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Leclerc takes controversial Monza pole

NEWS STORY
07/09/2019

Putting aside what the weather gods might have in store for us tomorrow, this morning's free practice session set us up nicely for what should be a thrilling qualifying session.

The top fourteen drivers were covered by less than a second, while Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas, Charles Leclerc, Daniel Ricciardo and Lewis Hamilton were covered by just 0.301s.

With the Dutch driver feted to go to the back of the grid having taken on a new engine - as do Gasly and Norris - one would normally expect him to play little part in this afternoon's proceedings.

However, this being Monza, Verstappen, like Gasly and Norris, will surely be called up on to assist their teammates.

For as long as anyone can remember, Monza has meant slipstreaming, and as we know from experience, a decent tow can mean the difference between tenth and pole - just think about that 0.5s gap covering the first seven this morning.

Of course, while slipstreaming has its benefits, it can also go horribly wrong, and as we witnessed in Belgium last weekend in their desperation to get a tow drivers can cause all manner of problems for one another.

With this in mind, a number of drivers having tripped up over one another last week, the FIA has imposed a minimum speed that must be observed by all drivers.

This is in addition to the draconian rules regarding the Parabolica which will see drivers lose the times for two laps should they exceed the track limits. A number of drivers fell foul of this rules in practice this morning, including both Haas drivers.

This morning, Vettel set the pace, and with his teammate having topped the timesheets in both of yesterday's sessions this gives Ferrari a clean sweep at its home track.

However, the advantage is not as great as anticipated, and while Verstappen and Bottas were breathing down the German's neck, but for a minor mistake Hamilton would have been up there also.

Yesterday's mixed weather conditions made it difficult to get a grip on the state of play, while this morning appeared to pose more questions than it answered.

The Renaults were both 'up there', as were Giovinazzi, Kvyat, Sainz and Perez, who each appeared to benefit from tows from their teammates. Whether these drivers will continue to benefit this afternoon, or whether it is their turn to return the favour, remains to be seen.

At the best of times success for Ferrari at Monza is good for the sport, and following on from last week's result at Spa the media is hoping to see Leclerc score back-to-back wins.

However, how much would Vettel love to re-establish himself, and what better venue.

Ahead of Q1, the air temperature is 22.1 degrees C, while the track temperature is 34.6 degrees. It remains bright and sunny.

The lights go green, and after a few moments Kubica heads down the pitlane to get proceedings underway. He is followed by Perez, Gasly, Norris and Stroll.

Kubica posts 23.966, but this is soon eclipsed by Gasly, Norris, Stroll, Kvyat and last year's pole-man Raikkonen (21.025).

As the Ferraris head out on mediums, Giovinazzi goes quickest with a 20.657.

"Seb is going very, very quick," complains Leclerc, unable to benefit from the tow.

As Vettel carries on his merry way, Leclerc instead gets a tow from Kubica.

Vettel posts a disappointing 20.877, while Leclerc posts 20.417 to go top, but is almost instantly demoted by Ricciardo and then Hulkenberg (20.155).

The Mercedes pair head out, both on the softs, as Albon goes third with a 20.382.

Neither Mercedes driver can beat Hulkenberg's time, despite the Finn being quickest in the two final sectors. Indeed, Bottas, who is towing Hamilton, is quicker than the Briton.

Vettel improves to sixth with a 20.378, while Leclerc goes top with a 20.126.

With six minutes remaining Verstappen has yet to appear.

A PB in S1 for Vettel, as Bottas also looks set to improve. However, a poor final sector sees Bottas fail to improve while Vettel has to abort his lap due to a red flag.

Perez, who crashed out of FP1, has stopped in the Curva Grande with what appears to be a loss of power.

Under the red flag, with 4:34 remaining, Verstappen has yet to post a time, while Grosjean, Perez and the Williams pair comprise the drop zone, with Magnussen, Stroll and Gasly hovering.

The session resumes, Fernando Alonso watching from the McLaren garage.

One by one the drivers head out, including, surprisingly, Vettel, who is now sporting softs.

"I have no power," complains Verstappen.

