Charles Leclerc took pole position for the Italian Grand Prix despite a farcical end to Q3, in a qualifying session also interrupted by a red flag due to a crash for Kimi Raikkonen.
At the end of the first attempts in Q3, Raikkonen spun at Parabolica and went backwards into the barrier at high speed, with the medical car being deployed due to the impact. The Finn had climbed from the car himself and walked away but the damage to his Alfa Romeo and the barrier led to a delay of 11 minutes.
At that point Leclerc was already on provisional pole ahead of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, with the FIA allowing Bottas’ time — having originally suggested he didn’t cross the line before the track went red.
When running resumed, all of the cars waited until the final two minutes two head back out and Nico Hulkenberg cut the first chicane in an apparent attempt to drop behind some cars to pick up a slipstream. With those following him backing off in order to not be the lead car without a tow, the whole field slowed massively and eventually found time running out.
Carlos Sainz picked up the pace earliest, with Leclerc also passing teammate Sebastian Vettel on the run to Parabolica and they were the only two drivers to cross the line before the checkered flag, seeing the other eight drivers fail to start their laps.
Leclerc then backed off with pole position assured, and Sainz improved but could only secure seventh place behind Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg without the benefit of a tow.
Alex Albon will start from eighth after failing to set a time in Q3 as a result of the mess, with Raikkonen provisionally ninth and Lance Stroll 10th. The final lap of the session is under investigation — and 19 Formula 3 drivers picked up grid penalties on Friday night for their collective driving on their final laps in qualifying…
Raikkonen had already run wide at the first Lesmo on his opening attempt in Q2, but recovered to advance with a late attempt that knocked out his teammate Antonio Giovinazzi by just 0.002s. Kevin Magnussen was 0.1s off Raikkonen in 12th place, and only 0.015s ahead of Daniil Kvyat who radioed his team after the session to say “what a mess” regarding his final run.
Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly were the other two drivers to be eliminated in Q2, with both facing back of the grid starts for power unit penalties and largely spending the second part of qualifying providing a tow for their respective teammates.
Sergio Perez stopped with four and a half minutes remaining in Q1, eliminating the Racing Point and also resulting in a late dash for lap times when the session resumed. In the busy spell that followed, Max Verstappen suffered a power unit concern when he reported a loss of power and he returned to the garage without setting a time. The Red Bull driver was always set to start from the back of the grid due to a power unit penalty, but could have started ahead of Gasly and Norris had he set a time.
Alongside the Williams pair of George Russell and Robert Kubica — separated by over half a second — Romain Grosjean was the other driver to be eliminated in 16th place, with his best time less than 0.1s adrift of a spot in Q2. In a sign of how close the midfield remains, Grosjean was less than 0.2s slower than Magnussen but his teammate ended the session in 10th place.