Charles Leclerc claimed a fully expected pole position for the Italian Grand Prix – and one he earned all of his own making.
Despite a host of rivals having penalties, the Ferrari driver was fastest of all in Q3 by 0.145sec and will start on the front row alongside Mercedes’ George Russell, who rises from his qualifying position of sixth to second.
The make-up of the grid for the race never looked likely to resemble the qualifying order after a raft of power unit-related penalties were announced – to a similar extent, if not greater than the Belgian Grand Prix two weeks previously when not one driver lined up in the position they had qualified.
This time, those with penalties included four of the six drivers from the Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes teams – Verstappen, Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton. That left Leclerc and Russell as the most likely front-row pairing heading into qualifying, and that is exactly how it played out.
It was also a first F1 qualifying session for Nyck de Vries, the rookie former F2 and Formula E champion who has taken place in three FP1 sessions this season for Mercedes, Williams and, at Monza, Aston Martin.
Now he is back in the Williams after Alex Albon was taken ill with appendicitis on Saturday morning and forced to miss the rest of the weekend, although the London-born Thai driver was in good spirits and humour judging by a social media post – and looking forward to returning in Singapore at the end of September.
Deputy De Vries and Nicholas Latifi in the other Williams were both up in the top 10 halfway through Q1 at a circuit expected to suit the FW44’s impressive straight-line speed. Neither stayed there but De Vries did superbly to not only outqualify Latifi but also reach Q2, the beleaguered Canadian having had a problem on his final run.
Out, along with Latifi, went Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll as the Aston Martin qualifying woes resurfaced, and Haas duo Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher – both of whom have grid penalties in any case.
At the other end of the standings, Verstappen was fastest by over a third of a second from Leclerc.
🚨 OUT IN Q1 🚨
16. Nicholas Latifi
17. Sebastian Vettel
18. Lance Stroll
19. Kevin Magnussen
20. Mick Schumacher
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) September 10, 2022
In Q2, Sainz set the initial standard as Leclerc made an error on his opening effort and had to go again with the track to himself, making it a Ferrari 1-2 as the tifosi got to see more of the Scuderia’s special yellow-detailed livery to mark their 75th anniversary as a constructor.
De Vries, meanwhile, would not have woken up expecting to be in Q2 and he went into his final run needing to find three tenths of a second to reach Q3. He was on course to do so through the first sector, but then made a mistake and his chances were gone. Still a solid debut effort though.
Yuki Tsunoda, who will start right at the back having incurred grid penalties for three separate reasons – two of them down to his driving – did not leave the garage at all during Q2, with Alfa Romeo duo Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon the others to fall by the wayside.
Strangely, for the first Q3 run it was Sainz, knowing he would start at the back, getting the benefit of a Ferrari tow from Leclerc, and the Spaniard used it to take P1 ahead of his team-mate with Red Bull duo Verstappen and Perez third and fourth.
The Ferrari roles were reversed for the final ‘hot’ laps and while Sainz went even faster, Leclerc’s 1:20.161 was enough to secure pole – one he had secured outright as although Verstappen split the Ferraris, P2 on the road was the best the World Championship leader could manage.
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:20.161
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull +0.145
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.268
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull +1.045
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +1.363
6 George Russell Mercedes +1.381
7 Lando Norris McLaren +1.423
8 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +1.764
9 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +2.487
10 Fernando Alonso Alpine No time (Q3)
11 Esteban Ocon Alpine +1.252 (Q2)
12 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +1.357
13 Nyck de Vries Williams +1.593
14 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +1.699
15 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri No Q2 time
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams +1.665 (Q1)
17 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +1.714
18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +1.826
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1.986
20 Mick Schumacher Haas +2.083