Lewis Hamilton took pole for the Italian Grand Prix with a qualifying lap at Monza for Mercedes that left the rest of the grid behind. Hamilton beat his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas into second, with the McLaren of Carlos Sainz equalling his best qualifying place of third. Any fears that Mercedes may be impaired by the ban on using qualifying engine modes that came in to effect at Monza were dismissed as they completed another dominant performance, maintaining their unbeaten run over the single lap this season.
Ferrari, who had expected to struggle here, had their worst fears realised. Sebastian Vettel went out in Q1 in 17th and will be the first Ferrari driver to start outside the top 15 at Monza since Giancarlo Baghetti started in 16th in 1966. Charles Leclerc was in 13th, a combined result worse than their standing at Spa last week. It is the first time since 1984 that Ferrari have not had a car in the top 10 in the Italian GP qualifying. Sergio Perez was fourth for Racing Point and Max Verstappen in fifth for Red Bull.
So dominant were Mercedes that they were not even concerned by trying to desperately find a slipstream, which was the focus of every other team. They simply went out on their own out front each time and indeed did not even use one another for a tow, believing they were operating better in clean air. On their final hot runs in Q3 Hamilton had the advantage with a time of 1min 19.068sec, five-hundredths clear of Bottas. On their final outings they once more blasted off on their own. The pair were neck and neck until the final sector when once more Hamilton had the edge. Finishing with a 1:18.887, he was six-hundredths up on Bottas but the rest were in a different timezone: Sainz was eight-tenths back.
Hamilton has now extended his record of poles at Monza to seven and it is his sixth this season, and the 94th of his career. He has taken the last three in a row and converted the previous two in Spain and Belgium to dominant victories. Doing so again in Monza looks to be well within his grasp. Should he win, more records will fall to the world champion. He will surpass Michael Schumacher’s tally of five victories at the Italian Grand Prix, becoming the most successful driver at the race and a podium will put him past Schumacher’s record of eight at Monza.
This was an ominous demonstration of how superior Mercedes’ car is this season and just how much they may yet have to come in the race. This weekend is the first meeting where the teams have been banned from using qualifying modes for their engine. Hamilton has referred to the ability of Mercedes to turn their engine up for extra power during qualifying as “party mode”, although all teams use enhanced engine modes on Saturday afternoons. However, with the engines now regulated to run in the same mode in qualifying and the race, Mercedes still retained the advantage in qualifying they have displayed all year.
Mercedes have taken pole at all eight meetings this season and achieved a front-row lockout in all but one. It is estimated the team’s ability to turn up its engine gives it as much as a 28-horsepower advantage over nearest rivals Honda and Renault. However the team were not perturbed by the regulation change, insisting that having not pushed their engine during qualifying they will be able to run with more during the race itself – potentially extending what is already a major advantage.
For Ferrari just scoring points may be accepted, by a team who are struggling like never before at Monza. They have suffered retirements here before but outside DNFs, since 1950, when the championship began, they have always had at least one car finish in the top 10 in the Italian GP.
Ferrari have struggled with their engine’s power since the FIA clarified fuel-flow regulations at the end of last season. After a difficult weekend at the last round in Spa, where they finished 13th and 14th, their fears of suffering once more on the similarly power-dependent Monza were realised. Way down from the leaders in practice and struggling with a car they declared was difficult to drive, Leclerc and Vettel had a torrid afternoon and a long race lies ahead. The team principal, Mattia Binotto, warned this weekend that it may take years for Ferrari to come back fully and that the team knew the task that lay ahead. However, having their shortcomings so starkly illustrated at their home track will have been a painful experience.
Lando Norris was sixth for McLaren, with Daniel Ricciardo in seventh for Renault. Lance Stroll was eighth for Racing Point, Alex Albon ninth for Red Bull and Pierre Gasly 10th for AlphaTauri.
Daniil Kvyat was in 11th for AlphaTauri, in front of the Renault of Esteban Ocon. Kimi Räikkönen was 14th for Alfa Romeo and Kevin Magnussen in 15th for Haas.
Romain Grosjean was in 16th for Haas, Antonio Giovinazzi 18th for Alfa Romeo and George Russell and Nicholas Latifi in 19th and 20th for Williams.