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F1: Charles Leclerc wins pole in bizarre Italian GP qualifying

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Charles Leclerc claimed the pole position for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza Saturday afternoon, following a bizarre Q3 which saw only two drivers cross the finish line in time to set a final flying lap.

Leclerc set his pole-winning lap of 1 minute 20.126 seconds around the 11-Turn, 3.6-mile circuit early on in the final session, which was interrupted by an 11-minute red flag due to a crash by Kimi Raikkonen in Turn 11.

When the session went green once again, several drivers waited until the final two minutes to return to the track, and with a tow crucial to set a fast lap at Monza, many drivers backed off in order to not be the leader without a tow.

The slow race out of the pits saw only Leclerc and Carlos Sainz cross the start/finish line in time to complete a lap, and with Saniz unable to set a faster lap than Leclerc, the Ferrari driver easily claimed the pole position.

“I’m happy with the pole,” Leclerc said following qualifications. “It’s a shame there was a big mess at the end. Let’s hope for a good race tomorrow.”

Lewis Hamilton qualified second, 0.039 seconds behind Leclerc, while Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas qualified third.

Sebastien Vettel qualified fourth, while Daniel Riccardo and Nico Hulkenburg qualified in the fifth and sixth positions for Renault.

Carlos Sainz was the slowest of the seven drivers who set a time in Q3 and will start Sunday’s race from the seventh position.

Alex Albon, Lance Stroll, and Raikkonen all failed to complete a single lap in Q3, and will start eighth through tenth, respectively.

The wild end to the qualifying session is currently under investigation by race stewards.

Full qualifying results and times are below:

 

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WATCH: Red Bull F1 team completes pit stop in zero gravity

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The Red Bull Racing pit crew may have already made headlines last weekend when it completed the fastest pit stop in Formula One history, changing Max Verstappen’s tires in 1.82 seconds, but the team’s most recent stunt took their skills to new heights – quite literally.

With the help of the Russian Space agency Roscomos, a group of the team’s mechanics completed the world’s first zero-gravity pit stop, on-board a IIyushin II-76K cosmonaut training plane.

Using a 2005 BR1, the team filmed the viral video over the course of a week, enduring seven flights and about 80 parabolas – periods in which the plane climbs 45 degrees before falling again at a ballistic arch of 45 degrees, creating a period of weightlessness for approximately 22 seconds.

With such a short time frame between weightlessness periods, the car and equipment had to be both quickly and safely secured before gravity once again took effect. Each filming lasted roughly 15 seconds, and the stunt was the most physically and technically demanding activity the live demo team had ever undertaken.

“It pushed us harder than I thought it would,” said Red Bull Support Team Mechanic Joe Robinson. “You realize how much you rely on gravity when you don’t have any!

“It challenges you to think and operate in a different way – and that was brilliant. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and honestly, I could have stayed and done it all month. It was amazing. I think it’s the coolest, most fun thing the Live Demo team has ever done with a show car.”

Though Red Bull was the first team to perform a pit stop in zero gravity, surprisingly Red Bull was not the first team to put a car through zero gravity. In 1999, McLaren driver David Coulthard and his car experienced zero gravity as part of a promotion for then-sponsor West Cigarettes.

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