ROME: Six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton smashed the Monza track record to take pole position for the Italian Grand Prix with the fastest lap in Formula One history yesterday.
While Mercedes soared, Ferrari slumped to further humiliation with neither of their cars starting their home race in the top 10 for the first time since 1984.
Hamilton’s lap was simply sensational, a prodigious one minute 18.887 seconds at an average speed of 264.362kmph (164mph) to lead Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas in another front row lockout. It was the 94th pole of Hamilton’s stellar career, and his seventh at the ‘Pista Magica’, and shattered the idea that a clampdown on so-called engine ‘party modes’ would affect his team’s performance.
“No party. No problem,” said the team on its official Twitter feed.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, who is joining Ferrari next year, burnished his credentials with an impressive third place on the grid on a sunny afternoon, with Racing Point’s Sergio Perez fourth in his ‘Pink Mercedes’.
Hamilton’s closest championship rival Max Verstappen, 47 points behind after seven races, qualified for Red Bull in fifth place.
Another win for Hamilton today would be his sixth in eight races and career 90th – one short of former Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s all-time record.
There will be no crowd at the most passionate and atmospheric of venues today, due to Covid-19 restrictions, which may be just as well for Ferrari as they endure their worst season in decades.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel will line up 13th and 17th respectively.
Vettel, in his last Italian Grand Prix as a Ferrari driver with his future uncertain, was caught out in a messy first phase with drivers jockeying for position in an attempt to slipstream and gain an aerodynamic tow.
Hamilton was fastest in the opening session before breaking the track record with a 1:19.092 lap in the second – only for Bottas to produce a 1:18.952 effort.
The Finn was unable to improve on that time in the surprisingly chaos-free final phase, his best a 1:18.956, but Hamilton could and did to pip him by 0.069.
The previous track record, and fastest ever lap, of 1:19.119 (at an average 263.587kmph) was set by Kimi Raikkonen on his way to pole position for Ferrari in 2018.
Lando Norris qualified sixth for McLaren with Daniel Ricciardo seventh for Renault and Canadian Lance Stroll eighth for Racing Point.
Thai racer Alex Albon and Frenchman Pierre Gasly completed the top 10 for Red Bull and AlphaTauri respectively.
Meanwhile, Ferrari junior driver Mick Schumacher, son of Michael, was an F2 winner at Monza yesterday to lighten some of the gloom for Formula One’s oldest and most glamorous team at their home Italian Grand Prix.
“On a difficult day like this, there was one ray of sunshine... with Mick Schumacher taking his first win of the season,” Ferrari sporting director Laurent Mekies said, welcoming Schumacher’s success at a track where his father once delighted the fans.