Charles Leclerc takes Italian GP pole
September 9 2019 , 10:29 am
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took pole position following a farcical end to qualifying at the Italian Grand Prix.
All drivers except Leclerc and Carlos Sainz of McLaren failed to get around to start a final lap after waiting to catch a slipstream at high-speed Monza.
The unlikely climax left Leclerc on pole with his first lap, beating Lewis Hamilton by 0.039 seconds.
The other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas was third, ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo.
It was Leclerc’s second consecutive pole position in just seven days.
The 21-year-old did not even have to complete a final lap after he became the only frontrunner to make it across the line in time at the end of the session.
Leclerc was greeted by frenzied cheers from the thousands of passionate Ferrari fans – the tifosi – packed into Monza in expectation of a Ferrari pole.
Leclerc, who had already enjoyed a rapturous reception in nearby Milan on Wednesday at a celebration of 90 years of the Italian Grand Prix, said: “It feels unbelievable.
“Already on Wednesday in Milan was incredible and today to see so many people feels absolutely amazing.
“Happy with the pole but in the end there was a big mess. I hoped for a last lap but in the end it was enough for pole.”
The almost laughable scenes at the end were precipitated by the fact that a slipstream – where one car gains an advantage by closely following another – at Monza can be worth about 0.3secs a lap, invaluable when the times are so close around a circuit with only six effective corners.
Hamilton said Mercedes had been caught out because they were waiting for Ferrari to run first.
“I have to be grateful I am on the front row,” said the world champion. “We get to have a fight with the Ferraris tomorrow. We split them and it is a nice position to be in. We can give them a good fight.
“It was a bit of an anti-climax at the end but it is crazy with this system we now have and they basically timed us out.
“On the out lap it is dangerous. You don’t know who’s slowing down and who’s alongside you. It is risky business but it is enjoyable at the same time.”
Teams had been warned that drivers could face penalties for driving unnecessarily slowly on their out laps and the end to qualifying is being investigated by governing body the FIA.
Leclerc, Hamilton and Bottas agreed that the situation was dangerous and far from ideal, but said that they did not see a way out of it while the tow was so important to a lap time.
“It will be until someone crashes that they will change it,” Hamilton said.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: “The problem was everyone wants a slipstream and nobody wants to go first… and then everyone looks like idiots.”