Charles Leclerc has taken a popular pole position at the head of a jumbled grid at the Italian Grand Prix.
Ferrari had the single-lap pace on both laps, with Carlos Sainz taking provisional top spot ahead of Leclerc at the end of the first runs despite carrying a back-of-grid penalty for the race.
Max Verstappen rebounded in his second run to put himself within striking distance of pole with a fastest middle sector.
But Leclerc had more than either of his rivals. Despite not going purple in any of the three splits, he pipped Verstappen by 0.145s to take his team’s first home pole since his top-qualifying performance at the 2019 Italian Grand Prix, which he went on to win.
“It’s amazing,” he said to a rapturous reception from the grandstands. “It wasn’t an easy qualifying session.
“I knew that there was quite a bit of potential in the car.
“I knew in the last laps in Q3 I had to put everything together, and I managed to do it.
“It’s been a great weekend until now. The feeling in the car is amazing, and I hope we can do just like 2019 tomorrow.”
Verstappen was second quickest but will serve a five-place grid penalty for changing engine parts.
There is considerable confusion around whether that will lead to him him starting seventh or as high as fourth given several other drivers around him will also serve penalties, with the FIA regulations unclear about what order the penalties should be applied in.
Nonetheless, the Dutchman said he had one eye on the race going into qualifying and was confident about his prospects.
“It was close, but we chose to go for a little more downforce around here,” he said. “I think over one lap maybe it’s not the best, but for tomorrow it can be quite strong, knowing we have to start a little bit back.
“I think it will be an interesting battle tomorrow.”
Sainz ended the hour third and 0.268s slower than his pole-getting teammate but will start 18th after a full-scale power unit change for this weekend.
“It was honestly a very good quali result,” he said. “The only issue is that I didn’t have a tow, and that probably cost me two or three tenths for pole position – but anyway I’m starting [near] last for tomorrow, so it’s not like it’s changing my life.”
Sergio Perez was fourth quickest but will serve a 10-place penalty for engine changes
Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and George Russell set almost identical times at 1.3s off the pace – just ahead of the midfield – but Hamilton will start 19th after taking a new power unit for the weekend following his first-lap crash in Belgium two weeks ago. Russell will be promoted to second on the grid.
Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo qualified seventh and eighth but were 1.4s and 1.7s off the pace. Norris will be promoted to third, with Ricciardo set to start as high as fourth depending on order of penalty applications.
Pierre Gasly was ninth quickest and almost 2.5s slower than pole. Alonso didn’t set a time in Q3, abandoning both his laps. Both will be promoted to behind Ricciardo.
Esteban Ocon missed out on a top-10 berth by just 0.1s, knocking him out ahead of Valtteri Bottas. Both will serve engine-change penalties, dropping the Frenchman five places and setting Bottas up in 15th.
Nyck de Vries – who’s replacing Alex Albon, who has appendicitis – completed his first F1 qualifying session in 13th, beating Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu. Both are set to start considerably higher on the grid.
Tsunoda didn’t set a time in Q2 but will start at the back of the grid after accumulating a string of sporting penalties and made an unscheduled engine change.
Nicholas Latifi was knocked out 16th behind stand-in teammate De Vries, who had his fastest lap deleted for track limits but still snuck into Q2.
Aston Martin teammates Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll followed in 17th and 18th ahead of Haas duo Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher.