Carlos Sainz delighted the thousands of the Tifosi that flocked to Monza to support their beloved Ferrari, and took pole position for the 2023 Italian Grand Prix.
It was Sainz’s fourth Formula 1 career pole position, his first at Monza, as he was able to deny Max Verstappen a 29th career pole by a negligible 0.013s, in what turned out to be one of the closest qualifyings this season.
Charles Leclerc was third fastest in the other Ferrari 0.067s off the pace of his teammate.
Sainz showed that his form from the start of the weekend at Monza was not a fluke, despite it being very close with Verstappen who in the end had to settle for second, unable to deny the Tifosi their celebrations.
The best thing for Ferrari was that Sainz, and Leclerc, who were under investigation for going around the track too slowly in Q1 were off the hook, as the stewards decided they did nothing wrong, so can keep their first and third starting positions.
Both drivers did well to perform calmly in Q3 given they set out for the final runs with the risk of a penalty in the back of their minds.
George Russell did well to take fourth place for Mercedes on a tough day for the eight-time Formula 1 Constructors’ Champions, ahead of Sergio Perez in fifth.
“Wow, honestly,” an elated Sainz said in parc ferme after qualifying. “It was such an intense Qualifying. We were very on the limit and on that last lap I knew I had some lap time to come and I went for it.
“Goosebumps since I crossed the finish line and watched the crowd,” he revealed. “Everywhere we go it is just noise, encouragement, support- the best feeling you can have as an athlete.
“Tomorrow I will give it everything to get that P1,” he vowed. “Let’s see if we can battle Max. Normally in the long run he is quicker but I am going to give it my all.”
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Verstappen will have to work harder to get his tenth consecutive grand prix win this season, but knows he has the RB19 to do that come Sunday.
He said after qualifying: “It was good, I think we made some god improvements compared to yesterday.
“You could see in every Qualifying session it was very tight, so I’m happy to be second today,” he admitted. “It’s nice to see (Ferrari on pole in Monza), but of course tomorrow we’ll try to win the race.
“Normally we have a quicker race car, but let’s just enjoy today and then we’ll focus on tomorrow,” the Red Bull ace concluded.
Leclerc was playing second fiddle to Sainz all weekend, but was happy to be third, he added: “My feeling can only be amazing with the tifosi.
“On my side, I am a bit disappointed, I obviously wanted to be first,” he continued. “But seeing that Carlos is P1 is great for Ferrari, he has done an incredible job all weekend.
“Qualifying I managed to put everything together so I am really happy. We should be happy, especially on my side I have been struggling a lot.
“The (fans) are just incredible. I don’t smile often when I am P3 but when I have this support it is an amazing feeling,” the Monegasque concluded.
Q3: Extremely close but Sainz emerges on top
The track temperatures dropped from 41 to 39 degrees as Q3 started and the Soft tyres finally made an appearance, as the heat turned up for the final top ten shootout of qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix.
Verstappen had a scruffy first lap in Q3, as he dipping into the gravel in the second chicane, but kept his foot down to finish the lap and put a banker on the timing charts.
That meant the Dutchman was third fastest behind the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz after the first round of laps in Q3, 0.099s off the pace set by Sainz.
After the second round of Q3 hot laps, Sainz pipped Verstappen to take pole at Monza with a lap time of 1:20.991, 0.013s faster than the Red Bull man, and 0.067s faster than his teammate Leclerc in third.
Russell was 0.377s off the pace in fourth, nevertheless a decent performance given Mercedes’ shortcomings this weekend, while Perez fifth almost four tenths slower than Verstappen.
Alex Albon was superb one again for Williams, sixth fastest at the end of qualifying, 0.466s away from the benchmark time beating the McLarens of Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris, as well as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton on his way.
The Thai driver was 0.025s faster than Piastri who was seventh fastest in the first McLaren, and in turn was 0.035s faster than Hamilton in eighth.
Norris had to settle for ninth fastest and was 0.438s faster than Fernando Alonso who was tenth and over one second off pole in the Aston Martin.
Q2: Ferrari into Q3, but under pressure of penalty
Q2 started with both Ferrari drivers under pressure of an investigation as they were deemed to have violated the Race Director’s instructions and did not stick the maximum allowed lap time of 1:41.000 while driving around the track, a decision taken to help avoid traffic.
The Mercedes drivers, Hamilton and Russell, started Q1 on a new set of Hard tyres, but soon returned to the pits and bolted on a new set of Hards to make sure they make it into Q2.
Ocon had a moment at Turn 10 and went hard on the kerbs, losing his lap time, and was soon on the team radio asking Alpine to check the floor of his A523.
With two minutes remaining from Q1, Pierre Gasly’s time was deleted for exceeding the track limits at Turn 2, putting more pressure on the Frenchman, as the infamous Monza traffic started to have an impact.
Piastri was also under pressure as he lost his lap time for exceeding the track limits at Turn 8.
In the end, Verstappen lead the pack in Q2 with a 1:21.573 and 0.088s faster than Albon in second, while Leclerc was third fastest as Tsunoda was fourth.
The first driver to lose out on a Q2 appearance was Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu who lost out by 0.047s to Hulkenberg who was 15th in the Haas.
Behind Zhou, in 17th was Gasly, who was 0.155s slower than the Chinese driver and 0.003s faster than teammate Ocon who will line up 18th on Sunday’s race grid.
Kevin Magnussen was 19th fastest while Lance Stroll was dead last in 20th.