With the parks of Monza surrounded by red tape, Ferrari need no reminder of what is required of them at the Italian Grand Prix. However, in this home race the pressure has been applied with a touch of added intensity. Its president, John Elkann, warned before qualifying that failure is no longer an option. There was certainly a collective sigh of relief in the scarlet garage as the Scuderia rose to the occasion with Charles Leclerc securing pole position.
In a season full of team and driver mistakes, reduced to farcical levels when they only managed to bring three tires to a pit stop in the final round, Elkann had fired a stern warning as Ferrari entered the Monza cauldron .
“We have to keep moving forward and that goes with the mechanics, the engineers, the drivers and obviously the whole management team, including the team principal,” he said. “We saw that there are still too many mistakes in terms of reliability, driving and strategy.”
His words ringing in his ears, Ferrari duly pronounced them. Perhaps a similar warning will be made before Sunday’s race, given that it seemed to work in qualifying. With Red Bull hoping to be strong at Monza, Ferrari pulled out all the stops and Leclerc performed brilliantly in his car optimized for the straight line blasts of the autodrome.
Leclerc, who has seen his early-season optimism of a title challenge disappear, echoed Elkann afterwards but insisted the team needed to do better everywhere, not just at Monza. “We have to become a team that doesn’t make mistakes wherever we go,” he said. “It is a special weekend for us, but the objective does not change. We have to have a clean run and a good run.”
However, it surely matters more at Monza, especially for the fans and Leclerc gave them reason to cheer, rightly taking pole on merit with a fine lap and overtaking Red Bull championship leader Max Verstappen in second by more of a tenth of a second.
However, behind him, F1’s tortuous and difficult penalty system once again left the entire session anticlimactic and confusing. The session was marked by teams receiving a large number of penalties for taking new power unit and gearbox components.
Verstappen will drop five places to seventh, which will be no small impediment to the man who won from 10th in Hungary and 14th at Spa and was hoping to come through to battle Leclerc close behind on Sunday. Penalties promoted British drivers George Russell and Lando Norris to second and third for Mercedes and McLaren respectively, but both were 1.4 seconds off the pace and Verstappen was certain to overtake them.
The musical chairs continued through the order with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who was third, demoted to 18th and Lewis Hamilton, who was fifth, dropped to 19th, both with back-of-the-grid penalties for lane changes power units
Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez finished fourth and with his 10-place penalty will start from 13th. McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo was eighth but moved up to fourth. Pierre Gasly finished ninth for AlphaTauri and will start in fifth and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso in 10th, but moved up to sixth.
Williams’ Alex Albon was diagnosed with appendicitis on Saturday morning and was replaced by reserve driver Nyck de Vries, who finished 13th but moved up to eighth. Esteban Ocon was 11th for Alpine, but has a five-place penalty and will start 14th.
Valtteri Bottas was 12th for Alfa Romeo and has a 15 place penalty and will be 15th. Teammate Guanyu Zhou was 14th and will start ninth. Yuki Tsunoda was 15th for AlphaTauri but has penalties at the back of the grid and will start 20th.
Nicholas Latifi finished 16th for Williams and will start 10th, Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll have been 17th and 18th for Aston Martin but will start 11th and 12th. Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher, who both have 15 penalty positions, were 19th and 20th, but will be 16th and 17th on the grid.
For Ferrari, the real test will continue on Sunday. Keeping Verstappen at bay will be a huge task, but even if they fail to do so, at least executing without mistakes is the least they and their boss, watching with a wistful eye, will hope for.
It’s now a matter of pride as Verstappen remains in full control of the title race, holding a 109-point lead over Leclerc and Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.
To make the event even more special, the winner will receive a unique work of art in the form of a trophy commissioned by tire manufacturer Pirelli. The company is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year and as part of Pirelli’s commitment to supporting contemporary arts, Italian artist Patrick Tuttofuoco has sculpted the trophy, reflecting what he described as the themes of time, dynamism and speed, and has titled “Eon”. “.
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