Sunday, September 6, 2020

Mercedes Motors at Monza: Hamilton Takes Italian Grand Prix Pole

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A.

Considered one of the fastest circuits on the current Formula 1 calender, the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza is a track that benefits low downforce and massive engine power. With what is known of the 2020 season as well as other prior years in the open wheel racing series, qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix on the high-speed race course was understandably seen as another playground for the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 team. However, a rule change targeting the German-based squad had the potential to shake up Saturday’s time trials.  

The Italian Grand Prix is the first event where the Formula 1 sanctioning enacted rules against the Mercedes AMG team’s use of a special engine mode for qualifying. The so-called “party mode” setting was incorporated to allow a driver to have access to a brief performance boost from the power unit meant to gain extra pace in qualifying. Although the Mercedes AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance vehicles were cited for using the engine setting exploit, other Formula 1 teams have acknowledged having the capacity of utilizing an effect similar to party mode. Starting with the Italian Grand Prix weekend, teams will be required to operate through a single engine mode in qualifying and race conditions.   

Despite the new engine mode rule, the Mercedes AMG cars rolled to secure an easy front row for Sunday’s main race at Monza. Collecting his 94th career Formula 1 pole, Lewis Hamilton came out on top in qualifying with a 1-minute,18.887-second lap time. The performance by Hamilton eked-out his teammate Valtteri Bottas for pole by just 0.069 seconds. Both Mercedes AMG drivers able to record lap times under 1-minute, 19 seconds and eclipsed the previous lap time record around the 5.793-kilometer circuit. Bottas’ top Q3 lap was more than 6/10ths of a second faster than the third-place runner.

Photo Credit: LAT Images/Mercedes AMG

Missing out on starting the Belgian Grand Prix last weekend due to an exhaust issue, Carlos Sainz Jr. is in a prime position for glorious recovery in the grand prix at Monza. The Spaniard will start third in his Renault-powered McLaren alongside the Racing Point of Sergio Perez. The third row of the 2020 Italian Grand Prix’s starting grid is shared by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and the second McLaren race car driven by Lando Norris. Outpaced by their engine customer McLaren, the Renault F1 Team piloted by Daniel Ricciardo will launch from seventh place on Sunday. Lance Stroll, Alexander Albon and Pierre Gasly rounded out the top-10 in the final round of qualifying.

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A.

In recent years, qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix on the Monza circuit has become a chaotic affair. The final round of qualifying for the 2019 event concluded with a farcical outcome where a majority of cars moved so slowly in the final moment of Q3 that time expired by the time they reached the starting line. Attempting to gain the valuable slip-stream equating to extra speed on the track’s long stretches, drivers want to follow rather than lead to get an ideal time. Smaller instances of slip-streaming gone wrong appeared to cost several drivers including Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen from posting their best lap times. The Q1 session also had a number of lap times disallowed due to exceeding course limits around the sweeping turn 11. Lance Stroll, Alexander Albon and Charles Leclerc all had lap times deleted in qualifying after their right wheels drifted above white line.

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A.

One of three Italian-based races part of the 2020 Formula 1 schedule, the Italian Grand Prix is a homecoming experience for the Scuderia Ferrari team. After a difficult outing in Spa, the Ferrari race cars are continuing to struggle with an addition sting of competing at a home country event. Charles Leclerc was only able to muster a 13th place result in qualifying while Sebastian Vettel is starting 17th after failing to break out of the initial Q1 session. 

The start of the 53-lap Italian Grand Prix is set for 3:10 p.m. local time or 9:10 a.m. Eastern time.

2020 Formula 1
Italian Grand Prix
Starting Grid

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