Lewis Hamilton takes Monza pole as Ferrari’s struggles continue

F1 Monza qualifying
JENNIFER LORENZINI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
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MONZA, Italy — Six-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton set a Monza track qualifying record at the Italian Grand Prix as he clinched a record-extending 94th pole position, nudging Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas into second place by just 0.069 seconds on Saturday.

But Ferrari’s troubles went from bad to worse as both cars failed to qualify inside the top 10 at the team’s home circuit for the first time since 1984, with Sebastian Vettel not even making it out of Q1.

Hamilton flew around Monza’s 3.54 miles of asphalt in 164.267mph (2643.362 kph) at the so-called Temple of Speed. It was the fastest lap ever recorded in Formula One, eclipsing Kimi Raikkonen’s one-lap record of 163.785 mph, set by the former world champion on his way to pole at Monza two years ago.

“Fantastic from the team today in terms of timing, when they put us out on the track,” Hamilton said after clocking a best lap of 1 minute 18.887 seconds. “It really demanded a clean lap so I am really happy.

“Valtteri was very, very close, pushing. I made some changes going into qualifying so I was a little bit nervous about whether that was the right thing to do but it worked just fine.”

Bottas and Hamilton exchanged track records in qualifying on their way to securing yet another Mercedes front-row lockout. McLaren driver Carlos Sainz, who will move to Ferrari next year, was third, 0.808 behind the British driver and just ahead of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen.

It was a record-extending 94th pole for Hamilton and he will start as favorite to win for a 90th time on Sunday, which would move him within one victory of Michael Schumacher’s record.

Hamilton looks on course to extend his championship lead, which stands at 47 points from Red Bull rival Max Verstappen and 50 from Bottas.

Things went from terrible to abysmal for Ferrari. Charles Leclerc qualified 13th and has little chance of repeating last year when he won from pole position to end the team’s nine-year wait for victory at Monza.

Vettel finished 17th after being hampered by traffic on his final lap.

“What a mess,” Vettel said on the team radio before letting out an expletive.

Earlier, Bottas led third and final practice.

Bottas was 0.229 faster than Sainz and 0.323 quicker than Lando Norris after an impressive showing from the McLaren pair.

The session was interrupted about 10 minutes from the end after a mechanical problem with Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault, with the cars managing to come out for a final flying lap.

Hamilton was fifth fastest but survived a fright at the end, with the Mercedes driver swerving at speed on the approach to the Parabolica corner to avoid two cars going slowly side by side.

No action was taken by the stewards.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”