Sainz delights Ferrari fans with Italian GP home pole

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari celebrates his pole position in qualifying parc ferme. 02.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 15, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Qualifying Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Staley / XPB Images
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Carlos Sainz delivered on his dream of achieving a pole position for Ferrari's home Grand Prix in front of the adoring Tifosi by beating Max Verstappen to the top spot in qualifying at Monza. It's his first pole since last year's US Grand Prix in Austin.

Sainz' final round lap of 1:20.294s was just 0.013s quicker than Verstappen, with Charles Leclerc coming achingly close to making it a Ferrari front-row lockout but having to settle for P3 ahead of Mercedes' George Russell, followed by Sergio Perez and Alexander Albon.

But it had a miserable session for Alpine with both Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon failing to make the first cut at the end of Q1 leaving them P17 and P18 on the grid, while Aston Martin's Lance Stroll was stuck in last place.

Q1: Verstappen in charge with Albon second, as both Alpines miss the cut

Hot, sunny and dry conditions met the drivers as they headed down pit lane to get qualifying underway. In accordance with the Alternative Tyre Allocation rules, everyone was on the hard compound for the first round. First out were AlphaTauri pair Yuki Tsunoda and Liam Lawson followed by Haas duo Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen. Max Verstappen soon joined them, while Ferrari kept their fans waiting just a little longer before heading out.

It wasn't long before Verstappen topped the timesheets, his time of 1:22.047s putting him a tenth ahead of Mercedes' George Russell - only for the lap to be deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 7. Alex Albon took over at the top with a flying lap in the Williams putting him ahead of Russell, and Sergio Perez was third after an oil leak on his Red Bull had been repaired in the interval since FP3. Morning pace setter Carlos Sainz finally made his bow in fourth with Charles Leclerc eighth, as Alonso became the latest to have a lap deleted.

Circuit atmosphere - fans in the grandstand.
02.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 15, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Qualifying Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

Perez finally deposed Albon from the top of the times, and then Verstappen put everyone in their place with a new benchmark of 1:21.573s as Alonso popped into third. Struggling for a clean lap was Alpine's Esteban Ocon who went into the gravel at turn 10; his team mate Pierre Gasly was also lagging in the drop zone complaining of vibrations on his brakes.

Verstappen had no need to find more time to finish at the top with Albon putting in a late flier to go second ahead of Charles Leclerc, Tsunoda and Perez. Logan Sargeant confirmed a good effort from Williams in sixth from Sainz, Hamilton, Norris and Alonso. But missing out on Q2 were Alfa Romeo's Zhou Guanyu, the two Alpines, and Kevin Magnussen. Aston Martin's Lance Stroll paid the price for not getting any running on Friday and ended up slowest of all.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF-23.
02.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 15, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Qualifying Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

Q2: Verstappen stays ahead of Ferrari, Albon through but Lawson and Sargeant miss out

Verstappen led the way out for the start of the second round with Perez right behind in search of a tow, everyone now on used mediums. Even unassisted, Verstappen was fastest on 1:21.035s which was almost four tenths quicker than Perez. Albon looked rapid again and split the Bulls, before the Ferraris arrived on the scene: Sainz went 0.044s ahead of Verstappen and Leclerc slotted into third ahead of the Williams, pushing Perez down to fifth ahead of Alonso, Norris and Oscar Piastri.

The two Mercedes were last to complete laps, Russell going P6 and Hamilton only 12th after getting held up by cars peeling down pit lane. It left him in the drop zone along with Nico Hulkenberg, Liam Lawson, Logan Sargeant and Valtteri Bottas - but all still had plenty of time for further runs, and there was still all to play for.

Heading back out, Albon took point giving Sargeant a tow but it was a ragged lap for the American who failed to make the cut. Others missing out where Tsunoda, Lawson, Hulkenberg and Bottas. Leclerc had briefly gone quickest only to be firmly put in his place again by Verstappen, with Sainz settling for third ahead of Perez, Albon, Hamilton, Russell, Piastri and Alonso. Norris finished on the bubble by 13 thousandths after getting delayed at the start of his final push by Bottas on an out-lap.

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari SF-23.
02.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 15, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Qualifying Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

Q3: Sainz pips Verstappen and Leclerc to pole position for Ferrari at Monza.

Verstappen and Perez were once again quick to make a move when the track went green, soft tyres now mandated for all ten cars still in play. Verstappen was quick, but stepped on the gravel in the second chicane costing him a key tenth of a second as he battled to keep on line. It allowed Sainz and Leclerc to take first blood with Verstappen third and Russell and Albon next up ahead of Perez, followed by the two McLarens. Hamilton was only ninth fastest and Alonso a further tenth of a second back in provisional P10.

After one last visit to pit lane, it was time for the final push with Alonso out in front. The Ferraris were flying and Sainz went top with a time of 1:20.294s; Verstappen couldn't match that and fell by short by 0.013s with Leclerc's initially searing lap falling off in the final corners leaving the Monegasque third ahead of Russell, Perez, and Albon. Piastri finished in seventh ahead of Hamilton, with Norris slipping to ninth ahead of Alonso.

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