Lewis Hamilton will be leaving the Monza paddock with his tail up after securing his first pole position in almost four months in today’s qualifying session.
The Briton edged out teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg for top spot in the final part of qualifying, finishing two-tenths of a second clear at the checkered flag after producing a scintillating lap in his first run.
For Rosberg, the result ended his four-race streak of starting on pole position, but we must look at the bigger picture here: our two title protagonists are starting the race from the front row of the grid just two weeks after they came together at Spa-Francorchamps.
What more could we want for a race? There will be fireworks. It may not end in contact, but whoever wins – if they win fair and square – will take a huge psychological advantage into the final six-race stint of the season.
Here is the penultimate paddock notebook from the Italian Grand Prix weekend, rounding up all of today’s action and news.
NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK
- Hamilton started Saturday as he meant to go on, finishing fastest in the final practice session.
- Marco Mattiacci refused to comment on speculation that Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo may be set to resign.
- Daniil Kvyat will be demoted 10 places on the grid thanks to an engine penalty.
- McLaren has confirmed that it will be reuniting with coffee brand Segafredo Zanetti.
- In qualifying, Hamilton was king, beating Rosberg and Valtteri Bottas.
- However, there will be no team orders between the Mercedes drivers in the race.
- Ferrari endured a miserable home qualifying session at Monza, coming home P7 and P12.
- Marcus Ericsson will start the race from the pit lane after ignoring yellow flags in FP3.
- Daniel Ricciardo was disappointed to only qualify ninth today.
- Williams’ drivers were delighted to lock out the second row of the grid.
- Nico Rosberg has said that he is taking his championship bid one race at a time.
- McLaren drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button aren’t getting carried away after qualifying fifth and sixth.
- Toto Wolff has confirmed that Mercedes will put its planned junior programme into action over the winter.
THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK
At the end of a rather tenuous two-week period, wasn’t it inevitable that Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg would start the Italian Grand Prix side-by-side on the front row of the grid?
Both drivers put in mighty efforts during the qualifying session today, bouncing back from problems earlier on in the weekend. However, when it mattered, Hamilton was able to eke out those extra few tenths in style. In fact, his pole time was set during his first (and theoretically slower) run, and was four-tenths quicker than the rest of the field at first. Eventually, Rosberg managed to halve that gap, but he still just couldn’t find enough time.
So where does this leave us for tomorrow’s race? Both drivers have said that they are free to race as per the meeting held with the team last week, and both know that a repeat of Spa would have dire consequences. You can expect the Mercedes pit wall to hold its breath for the first stint of the race before splitting its drivers’ strategies, just as we saw in Bahrain and Spain. Come the final race to the flag? Who knows. By virtue of his championship lead, Nico is the man who is more likely to settle for second place tomorrow. That said, can Lewis really afford another non-score?
Just behind the Silver Arrows lie Williams, who finally lived up to its billing as the ‘best of the rest’ at Monza. Valtteri Bottas’ long-run pace is reportedly better than that of the Mercedes drivers, but it would come as a great surprise if he is a genuine threat to them. Nevertheless, both he and Felipe Massa will know that a solid points score will take the team above Ferrari in the constructors’ championship.
The prancing horse endured a difficult session, qualifying seventh (Fernando Alonso) and 12th (Kimi Raikkonen), but both drivers felt that they could have done little more. For Alonso, this was particularly true, given that all of the six cars ahead of him are powered by Mercedes engines. Time and time again, Fernando drags his car through the mire.
Ferrari’s motorhome was a hive of activity just before qualifying today. According to reports in the Italian press, Luca di Montezemolo could be set to resign as the president of the Italian marque. When he graced a huge media scrum on the steps of the Ferrari team unit today, he made clear that he would not be stepping down. Most left disappointed.
The stage is set for a quite thrilling Italian Grand Prix, so make sure you don’t miss a second of it. Sparks – and perhaps even bodywork – will fly.
You can watch the race live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7.30am ET tomorrow.