Hamilton eases to Italian GP pole at Monza

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Lewis Hamilton eased to his seventh consecutive pole position during qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix on Saturday at Monza.

Hamilton posted a fastest lap time of 1:23.397 to secure his 11th pole of the 2015 season ahead of Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel as Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg struggled to fourth place on the grid.

After discovering a problem on Rosberg’s power unit following the final practice session on Saturday morning, Mercedes opted to revert back to the one used by the German at the Belgian Grand Prix so he could take part in qualifying.

WATCH: Italian Grand Prix qualifying full replay

As a result, Hamilton was the only Mercedes driver to run with the upgraded power unit in qualifying, and the advantage was clear as he stormed to his seventh consecutive pole position with relative ease.

Hamilton’s first lap in Q3 was enough to give him pole, but the Briton went faster still with his second effort to ensure that he would not be beaten by the chasing Ferrari drivers.

Taking advantage of Rosberg’s engine trouble, Raikkonen rallied to record his best qualifying of the season in second place, edging out Ferrari teammate Vettel by just 0.054 seconds.

Rosberg managed to jump up to P4 with his final lap in qualifying after previously trailing Williams’ Felipe Massa. The Brazilian was eventually left to settle for fifth place ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Sergio Perez finished seventh for Force India in what proved to be a mixed Q3 for the team. Nico Hulkenberg could only qualify ninth after he stopped at the pit entry during the session, allowing Romain Grosjean to move up to P8 for Lotus. Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top ten for Sauber.

Pastor Maldonado and Felipe Nasr were unable to match the pace of their teammates in qualifying, dropping out in Q2 as a result in 11th and 12th place respectively.

Given the grid drops that were hanging over their heads, Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat only went out for one flying lap during qualifying, leaving them P13 and P14. Daniel Ricciardo did not even bother to go out on track in Q2 for the same reason, knowing he would start from the very back regardless.

The McLaren duo of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso endured another difficult qualifying session on Saturday as they both dropped out in Q1 once again. Alonso had been on the brink of making it into Q2, but late laps from Ricciardo and Button dropped the Spaniard down to P17 at the end of the session.

Manor had a trouble-free session en route to P18 and P19, leaving Max Verstappen to prop up the order for Toro Rosso. The Dutchman was only sent out on track with a few seconds to go in Q1 after Toro Rosso had to fix a problem on his car. When he did though, his engine cover was not fitted properly, causing it to fly off the car at the Curva Grande and leave debris on the track.

Verstappen, Button and Alonso are just three of the drivers that will face a grid drop for tomorrow’s race. They will be joined at the back of the grid by Kvyat, Sainz and Ricciardo after they all made changes to their power units, bumping the Manor drivers up the order.

Hamilton’s tally of seven consecutive pole positions matches the record set within a single season by Alain Prost back in 1993, and is now just one shy of Ayrton Senna’s overall record that was spread across 1988 and 1989.

IMSA’s 50th Anniversary Celebration: Why Sebring is so special to Bobby Rahal

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Bobby Rahal has driven in some of the biggest races in the world, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Rolex 24 Hours and, of course, winning the Indianapolis 500 as a driver in 1986 and in 2004 as a team owner.

But winning the 12 Hours of Sebring two years in a row (1987 and 1988), Rahal feels, is right up there in terms of his greatest accomplishments as a race car driver.

As IMSA celebrates its 50th anniversary, Rahal reflected on what racing at Sebring International Raceway has meant to him:

“To me, Sebring is the ultimate endurance race. Not as long as Daytona or Le Mans, but the demands put on a car and driver at Sebring are highly unusual.

“My father raced at Sebring in the late 60’s. To win that race two years in a row really meant something to me.

“While we’ve won a lot of other races, we’ve won just about everywhere, you name it. But for me personally, winning at Sebring those two years in a row was very special.”

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