Race Weekend Central

Kimi Raikkonen Steals Italian Grand Prix Pole from Vettel in Ferrari Front-Row Lockout

Ferrari came into Monza as the favorite after they flexed their power muscles last week in Belgium, but everyone thought it would be Sebastian Vettel to lead the Prancing Horse to the grid on Sunday, but no, Kimi Raikkonen sets a Monza lap record with a 1.19.119 to secure his 18th career pole position and first since Monaco in 2017. Vettel will have to settle for second.

Lewis Hamilton was third quickest despite putting up the fastest time in the first run of Q3 and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas will line up fourth. Max Verstappen in the lone Red Bull car in Q3 set the fifth fastest time. Romain Grosjean leads the mid-field with his sixth place qualifying run. Carlos Sainz ran the seventh fastest time on his 24th birthday, Esteban Ocon was eighth, Pierre Gasly in the Honda powered Toro Rosso was ninth and Lance Stroll gets the Williams into Q3 for the first time in 2018, but could not improve further and lines up in tenth.

Raikkonen went out behind his Ferrari teammate for the final run in Qualifying three and was able to get a bit of slipstream from his teammate, Vettel, to help improve the Fin’s time. Sebastian was not happy with his lap and potentially not happy to be the tow-setting Ferrari for the final run, as the team celebrated Ferrari’s first Monza front-row lockout since 2000 over the radio, Vettel merely responds “we’ll talk after,” in a very calm tone of voice.

The first bit of controversy began in Qualifying Two as McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Kevin Magnussen in the Haas went into the narrow first chicane side by side, ruining both of the hot laps. Magnussen went into the chicane ahead when Alonso dove to outside. In Alonso fashion, he said over the radio “Magnussen wanted to race huh?” with a bit of a chuckle. Magnussen was not as jovial about the situation as the American team wanted to put both cars into Qualifying Three with their car having heavy Italian heritage in their partnership with Ferrari, but will have to settle for an 11th place grid position.

Sergey Sirotkin could not join his Williams teammate in Q3 and qualifyed in 12th. The mid-field battle shows to be extremely tight as the 7th through 12th place cars were all within three tenths of each other in Q2. Alonso will roll off in 13th. Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo did not set a time in Q2 as they both made changes to their power units and will start at the back tomorrow. Hulkenberg is also facing a 10-place grid penalty for the crash he caused on lap one in Belgium.

Sergio Perez was the first car eliminated in Qualifying One, a major surprise for the Mexican who was the fastest in the rain filled Free Practice One on Friday, and coming off a great last weekend with his fourth place finish in Belgium. A strong return for the newly branded Racing Point Force India team has grown a bit sour. Perez put his lap up early, but slid down the grid as he was not on the track when the Williams jumped up into Q2.

Behind the 16th placed Perez was the Alfa-Romero Sauber hot-shoe, Charles Leclerc, in 17th, Brendan Hartley was 18th. Marcus Ericsson, who almost did not participate in Qualifying after his horrific crash in FP2 on Friday was 19th, and Stoffel Vandoorne put up the slowest lap as he did in every session last week in Belgium.

Lights off for the 88th Italian Grand Prix is set for just after 9 a.m. EST Sunday morning.

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David Edwards

Qualifying the way it should be done, as opposed to the local knockoff.

Have to admit the difference between the broadcasts of the first F1 races and what we see now is shocking. Nascar could take a leaf out of their book.

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