Vettel tops final practice for Italian GP ahead of Hamilton
MONZA, Italy (AP) — Ferrari will be hopeful of ending an eight-year wait for a win at its home track after taking the front two places on the grid for the Italian Grand Prix for the first time since 2000.
Surprisingly, it was Kimi Raikkonen who edged his teammate and title hopeful Sebastian Vettel in qualifying on Saturday to clinch only his second pole position in 10 years — and setting Formula One’s fastest ever lap in the process.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who saw his advantage cut to 17 points last weekend, was third fastest — missing out on pole at Monza for the first time in five years.
“It’s only half the job done, tomorrow is a very important part, so hopefully we can get another great result, said Raikkonen, who was last on pole in Monaco last year.
The passionate Ferrari tifosi fans were delighted as Vettel briefly took top spot after crossing the line ahead of Raikkonen at the end of Q3, and the cheers grew even louder when the Finn completed his lap to post a time 0.161 faster.
“It’s a special place for sure to get the pole position at our home grand prix in front of our fans … it’s good today, hopefully tomorrow it’s very good,” Raikkonen added.
Vettel appeared to celebrate before being told on team radio that he had been beaten by Raikkonen.
“We speak later,” was Vettel’s terse response.
The four-time world champion was asked about the incident in the news conference later but only said: “Clearly I wasn’t happy but I won’t tell you why.”
Monza — known as the Temple of Speed — is the fastest track on the circuit and Raikkonen’s lap was at an average speed of 263.587 kph (almost 164 mph), beating the sport’s quickest lap which was also set here by Juan Pablo Montoya for Williams in 2004.
The last time Ferrari took pole position for the Italian GP was in 2010, which was also the year it last won its home race, with Fernando Alonso driving.
“(Fans) go crazy whether it’s practice or now in qualifying so that’s nice to see,” Vettel said. “But I’m not entirely happy with the end of my qualifying and that’s the emotion that’s dominating at the moment.”
Vettel became F1’s then-youngest race winner when he triumphed in Monza in 2008 with Toro Rosso. He also won the Italian GP in his 2011 and 2013 title years with Red Bull.
Hamilton has won four of the past six races in Monza. The Mercedes driver would tie Michael Schumacher’s record of five Italian GP victories with another win on Sunday.
“We gave it everything we could — it’s obviously incredibly close between us but they’ve had the upper hand this weekend,” said Hamilton, who was booed by the crowd during his post-qualifying interview. “Everyone in the team is working as hard as they can to make the difference.”
He added: “It was just amazing how intense it was, and that’s how racing should be.”