Italian GP Qualifying: Charles Leclerc beats Lewis Hamilton before bizarre end at Monza
Battle to get a tow ends with host of drivers running out of time for a final lap; Leclerc on pole for Ferrari ahead of Hamilton and Bottas; Sunday's Italian GP starts at 2.10pm on Sky Sports F1
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 08/09/19 9:42am
Charles Leclerc claimed Italian GP pole position for Ferrari from Lewis Hamilton - but qualifying was overshadowed by a shambolic ending when most drivers missed out on a last attempt.
With teams desperate to leave their final Q3 laps as late as possible, and position their cars to gain crucial slipstreams on F1's fastest circuit, a bizarre game of brinksmanship developed into the final minutes of the session.
Drivers left the pit lane with less than two minutes remaining but then bunched up out of the first chicane, with eight of the nine remaining drivers eventually running out of time to complete the lap and start another one.
Only McLaren's Carlos Sainz was able to complete a final attempt.
"It's one of the silliest things I have seen in F1," Martin Brundle said in disbelief in the Sky Sports F1 commentary box.
Stewards put the final lap under investigation, having warned before qualifying against drivers too slowly on their out laps - although no grid penalties were handed out.
"That was not even worthy of a junior formula," said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. "Everybody looks like idiots."
Hamilton, who had been just 0.39s behind Leclerc, said: "It's crazy with this timing and the system that we have where everyone backs up and tries to get a position. They basically timed us out."
An unimpressed Christian Horner added: "That's not the way qualifying should have finished. We saw the clerk of the course be pretty hard on the Formula 3 guys yesterday, I'm sure he's going to have an issue today."
Leclerc failed to improve on his final lap, but still won out from Hamilton by 0.039s to secure his second pole position in eight days - this time at Ferrari's home event.
Valtteri Bottas will start third, with Sebastian Vettel fourth in the second Ferrari. Daniel Ricciardo headed an all-Renault third row on what has hitherto proved a strong weekend for the Enstone team.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen will start last after a grid penalty, although power problems meant he did not complete a timed lap in Q1 in any case.
What happened in Monza's 'shambolic and bizarre' Q3?
A crash for Kimi Raikkonen at the Parabolica in the closing stages of the first Q3 runs had temporarily suspended the session while the Alfa Romeo was cleared away - and served to increase the tension after less than a tenth had separated Leclerc and the two Mercedes' in the first attempts.
But what followed when the session resumed was barely believable.
As the clock ticked down into the final two minutes, Renault's Nico Hulkenberg eventually led the cars out onto the track - but ran straight on through the run-off at the first chicane.
Seemingly not wanting to lead the pack instead, the cars immediately behind then failed to accelerate out of the chicane, before Sainz and Vettel overtook Hulkenberg.
Racing Point's Lance Stroll, who had exited the pits behind Hulkenberg, told Sky F1: "It was a bit of a comedy show out there in Q3. Everyone just underestimated the time to the chequered flag.
"I was at the front of the queue and Nico was playing games, he cut the chicane trying to get me out in front, and I wasn't buying it. So I was taking my time, waiting for him to get back on track. Then afterwards other cars started overtaking me and it just became a mess."
Vettel complained: "I was trying to get through, but I think there was a McLaren and a Renault blocking the road. I'm not happy with how it went."
Hulkenberg, Sainz and Stroll were handed reprimands for driving unnecessarily slowly.
Wolff said "everyone looked like idiots" after the first cars on track created a tailback.
"The problem is that everyone is trying to get the slipstream and it's a nerve game, who exits first," said the Mercedes boss. "Then some who have exited first felt thought they need to reduce the speed even more, going through the chicane and outside of the track is just junior class.
Asked if he therefore thought it was Hulkenberg who had been playing games, Wolff replied: "Everybody who was in the front at a certain stage. Hulkenberg leading the pack out and then going through the chicane. Then some of the other cars reducing the speed to a level… when you're out, you're out.
"Not worthy of Formula 1."
Italian GP Qualifying Result
1. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
3. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
4. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
5. Daniel Ricciardo, Renault
6. Nico Hulkenberg, Renault
7. Carlos Sainz, McLaren
8. Alex Albon, Red Bull
9. Lance Stroll, Racing Point
10. Kimi Raikkonen
Knocked out in Q2
11. Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo
12. Kevin Magnussen, Haas
13. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso
14. Lando Norris, McLaren (grid penalty)
15. Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso (grid penalty)
Knocked out in Q1
16. Romain Grosjean, Haas
17. Sergio Perez, Racing Point
18. George Russell, Williams
19. Robert Kubica, Williams
20. Max Verstappen, Red Bull (grid penalty)