In a nail-biting qualifying session for the Italian Grand Prix, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz took the pole position ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
In the final few seconds of qualifying, the pole position changed hands three times.
Charles Leclerc of Ferrari earned pole position from Sainz, who was fastest in the opening laps, followed by Max Verstappen of Red Bull and Sainz of Spain.
The home crowd went wild when Sainz edged out Verstappen by only 0.013 seconds.
Over the course of the 3.6-mile ancient Monza circuit, the top three drivers were separated by only 0.067 seconds. Leclerc was only 0.054 seconds behind.
Williams’ Alex Albon and George Russell, driving for Mercedes, finished fourth and sixth, respectively, ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and the rest of the field.
Eighth place was as high as Lewis Hamilton could get, between Oscar Piastri’s and Lando Norris’ McLarens, with Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin rounding out the top 10.
Realization of a lifelong ambition
Sainz, who was fastest in both Friday and Saturday’s practice sessions, appeared to be the favorite to start on pole for Ferrari in their home race.
However, even he seemed to think it was doubtful, as he had said “Dreaming is for free, no?” when asked on Friday if he could compete for pole.
Due to the horde of fans outside the neighboring Hotel De Ville, where the Ferrari drivers, like so many legends before them, had spent their Italian Grand Prix weekend, they were twenty minutes late getting to the circuit to film for Brad Pitt’s new Hollywood F1 movie.
After a hurricane in July, which took out 10,000 of the park’s historic trees, the royal park in which the autodromo is located looks and feels very different this year.
Fans, meanwhile, sang praises to their idols in the usual fashion, swarming the paddock’s entrance, cheering from the grandstands and pit building, and reaching out to touch the drivers if they were allowed into the paddock.
The drivers put on a show that they will never forget.
In the first two practice sessions, Verstappen set the pace, but the Ferrari drivers kept their best for the final session.
Sainz was in the lead after the first runs, followed by Leclerc and Verstappen, but Ferrari was worried that the world champion would shine in the final sessions. Verstappen had been the only driver on the first lap without a tow and had also brushed the gravel on the exit of the Roggia chicane.
During the last laps, Leclerc bested both Verstappen and Sainz. Leclerc was already in pole position after a spectacular first sector, and he maintained that pace throughout the lap to take the lead.
However, Verstappen and Sainz passed him on their way to the finish line, frustrating and then electrifying the spectators.
When Sainz got out of his car and waved to the crowd across the track, the legendary tifosi in the pit-lane grandstand shouted wildly.
The 29-year-old driver remarked, “Honest to God, qualifying has been so intense, especially Q3.” We decided to do it as a trio. We were really at the edge of our abilities, but I pushed myself on the final lap, gaining valuable seconds in both Ascari and Parabolica.
I’m still getting goose bumps, although I crossed the finish line a while ago. The roar of the supporters’ support has followed us everywhere we go. It’s the pinnacle of athletic achievement.
“I got a little additional motivation because it was my birthday yesterday, and I turned in one of my greatest laps today to get pole position.
To challenge Max tomorrow, I plan to give my all in the opening stages of the race. I know he’s usually faster, but I’m going to try anyhow.
According to Verstappen, “in every session it was very tight,” meaning that the team had made progress from the previous day. Today, being second is fine with me.
To paraphrase: “Normally we have a quick race car and I will try to win the race, but let’s first enjoy today.”
Leclerc, basking in the acclaim of the partisan crowd, remarked, “My feeling can only be amazing with the tifosi.” I’m a little bummed out because I was hoping to get there first.
But it’s incredible for Ferrari to see Carlos up front. This weekend, he has been outstanding. This weekend has been more difficult than usual, but I finally put it all together in qualifying. On the final lap, I failed to capitalize on a slipstream and lost at least one position.
The top three were far and away the best of the bunch.
Even though he finished 0.31 seconds behind the leader, Russell drove his Mercedes exceptionally well to finish fourth and beat Perez in the second Red Bull by just 0.017 seconds. The second Red Bull has had trouble in the past two years on high-speed tracks.
This is the second consecutive impressive qualifying showing for the British driver, who believes he has made progress since returning from the summer break.
Three cars separated the Mercedes stars, but he still finished 0.149 seconds ahead of Hamilton.
Albon extended Williams’ winning streak, and Piastri showed more of the promise he’s shown so far in his first season with the McLaren.
New Zealander Liam Lawson, who replaced the injured Daniel Ricciardo at Alpha Tauri, finished an impressive 12th, barely 0.164 seconds and one position behind teammate Yuki Tsunoda.
It was a somber day for the Alpine team, whose driver Pierre Gasly had just finished an impressive third at the Dutch Grand Prix.
Gasly and his teammate Esteban Ocon finished 17th and 18th in the first practice because their engine is the worst on the track.