Mercedes’ Hamilton still top dog in Italy but tifosi thrilled to see Raikonnen & Vettel relegate Rosberg to 4th
At the festival of pure speed and racing passion embodied by the legendary Monza track in northern Italy, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton proved once again that he is the fastest man in the fastest machine. Debuting 2016’s advanced engine spec for the factory Mercedes team, Hamilton grabbed yet another pole in Saturday qualifying, his astonishing 15th P1 out of 16 sessions this season. But the Silver Arrows’ overall dominance was upended by Scuderia Ferrari on their home turf, with the recently re-signed Kimi Raikkonen taking a very strong P2 and his more vaunted teammate Sebastian Vettel coming home just a few tenths behind in P3. When Nico Rosberg, running this year’s standard Mercedes engine, could do no better than 4th fastest, the tifosi erupted in unbridled, typically Italian joy. If the two Prancing Horses can make a dynamic duo-type getaway like we saw in Hungary and swamp Hamilton at the start of the race, they may be able to pull off the upset and send all of Italy into paroxysms of joy. However, with an average lap speed somewhere north of 150mph, It could be quite difficult to keep Hamilton down for long at this circuit even assuming that the two blood red Ferraris can get away from him when the lights go out. The other possibility, of course, is that the new Mercedes engine is not quite ready to last an entire race flat out. As the old saying goes, we shall see come Sunday.
Mercedes-powered Williams had a decent day, with veteran Felipe Massa slightly outpacing his younger Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas, P5 to P6. Force India continued to impress with Sergio Perez grabbing the 7th fastest time, while Nico Huldenberg, who just had his contract extended by the team for two more years, ran out of fuel in the middle of Q3 and had to settle for 9th on the grid. Coming off his best race of the year at Spa two weeks ago, Romain Grosjean rode that momentum and was excellent for Lotus, just snatching P8 as the seconds wound down in Q3. Marcus Ericsson would have again found himself rounding out the top 10 for Sauber but he was judged to have impeded Hulkenberg during Q1 and penalized 2 spots on the grid, so Grosjean’s teammate Pastor Maldonado was elevated to 10th position.
Teams Red Bull and Toro Rosso were also penalized for exceeding their engine change limits and so all their cars will start from the back of the field tomorrow. On top of that, a big part of Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen’s body work came loose on a hot lap earning even more FIA sanctions, so the young Dutchman will start dead last. That all helped move up the McLarens of Jenson Button (P15) and Fernando Alonso (P16). But really their Honda engines are too far down on horsepower to truly compete at a high speed circuit like Monza, so look for them to be passed early by ostensible “backmarkers” like Red Bull’s Daniil Kyat and Daniel Ricciardo, who are only behind them because of their penalties.
Top 10 qualifiers for the Italian Grand Prix:
|7||11||SERGIO PEREZ||FORCE INDIA||1:24.801||1:24.379||1:24.626||19|
|9||27||NICO HULKENBERG||FORCE INDIA||1:24.937||1:24.510||1:25.317||18|
Tomorrow’s race airs live here in the States on NBC Sports Network starting at 8 AM Eastern. As with any Formula 1 race from Monza, it should be must-see TV. Hope to see you then!