Ferrari was celebrating their 90th birthday and the ACI (Automobile Club d'Italia) the 90th running of the Italian Grand Prix, and what better place to celebrate such milestones than at the “Temple of Speed”, Monza!
The day started a bit cold and damped, so drivers took a long time to get out. First one on track was Romain Grosjean on wet tires doing the first installation lap, others came out, but it took almost 16 minutes to get the first timed lap, it was Lando Norris in the McLaren doing a 1:36.544 on inters (green). During the next minutes we had seven timed laps on the board, with Daniil Kvyat doing a 1:35.814. 25 minutes into the session, Kimi Raikkonen's Alfa Romeo went off at the Curva Grande hitting the barriers bringing the first red flag of the weekend, a few minutes before, Carlos Sainz went for a spin but luckily went back to the track, no harm done. With 54 minutes left in the clock, Sergio Perez went off, hitting the barriers hard after exiting the Ascari Chicane, destroying the back and left front of his Racing Point. Another red flag to recover the car.
As the track begun to dry, times begun to drop, trading fastest laps between several drivers. Then the third red flag came out as Pierre Gasly went over a sausage curve at turn 1, getting his STR14 stuck over it, but with a little help from the marshals, he went back to the track.
With less than 30 minutes and with a drying track, Charles Leclerc went fastest with a 1:31.290. Then the Mercedes came out and started setting fastest laps between them. At the end it was Leclerc who did the fastest lap, a 1:27.905, ahead of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris.
Practice two started a lot hotter (19.4℃) and drier than FP1. Most drivers immediately went out to do installation and timed laps with Hamilton topping the charts with a 1:21.972 just 20 minutes into the session. And with 1:16 hours left, the heavens opened and the rained arrived at Monza, although not enough to hinder lap times on slicks, and Leclerc did a 1:20.978 with Vettel just 0.201 behind.
After the first 1/2 hour the rain really came a bit harder, and everyone stayed in their respective boxes. Then, with 53 minutes left into the session, it was red flagged, this time to clean some gravel at turn 5. After ten minutes, the track was clean, the green light came back again, and Grosjean came out almost immediately with Magnussen not far behind, followed by a few drivers. Magnussen reported to be very wet around the Lesmos.
With less than 30 minutes on the clock, Leclerc inform the team that he was coming in as he didn't want to take unnecessary risks, but the team told him that those type of conditions might be similar during qualifying and/or the race and asked him to please continue, and so he did.
At the end, it was Charles Leclerc with a lap of 1:20.978 who was fastest, with Hamilton and Vettel a bit behind.
Practice 3 started but pit lane remained closed as repairs were going around the fencing, barriers and the removal of the sausage curb at the Parabolica after an awful crash in Formula 3. Alex Peroni's car flew into the air after hitting the before mentioned sausage curb at Parabolica, the car was thrown up before spinning into the fence. Driver is ok.
And after 11 minutes, the track opened, and everybody went out immediately. At half time it was Leclerc the fastest over Vettel by just 0.159 of a second, and Ricciardo a distant third. By the end, it was Sebastian Vettel who set the fastest lap, a 1:20.294, ahead of Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas, and Charles Leclerc.
Track open and it was Robert Kubica the first to come out and posted a 1:23.966. He was followed by almost all drivers, making a bit of a traffic jam on certain parts of the circuit. With less than five minutes to go, Sergio Perez's engine let go and had to stop at turn 3, bringing out a red flag to recover the car, and with just seconds to go, Verstappen's RB15 loses power not setting any lap time. Out of qualifying were: Grosjean, Perez, Russell, Kubica, and Verstappen.
Q2 started with Daniil Kvyat going out first, followed by the rest of the drivers. With only two minutes, everybody came out. At the end, Giovinazzi, Magnussen, Kvyat, Norris, and Gasly did not passed to the final qualifying round.
The ten drivers came out at the same time, everyone trying to get a tow from the one ahead, but the session was stopped with 6:35 minutes left as Kimi Raikkonen crashed at the Parabolica destroying the back end of his Alfa Romeo. When the green light came back, no-one went out and the waiting game begun. Hulkenberg was the first of the nine drivers out with very little time to get to the line on time. And it was only Carlos Sainz got to the flag on time, but it was Charles Leclerc who got Pole Position at Monza! Hamilton was second, Bottas third, and Vettel fourth.
What a bizarre qualifying that was...
"I'm happy with the pole. It's a shame but there was a big mess at the end... Let's hope for a good race tomorrow" Leclerc
The 90th running of the Italian Grand Prix started with Leclerc keeping his first place and Vettel losing it to Hulkenberg but getting it back the next lap. On la 7 Vettel spun and crashed into Stroll trying to get back onto the track, breaking his front wing, then Stroll did the same to Pierre Gasly, albeit not touching, just taking him off track. Vettel came into the pits for a new nose and hard (white) tires. On lap 13, the stewards gave a 10-seconds stop-and-go penalty to Vettel, who served it immediately coming out last. A lap later a drive through penalty was given to Stroll. Then, the stewards gave a 5-seconds time penalty to Alex Albon, and a 10-seconds penalty to Raikkonen for starting on the wrong set of tires. By lap 20, Mercedes pitted Hamilton, giving him medium tires (yellow), coming out in fifth. Then Leclerc came in for hards (white), coming out in fourth, just ahead of Hamilton, but behind Hulkenberg. The next few laps were just fantastic racing between the young Leclerc and five-times world champion. Hamilton tried to pass Leclerc but the door was shut down by Leclerc, forcing him to take the escape route. Then race control shows the black and white flag to Leclerc, a warning not to do that again.
On lap 28, Bottas came in for medium (yellow) tires, coming out fourth, behind Ricciardo and ahead of Hulkenberg. The same lap, Carlos Sainz stopped his McLaren just outside the pits with a loose wheel, bringing out a VSC.
On lap 31, Daniil Kvyat stopped a smoking Toro Rosso, bringing another VSC. By lap 33, Vettel was shown blue flags to let the leaders pass, placing him a lap down.
On lap 36, Leclerc locked his front tires going into the first chicane, taking the escape route, Hamilton tried, desperately, to pass him but was not able to do with Leclerc defending every way he could.
On lap 42, Hamilton made a mistake locking his front tires and taking the escape route at the first chicane, losing second place to Bottas. The next lap, Vettel came into the pits for medium (yellow) tires, staying in the same place as before, 15th. And Magnussen retired from the race.
Then next laps had a charging Bottas chasing the Ferrari of Leclerc. Hamilton came in for soft (red) tires with three laps to go. Bottas tried to pass Leclerc but went wide, losing time. As expected, Hamilton did the fastest lap of the race on the next to last lap, a 1:21.779, taking the additional point.
At the end, it was Charles Leclerc who won the Italian Grand Prix in front of Ferrari's home crowd at Monza, and in Ferrari's 90th anniversary!
Epic, epic racing.