Italian GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report

The soggy heroes

Lewis Hamilton, Italian GP 2017

Lewis Hamilton, Italian GP 2017 

 © Martin Trenkler

 

By Dan Knutson in Monza

Rain, rain and more rain was the sodden story of what was supposed to be the one-hour qualifying session for the Italian Grand Prix.

The people that really suffered were the spectators who had to stand or sit in the rain for a long time while nothing happened. They were the real heroes of this soggy afternoon.

The last time qualifying was washed out and postponed to Sunday morning was in Austin in 2015.

After a delay of two hours and 36 minutes, qualifying resumed at Monza, and when it was finally over, Lewis Hamilton had won the pole in his Mercedes.

This was Hamilton's 69th pole, moving him out of tie with Michael Schumacher at 68 on the all-time F1 pole record.

The lineup for the weekend was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Force India Mercedes - Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll; McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault - Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer; Toro Rosso Renault - Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz; Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.

At least six of these drivers would face grid penalties for various component changes in their power units.

Ricciardo and Verstappen each got a 25-place penalty, Alonso was up to 35 and Sainz a mere 10 places. They are joined by Hulkenberg, 10 places, and Palmer, 15 spots.

QUALIFYING 1

Constant rain had delayed and shortened the morning Free Practice 3 session. But by the time the 18-minute Q1 session started it was still raining but not enough to cause any delays.

The ambient temperature at the start of qualifying was 57 degrees Fahrenheit (14 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 63 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Centigrade).

All the drivers were on Pirelli's extreme wet rain tires. And the forecast predicted conditions were going to get worse.

A number of drivers went straight on at the chicanes.

The session was red flagged after just four minutes when Grosjean spun and crashed on the straight heading into Turn 1.

"I told you it was too dangerous!" he yelled on the radio.

It was "stupid" to start qualifying in such conditions, he added

The seven drivers who managed to set lap times by this stage were: Hamilton, Vettel, Grosjean, Ericsson, Sainz and Raikkonen.

"Those full wet blue tires can shift around 65 liters (17 US gallons) of water per second at full speed (300kph/186 mph). But standing water is the problem," Pirelli tweeted.

After inspecting the track, officials announced that the session restart would be delayed. And they kept delaying it in 15-minute increments. And the rain intensity varied.

The drivers would get ready to go as each 15-minute period came to an end, only to climb out of their cars when another delay was announced.

After yet another delay - bringing the total up to nearly 90 minutes - officials declared that a 10 minute warning would be given before any restart.

Grosjean, meanwhile, had talked to the TV crews.

"Not much to say," he told Sky TV. "On the straight line and the next thing you know you're facing the wall at more than 300 kph. I just think the conditions were not good enough for us to go out there. I complained on the out lap saying that I thought there was too much water, we couldn't see anything.

"You cannot back off on the straight line in case someone is behind because he won't see anything. You can't stay flat out because you're going to lose the car. The first time was just about fine and then the second time I lost it for no reason.

"We shouldn't have gone out at all and I'm pretty straightforward on that."

Ricciardo provided some humorous relief by getting one of the TV cameras and walking into the Mercedes garage to get some close-up shots of the car.

Finally, officials announced that Q1 would restart after what had been a two hour and 36-minute stoppage. So just under 14 minutes remained to be run in Q1.

Once again the drivers were on the extreme wet tires.

"It's better than the last time," Verstappen said of the track conditions.

All the drivers but Grosjean were on track. It would be a case of putting in as many laps as possible on the drying track as lap times would improve.

With about five minutes remaining, the drivers started to switch to the intermediate rain tires.

But it was still slippery out there, and most drivers set their best time on the full wets. Still Bottas used the inters to go fastest with a 1:35.716.

The five drivers who were eliminated at the end of Q1 were: Magnussen, Palmer, Ericsson, Wehrlein and Grosjean.

The fastest 15 drivers who moved on to Q2 were: Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen, Stroll, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Massa, Perez, Vandoorne, Ocon, Alonso, Kvyat, Hulkenberg and Sainz.,

QUALIFYING 2

What would be the tire choice for Q2? A mixture it turned out.

Verstappen, on full wets, was faster than Hamilton on the inters. But then Vettel used the inters to beat Verstappen. And Hamilton still on inters beat Bottas, and Vettel topped Hamilton with a 1:36.223.

Hamilton came back with a 1:35.344 and then a 1:34.660.

A number of drivers improved in the final moments with inters now being the best tire. The fastest 10 drivers who moved on to Q3 were: Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Vettel, Stroll, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Massa, Vandoorne and Ocon.

The five drivers who were eliminated at the end of Q2 were: Perez, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Sainz and Kvyat.

QUALIFYING 3

It started to rain again before the final 12-minute Q3 began. Again, there was a mixture of inters and full wets on the various cars.

But the rain was increasing so the full wet was the way to go. The Merc drivers pitted to switch over.

Verstappen took the lead with a 1:37.782 and then a 1:37.737. Hamilton beat that with a 1:37.727. Ricciardo topped that with a 1:37.143.

Hamilton came back with a 1:36.913. Ricciardo was second and Verstappen third.

In the final seconds Ocon moved up to third, and then Verstappen went fastest only to be displaced by Hamilton who clocked a 1:35.554.

The top 10 qualifiers ended up as: Hamilton, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Stroll, Ocon, Raikkonen, Vettel, Massa and Vandoorne. The Red Bull drivers, though, would be put to the back of the grid. So Stroll will start on the front row of the grid.

It had been a long waited for the soaked spectators but they got a great show at the end.


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