LEWIS Hamilton will start the Italian Grand Prix from pole position following his wet-weather masterclass in one of the longest qualifying sessions in Formula One history.
Hamilton’s excellence at a rain-hit Monza, following a delay which lasted two hours and 36 minutes, sees him stand alone as the sport’s all-time one-lap specialist with his 69th career pole.
The Englishman, 32, held his nerve in the shootout for pole as the rain, which wreaked havoc with yesterday’s schedule, returned with a vengeance in the closing moments.
Hamilton was the last to cross the line, and his lap was an incredible 1.1 seconds faster than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen with his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo third.
It marks Hamilton’s fourth consecutive pole at Monza and moves him above Michael Schumacher’s tally which he matched in Belgium last weekend Hamilton, however, will be joined on the front row by the Canadian teenager Lance Stroll with both Verstappen and Ricciardo to serve grid drops following engine penalties. And to cap a remarkable day for Hamilton his title rival Sebastian Vettel will start only sixth.
The British driver is unlikely to forget his record pole in a hurry following a frenetic qualifying session which lasted more than three-and-a-half hours.
The delay was caused by Romain Grosjean after he crashed in the wet and criticised the conditions as ‘dangerous’.
The Frenchman narrowly avoided contact with the barriers on both sides of the main straight, but with his Haas car in a precarious position qualifying was immediately suspended.
‘I told you it was f****** dangerous,’ an exasperated Grosjean yelled over the radio.
When the session got under way, Hamilton, who so often revels in the wet, looked on course to get the job done. But his record pole came under threat in the closing moments as he sat in third place behind both Red Bulls. Hamilton however, delivered a quite brilliant lap of one minute and 35.554 seconds to roar to pole. Stroll, 18, will line up in second for Williams and Frenchman Esteban Ocon is bumped up to third.
Pole to pole
LEWIS Hamilton set a Formula One record when he secured his 69th pole.
The British driver is one ahead of Michael Schumacher in the all-time standings.
Here is a look at how Hamilton’s race record from his previous 68 pole positions compares to the achievements of Schumacher from the front of the grid.
HAMILTON FROM POLE: 1st place – 36 times (pole-victory conversion rate – 53 per cent); 2nd – 8; 3rd – 8; 4th – 1; 5th – 3; 6th – 1; 12th – 1; DNF (did not finish) – 10.
SCHUMACHER FROM POLE: 1st place – 40 times (pole-victory conversion rate – 59 per cent); 2nd – 15; 3rd – 1; 4th – 2; 5th – 2; DNF – 7; DNS (did not start) – 1.