Italy GP: Another front-row lockout for Mercedes; Sainz takes P3

Sports Desk, Sep 5 (efe-epa).- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) claimed his seventh pole at Monza in Saturday’s qualifying for the Formula One Italian Grand Prix and teammate Valtteri Bottas took the second spot, while Carlos Sainz (McLaren) turned in a brilliant drive to grab P3.

The Briton, who appears to be cruising to a seventh world championship, set a new track record with a best lap of 1:18.887, 0.069s faster than the Finn.

Spain’s Sainz will start third on the grid for the second time this season, followed by Mexican driver Sergio “Checo” Perez (Racing Point).

Max Verstappen (Red Bull), the only person not driving a Mercedes to win a race seven rounds into this pandemic-disrupted season, could do no better than P5.

The Dutchman will share the third row with Sainz’s teammate, Lando Norris of Britain.

Australian veteran Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) placed seventh, ahead of Canada’s Lance Stroll (Racing Point), Thai driver Alex Albon (Red Bull) and Frenchman Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri).

Saturday’s qualifying saw Ferrari’s worst performance at their home track in 35 years. Knocked out in Q1, German four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was consigned to the 17th spot on the grid, while Charles Leclerc had to settle for P13 after failing to make it into Q3.

“It hurts even more that it’s at home,” Monaco’s Leclerc, who won the Italy GP last year, said. “But it’s the reality at the moment for us unfortunately and it’s like this.”

Looking ahead to 2021, Ferrari fans could take comfort from the showing by Sainz, who is replacing Vettel with the Scuderia next season.

The Spaniard put himself in position to vie for a podium position on Sunday, which would go some way toward making up for his exclusion from last week’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps due to a last-minute mechanical problem.

“Very happy to fight back after a disappointing Spa, and to fight back with P3 in qualifying. Definitely didn’t expect to be so high up. We normally expect the Red Bulls or even the Renaults at this track to be ahead of us,” Sainz said.

Verstappen was disappointed to be bumped back to the third row by Sainz and Perez.

The last time Red Bull failed to claim a spot in the front two rows at Monza was 2014.

“The whole weekend we have been struggling a bit,” the Dutchman told Sky Sports. “I tried everything, tried all the wing levels that are possible to run at Monza and at the end of the lap I was the same. We just didn’t do a good job.”

Hamilton, who leads second-place Verstappen by 47 points in the driver standings, was happy to secure his 94th career pole.

“Valtteri was very, very close – pushing me. I made some big changes going in to qualifying, so I was a little bit nervous going in that it was the right thing to do but it worked just fine,” the 35-year-old Briton said. EFE arh/dr

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