Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo sparkled in the rain to qualify second and third in a marathon, rain-interrupted qualifying session at Monza. The celebrations were dampened, however, by the knowledge that both will take engine-related grid penalties for tomorrow’s race.
Qualifying began at the scheduled 2pm local time on a wet track. Rain has been steadily falling all morning and earlier final practice had lasted just 16 minutes after the start had been repeatedly delayed.
Q1 started with a steady stream of cars heading onto the circuit, all hoping to put in a 'banker' lap as the rain intensified and the track conditions worsened. However, the session was soon halted when Romain Grosjean aquaplaned on the start/finish straight and skidded off into the barriers at Turn 1.
The incident brought out the red flags and so began a marathon waiting game as Race Control monitored the conditions. The safety car repeatedly tested the conditions, without any joy, and as the rain continued to fall and a long sequence of 15-minutes delays unfolded, it seemed ever more likely that the session would be stopped and re-started on Sunday, as happened at the 2015 US Grand Prix.
However, after almost two and a half hours of waiting the conditions began to improve and officials signalled that the session would restart at 16:40 local time.
Ahead of the green light, a long queue of cars snaked along the pit lane as drivers prepared to power into the session to gain a crucial banker.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton set the pace for much of Q1, with a time of 1:36.009 set on full wets. However, as the session unfolded most drivers moved to intermediates and in the last moments Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes stole top spot with a lap of 1:35.716. Max eased through with a lap of 1:37.344, while Daniel progressed in P7 with a lap of 1:38.304.
At the bottom of the order Haas' Kevin Magnussen was in eliminated in P16 ahead of Renault's Jolyon Palmer, the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein and Grosjean, who did not take part in the re-started session following his crash.
2017 Italian Grand Prix - Quali Stats:
- The last time Red Bull Racing finished in 2nd and 3rd in qualifying was at the 2014 Chinese GP.
- This is Max's second career P2 in qualifying. The last was at Spa in 2016.
- Our drivers have started form further back than P13 on the grid and gone on to claim points on 23 occasions.
Max was first on track in Q2, the Dutchman reverting to full wet Pirelli tyres. That appeared to be the right choice early on as Hamilton, on inters, slotted into second place, four tenths of a second adrift. The advantage of the extreme wets didn't last long however, and drivers quickly began to find a sweet spot with the green Pirelli and after a brief spell in which Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel held sway, Hamilton took top spot. The Briton then made steady improvements to eventually lead the segment with a time of 1:34.660.
While Max cruised into Q3 in third place with an excellent lap of 1:36.113, it was less comfortable for Daniel, who later said he had really struggled to get temperature into his tyres in both opening sessions.
The Aussie was in P9 as the final laps began and there was a moment of concern that he might be eclipsed by rivals on final hot laps. Daniel was in control, however, and a last lap of 1:37.313 boosted him to P7 and into Q3.
In the drop zone with two minutes left on the clock were Esteban Ocon, Daniil Kvyat, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso. Of that quintet only Ocon escaped, the Frenchman jumping to P10 with his final lap. Behind him team-mate Perez was eliminated in P11 ahead of Renault's Nico Hulkenberg, Alonso. Kvyat and Sainz.
In the minutes leading up to Q3, heavy rain began to fall across the circuit once more and when the pit exit opened it was clear the final session would be all about performance on the extreme wet Pirelli tyres.
That suited the Red Bulls perfectly and Max and Daniel were swiftly into a groove that might have secured either a pole position – had it not been for Hamilton.
Max claimed provisional pole with an impressive lap of 1:36.702 and Daniel Ricciardo quickly slotted into P2, just over a tenth of a second behind his team-mate.
Hamilton, though, was still on track and improving. The Briton eventually crossed the line in a blistering time of 1:35.554, 1.148s ahead of Max, to claim his 69th career pole position and the all-time record of pole positions, eclipsing Michael Schumacher's previous benchmark of 68.
Max and Daniel held on to second and third place. Behind them Williams' Lance Stroll put in a good performance to claim fourth spot ahead of Force India's Esteban Ocon. Bottas ended the session in P6 ahead of the Ferraris of Kimi Räikkönen and Vettel. Felipe Massa was ninth and McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne was tenth.
Italian Grand Prix – Qualifying Top 10 Result
1. Lewis Hamilton
2. MAX VERSTAPPEN*
3. DANIEL RICCIARDO*
4. Lance Stroll
5. Esteban Ocon
6. Valtteri Bottas
7. Kimi Raikkonen
8. Sebastian Vettel
9. Felipe Massa
10. Stoffel Vandoorne