Leclerc takes pole in a farcical qualifying session for Italian GP

Leading drivers were unable to cross the line in time to set a final flying lap in qualifying, gifting pole position to Charles Leclerc.

Charles Leclerc celebrates pole in Monza.   -  Getty Images

Fans pay huge money to walk into a Formula One track to see the 20 best drivers throw the car around the circuit. And it is on Saturday, the full potential of Formula One cars are unleashed in the final part of qualifying on new tyres and low fuel as the drivers test the limits of the car and track for just one lap giving it everything to fight for pole position.

Yet, on Saturday, even as the majority of the fans rejoiced at Charles Leclerc taking pole position for Ferrari’s home race, the way it unfolded left a sour note for fans across the world.

For the final run in the final part of qualifying, each and every driver was crawling around the track to position themselves behind one another to get the perfect slip-stream on the long straights of Monza on their out-lap and failed to start their final qualifying run before the time 12-minute session ended.

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Leclerc had a time of 1:19:307 after his first run in the final part of qualifying and it was good enough to take pole position ahead of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, who were just a few hundredths of a second behind with the second Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel finishing fourth.  

The last lap of qualifying is under investigation by stewards after the drivers were warned about going too slow on their out-laps and a similar incident in the F3 qualifying on Friday, saw 17 of the 30 drivers getting penalties.

However, the biggest loser on the day was Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen after his Honda power unit gave up forcing him to the back of the grid after failing to set a time.

Verstappen was on a timed lap earlier in the first part of qualifying when Sergio Perez’s Racing Point pulled aside due to a potential Mercedes engine issue bringing out red flag forcing the Dutchman, who has won two races this year, to abort his run.

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenburg were fifth and sixth followed by McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, Red Bull’s Alexander Albon, Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen, with the last two drivers not even setting a time.

Raikkonen was 10th but he crashed at the start of the third part of qualifying, going off at the parabolica corner, similar to the crash he had on Friday.  

The Top 10:

1) Charles Leclerc (Ferrari); 2) Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), +0.039s;

3) Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), +0.047s; 4) Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), +0.150s;

5) Daniel Ricciardo (Renault), +0.532s; 6) Nico Hulkenberg (Renault), +0.742s;

7) Carlos Sainz (McLaren), +1.602s; 8) Alexander Albon (Red Bull) no time set,

9) Lance Stroll (Racing Point) no time set, 10) Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) no time set.

(The writer is in Monza at the invitation of Petronas)