Quali Report: Hamilton Nails Killer Pole Lap – Ferrari Secure Second Row

Lewis Hamilton has maintained his championship momentum with a pole lap that blew Rosberg away in today’s quali session. The Brit’s 1:21:135 lap was nearly half-a-second quicker than his team-mates. That level of benchmark around Monza is definitely something special.

The Mercedes pair are granted an even bigger advantage for the race start tomorrow, they will both start on the yellow-marked soft compound tyre after completing their fastest Q2 laps on this set. The rest of the top 10 are stuck with Supersofts. Although this softer compound is usually clearly quicker, this time in Monza has shown only a slight gap between the compounds in terms of lap -time. It means that the soft tyre is the best compound to start on. It doesn’t offer too much of a disadvantage over a single lap and crucially, allows the option of a one-stop strategy with the medium compound.

After securing his 7th pole of the season, Hamilton said,

“Obviously very happy today, I was only made aware of that record [matching Fangio and Senna at Monza] as I came into this weekend so of course that was in the back of my mind, but hoping it wouldn’t steer me off course.

I feel incredibly proud and honoured to be up amongst Senna and Juan Manuel – incredible drivers and I never in a million years thought my name would be mentioned in the same sentence as theirs. So [I’m] very proud of that.

But today, this weekend, I have a very strong feeling and obviously came with my A-game today and particularly the last lap felt incredible. It’s such a great track; it’s got such a great crowd – a big thank you to all the people who came out.

But what this team has achieved as race-by-race I continue to say is just phenomenal. We’re so fortunate to be driving for this team and to be representing them and to drive a car as it was today – I got it right in the sweet spot and was able to do an exceptional time with it.”

– Lewis Hamilton

Ferrari confirmed in this quali session that their power-unit upgrade has been very positive – Not just for them, but also the Haas team who have also benefited. Scuderia locked out the second-row with Vettel managing 3rd, the flying Finn Raikkonen just behind in 4th. Their season will be back on track if they can convert today into a podium finish and close back in on 2nd in the Constructors.

The Williams of Valtteri Bottas lines up 5th, the power-centric FW38 reminding us what it can do in low-downforce conditions after a disappointing Belgian Grand Prix. Bottas has managed two podiums in the previous two meetings at Monza, so it would be foolish to discount him.

Red Bull will be disappointed with 6th and 7th. Ricciardo leads Verstappen, they’ll start on the supersofts but we think they’ll try something different and split-strategies for the race. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see one of them switch to the mediums for the second-stint to try and outfox the Ferrari’s up the road.

Force India haven’t had a great quali session by their high standards. Most of the paddock were under the impression that their slow Practice pace was down to high-fuel runs and deliberate hand-hiding, but the team are genuinely looking like they’ll struggle to get a car into the top six. Perez lines up 8th with Hulkenberg 9th.

The biggest story of quali was Esteban Gutierrez, who managed to get the Haas team into Q3 for the first time. He managed to get his Haas car into Q3 and ultimately finished 10th. A small error on his first-run in the final session was costly though, the pace of the Haas would have definitely seen him snatch 8th.

The Mexican is overdue a points finish and he could be on for that if he keeps his nose clean – please don’t finish 11th AGAIN Esteban! Grosjean would have been up there too if he’d had more Quali-sim running in FP3 this morning, but he suffered an early gearbox failure during that session and never quite looked as sharp as his team-mate. He Qualified 12th but will start 17th after a 5-place grid drop for the gearbox change.

Felipe Massa qualified 11th, but it’s not as bad a position to be in as you might think. He’s the first car on the grid who gets free tyre choice, so will definitely start on the soft compound. If Williams can make the one-stop work, there’s a chance the Brazilian could run near the front in the first stint, box for Mediums out of sync with the cars ahead and then have a lengthy, clear air run to the finish. Basically, from a strategy perspective, Williams would rather he started 11th as opposed to 10th.

McLaren had a woeful session with Alonso 13th and Button 15th. The team got everyone excited again with some impressive times in Practice yesterday, but it hasn’t materialized. The team are still miles ahead of where they were at the start of the year and maybe it is optimistic to hope for points at Monza, but last weekend everyone was saying that they’d be regulars in Q3 – Not today…

Wehrlein again impressed in his Manor. He lines up 14th in a McLaren sandwich. Comparing the budgets between Manor and Mclaren in the context of this Qualifying result would make every McLaren fan feel pretty sick, especially the accountants the team employ. Esteban Ocon will start from the back after a mechanical failure at the start of Q1. That’s a shame, he wasn’t too far off of Wehrlein at Spa, so was in with an outside chance of scraping the sister Manor into Q2.

Quali has set up a Mercedes masterclass for tomorrow given the outright pace advantage and also tyre advantage that the team have. Hamilton’s pole lap was truly something special and it’s hard to see Rosberg outpacing the Brit around here. Ferrari will be wary of Bottas, who is a proven Monza specialist and Red Bull will be desperate to finish higher than they’ve qualified.

Gutierrez needs a points finish, his F1 career depends on it and this is a golden opportunity to impress and Felipe Massa will definitely be one to watch if he gets through lap one unscathed on his soft tyres.

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