Alex will start tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix from eighth place on the grid after a chaotic end to qualifying saw the bulk of drivers miss out on a final Q3 run. Max, meanwhile, will start from the back of the grid due to penalties incurred by taking an upgraded Honda power unit for this weekend.
After comfortably making his way through the opening two segments of qualifying, Alex’s afternoon became more nerve-racking in Q3 when he missed out on a first run due to red flags for a crash involving Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen.
Concern then almost descended into comedy in the final run, however, as drivers searching for a tow backed up the field so much that the bulk of the drivers, including Alex, missed out on a final run. Alex will therefore start in P8 ahead of Racing Point’s Lance Stroll.
With Max taking the latest Honda power unit this weekend – and the associated grid penalties – the opening segment was always going to be something of a case of glass half full for the Team and in the opening phases of Q1 the Dutchman, who had finished in P2 in final practice, stayed in the garage as Alex acted as standard-bearer for the Bulls.
The Thai driver performed the task with minimum fuss to book his place in the second session with seventh place and a best time of 1:20.382, just 0.256s behind Q1 pacesetter Charles Leclerc of Ferrari.
With a little over four minutes left in the segment Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez pulled over at the side of the track and red flags were shown. Following a brief delay during which the Mexican’s car was recovered, the bulk of the top seven drivers stayed in the garage, content with their early times. The exception was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel who went out on soft tyres.
Max now made his first appearance, but it was all too brief. Halfway round his outlap the Dutchman reported a minor issue. He made his way back to the pit lane without a time on the board.
Eliminated at the end of the session were Haas’ Romain Grosjean in P16 followed by Pérez, and Williams’ George Russell and Robert Kubica.
In the second session Alex again got the job done early, posting a time of 1:20.021 to take sixth place on the timesheet, a position he would hold until the end of the session, despite not improving in the final runs. He eased through behind the fifth-placed Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and surprise fourth-placed driver Daniel Ricciardo of Renault.
The segment was topped by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. Thanks to purple times in the last two sectors on his final run the championship leader was able to take P1 just under a tenth of Leclerc, with Vettel two tenths further back in third.
Eliminated at the end of the middle segment were Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, followed by the Haas of Kevin Magnussen, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, McLaren’s Lando Norris and the second Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly.
The final phase of qualifying started with a number of drivers jockeying for position in a stream of cars as all looked for a tow.
It was Leclerc who made the most of whatever opportunities were available in the first run and he topped the order with a time of 1:19.307, three hundredths of a second ahead of Hamilton.
Further back, though, Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkonen brought out the red flags when he crashed out at Parabolica. It meant that Alex was unable to complete his first run.
It looked like Valtteri Bottas had been similarly disadvantaged but the Mercedes man was then deemed to have crossed the line ahead of the red flag so had his time reinstated. He slotted into third place ahead of Vettel, Ricciardo and the last man with a first-run time, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz.
It was a fortunate turn of events for Bottas as the final runs ended in a shambles.
All nine remaining drivers held station in pit lane until the last second and then, with time ebbing, all nine again made slow progress through the opening sectors as they backed each other up in search of a tow.
The result was that only Leclerc and Sainz managed to get across the line before the chequered flag was shown and the session ended in anti-climax as Leclerc backed off and sealed pole position with his first-run time. Hamilton was second ahead of team mate Bottas, Vettel and the Renault’s of Ricciardo and Hulkenberg.
Then came McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, followed by Alex in P8. Racing Point’s Lance Stroll qualified in ninth place ahead of the unfortunate Räikkönen.
2 – Should Max start tomorrow’s race from P20 it will be the second time he has done so. The last time was in 2015 when he started at the back for Toro Rosso.
2 – It will also be the second time the Team has started an Italian GP from P20. David Coulthard did so in 2007, though his race ended in a collision on lap two.
Italian Grand Prix - Qualifying Top 10:
1. Charles Leclerc
2. Lewis Hamilton
3. Valtteri Bottas
4. Sebastian Vettel
5. Daniel Ricciardo
6. Nico Hulkenberg
7. Carlos Sainz
8. ALEX ALBON
9. Lance Stroll
10. Kimi Räikkönen