Kimi Raikkonen sets fastest ever pole at Italian Grand Prix since 2004
September 4 2018 , 5:20 pm
Kimi Räikkönen stunned Ferrari, Italy and the dueling championship rivals of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton Saturday to take pole for the Italian Grand Prix with the fastest-ever lap in Formula 1 history.
Räikkönen has been cast as the second driver at Ferrari since his return to the team in 2014. But he rolled back the years to set his first pole of the season and just his second in more than a decade — Monaco 2017 his only other pole since the 2008 French Grand Prix.
What makes it even more special is that Räikkönen’s pole lap is the fastest ever clocked in Formula 1. A time of 1:19.119 gave an average speed of 163.785 mph around Monza, breaking the record of 162.949 mph set by Juan Pablo Montoya in 2004.
Räikkönen also became the oldest pole sitter since Nigel Mansell in the 1994 Australian Grand Prix, although at 38, Räikkönen is still three years younger than Mansell was at the time.
“It’s great for tomorrow (to lock out the front row for Ferrari) but it’s only half of the job done,” said Räikkönen. “I think it couldn’t be a better place to be on pole position. Our home grand prix in front of all the tifosi (fans), so hopefully tomorrow everything goes smoothly and we end up in the same positions.”
“It doesn’t matter where we go around the world, but obviously here at our home grand prix, it’s full of red tifosi, so hopefully tomorrow is as good as today.”
Vettel topped both Q1 and Q2 as well as two of the three free practice sessions, but he had to accept second best on Saturday. Still the German will start ahead of championship rival Lewis Hamilton as he bids to close the 17-point gap that currently separates the two at the top of the standings.
“It’s unbelievable to see the amount of support around the track,” said Vettel. “I think it’s a good result for the team. I’m not entirely happy with my last run, but yeah, I think Kimi was just a little too fast around here.”
Hearing the news that Räikkönen had taken pole away from him at the very last moment, Vettel told the Ferrari pit wall that they would discuss the session later. Vettel seemed unhappy that Räikkönen had not been sent out first to give him the slipstream benefit, and said after the session that this was the difference between pole and second.
“It’s always like this in Monza and I think for him, obviously, it was in the sweet spot,” continued Vettel. “I think my last run was OK. My lap wasn’t very good, so we can have a look but for now it’s great to have both cars on the front row.”
Mercedes had been unquestionably second-best to Ferrari throughout the early stages of the weekend, but somehow the reigning champion had managed to set the fastest time in the first runs of the top 10 shootout. Third on the grid is not a bad result at Monza, and you can be sure that the fan reception will only spur Hamilton on more to bring his A game on Sunday.
“Congratulations to Ferrari,” said Hamilton. “They did a solid job today and we gave it everything we could. It’s obviously very close between us, but they’ve just had the upper hand all weekend but we’ll see what we can do. We gave it everything we could today and we’ll give more tomorrow.
“Everyone in the team is working as hard as they can to make the difference. As I said, it’s incredibly close between us, which is great for the sport. It’s great to see so many fans here regardless of if they’re all Ferrari fans, but it’s still great.”
After his crash in Belgium, Nico Hulkenberg was hit with a 10-place grid penalty for this weekend. To minimize the pain, Renault elected to bolt on a completely new power unit and at least negate subsequent penalties that this would usually have incurred. Also changing his power unit and starting at the back are Daniel Riccardo and Marcus Ericsson — his crash in practice causing substantial damage to the Sauber.