Italian GP Qualifying: Rain, Records Broken, Penalties Ahoy

Two drivers broke records today: Lewis Hamilton and... Lance Stroll?

When dark clouds hang heavy over the racetrack, you can count on a thrilling shakeup of the typical running order. During Saturday’s qualifying session for the Italian Grand Prix, rain cast its spell on the field, disrupting an otherwise predictable qualifying session. Between the abnormal qualifying results and a party pack of grid penalties, the Italian Grand Prix’s starting grid will be one of the most exciting of the entire season, if not the decade. There will be intense action in the midfield, and plenty to demand your attention towards the front, where some lucky qualifiers will do their best to hang on to their track position.

Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes was presumably given his signature Hammertime command over the radio, because he set a time of 1:35.554 to seize pole, over a second ahead of next-fastest Max Verstappen, who stands at 1:36.792, and more than 2.5 seconds faster than championship leader Sebastian Vettel. This performance proves Lewis deserving of the record he now holds: most career pole positions. He equalled the legendary Michael Schumacher last week, at 68, and this Saturday, he eclipsed the German with his 69th pole result.

The rest of the starting grid is worthy of attention, too. Lance Stroll qualified P4, beating his previous best of P8 in Baku, and he sandwiches the two Red Bull drivers between himself and Hamilton. Esteban Ocon took P5, and Valtteri Bottas is all the way down in P6, followed by both Ferraris. The starting grid will not match the qualifying order, however, because it’s a grid penalty party in Italy this weekend.

Sources of information on all the grid penalties are difficult to corroborate, due to continued component replacements, but here’s what we have come up with. Andrew Benson reports a number of penalties for Renault-powered teams, Motorsport calculated the setback faced by Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso, GPUpdate sums up a number of other drivers’ penalties, and we did the math.

  • Daniel Ricciardo: 25 places
  • Max Verstappen: 20 places
  • Jolyon Palmer: 15 places
  • Nico Hülkenberg: 10 places
  • Carlos Sainz Junior: 10 places
  • Fernando Alonso: 35 places

More information may yet be out there, and we will update this list if we find additional information. With regard to these grid penalties, and the order described in an FIA document, here is what we calculate to be Sunday’s starting grid for the Italian Grand Prix.

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  2. Lance Stroll (Williams)
  3. Esteban Ocon (Force India)
  4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
  5. Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari)
  6. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
  7. Felipe Massa (Williams)
  8. Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren-Honda)
  9. Sergio Perez (Force India)
  10. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso)
  11. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
  12. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber)
  13. Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber)
  14. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
  15. Nico Hülkenberg (Renault)
  16. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  17. Carlos Sainz Jr. (Toro Rosso)
  18. Jolyon Palmer (Renault)
  19. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
  20. Fernando Alonso (McLaren-Honda)

With his P2 start, Lance Stroll sets the record for the youngest driver ever to start on the front row. Strangely enough, the last Canadian to start at the front row of the grid was Jacques “Foolin’ Around” Villeneuve, who also started P2 for Williams at the Italian Grand Prix, back in 1998. Villeneuve recently accused Stroll of being the worst rookie ever, a statement may have to recount after Stroll’s superb qualifying lap.

With the Ferraris starting back in the third row, championship leader Sebastian Vettel will need to finish P2 to prevent himself from losing the title lead. Even then, it would put Hamilton and Vettel on par, at 238 points each. Ocon, Stroll, and Bottas all stand between the Ferraris and the damage-limiting position of P2. None will give up the chance at a podium finish without one hell of a fight.