Raikkonen improves his time but remains eighth, while Gasly then demotes him having gone quickest of all in S2.

Stroll improves to 12th, while Grosjean is demote into the drop zone when Giovinazzi improves to 14th.

Quickest is Leclerc, ahead of Hulkenberg, Bottas, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Vettel, Albon, Sainz, Gasly and Magnussen.

We lose Grosjean, Perez, Russell, Kubica and Verstappen.

Kvyat leads the way as Q2 gets underway, with the Mercedes and Ferrari duos also eager to get back to work.

Albon is 'Billy No Mates', driving around with nobody to give him a tow.

Kvyat posts 21.016 but this is soon beaten by Magnussen who posts 20.615.

A 19.706 sees Hamilton go top, with Vettel 0.009s slower. Leclerc goes top with a 19.553, as Raikkonen runs wide and into the gravel at the first of the Lesmos.

Ricciardo goes fourth, ahead of Bottas, Albon and Hulkenberg, as Renault continues to impress.

Yet to post a time, Raikkonen heads back to the pits, as does Gasly who also has yet to put a score on the timesheets.

"I think we need some tow, guys," says Kvyat, who is currently tenth and looking vulnerable.

With 2:15 remaining there is a burst of activity, with Albon leading the way. Behind him is Kvyat and the Ferraris. Leclerc isn't happy, and passes the Russian in the Curva Grande.

All 15 drivers are on track... in one long train.

Vettel goes quickest in S1, as Leclerc, Hamilton, Bottas and Hulkenberg posts PBs.

Albon remains sixth, as Hamilton goes quickest in S2 and then S3, going top with a 19.464.

Following a mistake, Leclerc fails to improve while Vettel aborts his lap and heads into the pits.

Hamilton is quickest, ahead of Leclerc, Vettel, Ricciardo, Bottas, Albon, Sainz, Hulkenberg, Stroll and Raikkonen.

We lose Giovinazzi, Magnussen, Kvyat, Norris and Gasly.

And then there were ten...

Check out our Saturday gallery from Monza, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Spindoctor, 08/09/2019 10:09

"It's a difficult problem: silly tyres which have a minute 'window' during which they provide grip, and aero which encourages 'follow-the-leader' on various high-speed circuits. However although there's no 'simple' solution in real-life, it shouldn't be beyond the wit of humankind to resolve it.
Meantime we were deprived of a potentially thrilling Q3 in which it looked like Hamilton would have given Leclerc a run for his money.

"

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2. Posted by Greg, 08/09/2019 9:53

"Maybe they should revert to the old style shoot out. 1 car at a time, outlap, hotlap, inlap, with the next one doing an outlap on the inlap of the previous car"

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3. Posted by 4-Wheel Drifter, 07/09/2019 23:06

"Sorry. When it's money that calls the shots then racing only happens by mistake. The best thing to happen to F1 is for it to sink out of sight. Someone, somewhere needs to initiate a real racing series. Measure the engine displacement allow the teams to use whatever tires they want and whatever aero they want and let the drivers race."

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4. Posted by Spartacus, 07/09/2019 19:28

"The F1 2019 Monza Q1 was an embarrassment! Although I understand that the drivers were all jockeying for position in order to maximize the tow, they also have to be able to go out and complete a full lap. I am not one for adding more governing to the sport since the teams and drivers are adults but this looked like a post lap after a race ended or a Formula 3 session. I don't know how to keep this from happening, perhaps if you go out and don't complete a full timed lap before the end of the session it is a 3 place grid penalty unless you have a failure. The drivers really screwed this one up, the whole bunch. Carlos Sainz was the only one to make it happen!! Dumb"

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5. Posted by Lakota, 07/09/2019 18:42

"F1 has sunk to new lows. Glad I didn’t pay to be in the stands. "

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6. Posted by Cobra Racer, 07/09/2019 16:25

"What a group of amateurs! Is this F1 or the IRL?
"

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7. Posted by Jet Jockey, 07/09/2019 16:15

"That was total BS!

Leclerc and Ferrari are lucky to hold on to that pole because I think the 2 Mercs could have pulled it off."

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