Lewis Hamilton storms to Italian GP pole ahead of Rosberg


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.

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”