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.

Alex Palou named reserve F1 driver for McLaren Racing in 2023

Alex Palou McLaren reserve
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Alex Palou was named a Formula One reserve driver for McLaren Racing on Thursday, confirming the end of a prolonged battle for the IndyCar champion and the F1 team.

The Spaniard, who won the 2021 IndyCar championship for Chip Ganassi Racing, last July said he was declining to return to Ganassi next year and instead would drive for McLaren.

Ganassi held an option on 2023 for Palou, who wanted to move to McLaren for a shot at motorsports’ highest level. The fight for the driver dragged into September through mediation, where it was decided that Palou would finish his contract and also be allowed to do F1 opportunities with McLaren.

Palou, 25, since has tested for McLaren, and he made his F1 debut at the United States Grand Prix in October when he drove the first practice session.

In his role as a reserve driver, Palou will support McLaren whenever it does not conflict with his responsibilities in the final year of his IndyCar contract with Ganassi. He officially will move to McLaren at the end of the upcoming IndyCar season and drive either for Arrow McLaren SP in IndyCar or move completely into an F1 role.

“I’m excited to be part of the McLaren team as one of their reserve drivers in 2023,” Palou said. “I can’t wait for the involvement with next year’s car. I look forward to continuing my development as a driver and I appreciate the trust McLaren have in me with this new role next year.”

Palou has four wins and 15 podiums through three IndyCar seasons and is the only Spaniard to win the championship.

“The team are pleased to have Alex on board as one of our reserve drivers for next season,” said Andreas Seidl, McLaren team principal. “He impressed with his FP1 session in Austin and his driver development tests this year.”