Come hell or high water at Monza, Lewis breaks record
Lewis Hamilton broke Michael Schumacher’s record of all-time pole positions by securing his 69th with a devastating lap in the final seconds of yesterday’s rain-hit qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix.
The 32-year-old Briton steered his Mercedes through treacherous conditions with patience, precision and courage to deliver a best lap in one minute and 34.660 seconds.
In a dramatic final third qualifying session (Q3), he outpaced nearest rival Max Verstappen of Red Bull in teeming rain to claim his sixth pole at Monza and his fourth in succession. His lap in 1:35.554 on full wet tyres was the quickest in Q3.
He had shared Schumacher’s record of 68 after taking pole in last Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix to set up victory and the record.
“To do this here at such an historic circuit, I am going to have some pasta tonight [yesterday] to celebrate,” said Hamilton. “Sixty-nine poles — I just can’t believe it.”
“Firstly, Italy, I love you — even though we are in Ferrari’s homeland I appreciate all the support,” he added.
Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo was third ahead of Canadian rookie Lance Stroll of Williams, French rookie Esteban Ocon of Force India and Finn Valtteri Bottas, who was sixth in the second Mercedes.
With the two Red Bulls hit by major grid penalties for taking new engine components, Stroll will start today’s race, forecast to take place in dry conditions, from second on the grid alongside Hamilton.
In a dramatic finale to a session that ended nearly three hours later than expected after a long delay due to heavy rain, the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and championship leader Sebastian Vettel ended up in disappointing seventh and eight positions on their team’s 70th anniversary.
“I have no idea what the problem was,” said Vettel, who will start from sixth. “I was surprised by how quick the others went.
“At this stage we don’t know why. It was an important day, but it is what it is and we will see how it goes tomorrow [today].”
Brazilian Felipe Massa was ninth in the second Williams and Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne 10th for McLaren.
The session ended nearly four hours after it had begun with a curtailed Q1 brought to an early red-flagged halt when Frenchman Romain Grosjean aquaplaned and crashed in his Haas.
The qualifying session concluded with Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer joining both Saubers in being eliminated, along with the luckless Grosjean.