extremely tense battle to get through to Q3. Close to the end, it was Vandoorne who pipped Perez for 10th by 0.002s.

During the break ahead of Q3, the rain intensified and required full wet tyres again in the final session that would decide on pole. When running started, the rain eased off, meaning that times improved as the session progressed. A lot depended on the decision of some teams to pit their drivers for new tyres for a final run.

As conditions improved, Hamilton and Verstappen mostly jumped each other to top the times until Hamilton and Bottas were pitted for new full wets. The latter allowed Hamilton to go faster still, and take his 69th pole of his career, breaking the previous 68 pole positions of Michael Schumacher.

The Red Bulls still ended up second and third, but due to their power unit penalties will drop down the grid, allowing Stroll to start from second. Ocon and Bottas will make up the second row, while Ferrari's Raikkonen and Vettel will be on row three. The scarlet cars endured a difficult Q3, but thanks to the penalties still have a chance at a properly good race result.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarQ1Q2Q3Laps
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG1:36.0091:34.6601:35.55429
233Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer1:37.3441:36.1131:36.70229
33Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer1:38.3041:37.3131:36.84126
418Lance StrollWilliams Mercedes1:37.6531:37.0021:37.03227
531Esteban OconForce India Mercedes1:38.7751:37.5801:37.71929
677Valtteri BottasMercedes AMG1:35.7161:35.3961:37.83329
77Kimi RäikkönenFerrari1:38.2351:37.0311:37.98730
85Sebastian VettelFerrari1:37.1981:36.2231:38.06428
919Felipe MassaWilliams Mercedes1:38.3381:37.4561:38.25127
102Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren Honda1:38.7671:37.4711:39.15725
1111Sergio PerezForce India Mercedes1:38.5111:37.582-19
1227Nico HulkenbergRenault1:39.2421:38.059-20
1314Fernando AlonsoMcLaren Honda1:39.1341:38.202-11
1426Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1:39.1831:38.245-21
1555Carlos SainzToro Rosso1:39.7881:38.526-21
1620Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari1:40.489--12
1730Jolyon PalmerRenault1:40.646--10
189Marcus EricssonSauber Ferrari1:41.732--11
1994Pascal WehrleinSauber Ferrari1:41.875--9
NC8Romain GrosjeanHaas Ferrari1:43.355--3

Q1 107% Time - 1:42.416. Note - penalised for use of additional power unit elements: Alonso 35 grid places, Ricciardo 20, Verstappen 20, Sainz 10, Hulkenberg 10, Palmer 15. Ricciardo penalised a further 5 places for an unscheduled gearbox change.