Lewis Hamilton storms to Italian GP pole ahead of Rosberg

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Lewis Hamilton has secured his first pole position in almost four months today in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

The Mercedes driver pipped teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg to top spot in Q3 by just two-tenths of a second, denying the German a fifth straight pole position.

Despite encountering a number of problems during practice, Mercedes was at its very best in qualifying, seeing off the challenge of Williams duo Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa. They will start from the second row of the grid.

Q1 saw Rosberg get back out on track following his problem in the final practice session on Saturday, and he did not appear to be at any great disadvantage for the running he lost in FP3. The German driver trailed Hamilton by one-tenth of a second in the first part of qualifying, with Williams’ Felipe Massa running the Silver Arrows very close in third place. Their times were good enough to allow them to not head back out for a run on the option tires.

For those lower down the order though, this was the only choice. Jean-Eric Vergne hoisted himself out of danger with a lap good enough for P5, whilst Sauber managed to get both of its drivers through to Q2 with relative ease. Red Bull and Ferrari did not appear to be able to match the Mercedes runners with their laps in Q1, though.

For Lotus, it was a disastrous session. Both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado were knocked out in Q1, and the latter was forced to ease his car back to the pits for fear of damaging his gearbox. Predictably, the Marussia and Caterham drivers completed the dropzone, with Kamui Kobayashi finishing as the top backmarker in P18.

The second session saw Mercedes and Williams lead the way once again, with Hamilton and Rosberg finishing in first and second place ahead of Bottas and Massa. Rosberg did question the team’s strategy, though, and also complained of some understeer on his car after a setup change.

Red Bull appeared to struggle in the first part of the session, but both Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel found a way through to Q3 come the checkered flag. The big casualty of the second session was Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who qualified 12th after a lock-up in the first chicane that ruined his final lap. Daniil Kvyat finished just ahead of the Finn in 11th, but will start from 21st after his penalty. Jean-Eric Vergne, Nico Hulkenberg, Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez were also eliminated in the second session, filling positions 13-16 respectively.

In his bid for a fifth pole position in a row, Rosberg was out early in Q3 for his first timed run. He managed to go fastest of all with his first effort ahead of the two Williams drivers, but was soon put in his place when Hamilton went over four-tenths of a second quicker with his initial hot lap.

Rosberg did manage to find some time with his final run, but could only make up two-tenths of a second and had to settle for P2 behind Hamilton. Valtteri Bottas completed the top three for Williams, with Felipe Massa joining his teammate on the second row of the grid with P4.

Despite his skepticism yesterday, Jenson Button qualified sixth just behind McLaren teammate Kevin Magnussen. Fernando Alonso was the lead Ferrari in seventh place ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo. Sergio Perez rounded out the top ten for Force India.

This result marks Hamilton’s first pole position since the Spanish Grand Prix at the beginning of May, and ends Rosberg’s streak of four pole positions.

However, following their on-track clash in Belgium, all eyes will be on the championship rivals to see if they can keep it clean heading into the first chicane at Monza tomorrow.

You can watch the Italian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7.30am ET tomorrow.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.