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Charles Leclerc takes pole for F1 Italian Grand Prix with commanding lap

Charles Leclerc took pole for the Italian Grand Prix with a commanding lap at Monza. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was second but will start in fourth on the grid because a five-place penalty for taking a new engine was mitigated by sanctions imposed on others.

The session was marked by teams receiving a slew of penalties for taking new power unit and gearbox components, which considerably shifted the make-up of the grid when qualifying was concluded. It shakes down with two other British drivers at the front with George Russell and Lando Norris, both penalty-free, in second and third.

On the opening quick laps in Q3 some teams were using drivers in pairs to provide the vital tow on the long straights. Leclerc led teammate Carlos Sainz out for the first runs and Sainz duly took the initiative, two-tenths up on his teammate, but notably Red Bull had not paired Verstappen and Sergio Pérez and Verstappen was third, two-tenths back.

Ferrari, knowing Sainz would be sent to the back of the grid and Verstappen had a penalty, were attempting to ensure Leclerc would inherit pole and the best Verstappen could manage was third.

On the final runs Ferrari repeated their tactic with Leclerc leading but he put in an immense lap to take pole wholly on merit, Sainz unable to stay with him. He set a time of 1min 20.161sec which Verstappen pushed at but could not quite match, just over a tenth back.

Leclerc’s eighth pole this season is his second at Monza, having last taken the top spot here in 2019 when he went on to win for Ferrari. It is his first for four races since the French GP this year. This was the very minimum he and Ferrari required given the gap to Verstappen in the title race and the team’s stated intent to try to win every race from here on in.

George Russell during qualifying at Monza.
George Russell during qualifying at Monza. The British driver will start in second on the grid for the Italian Grand Prix. Photograph: David Davies/PA

He needs a solid run after an unforced error in France proved enormously costly when he crashed out while leading and he then had to fight through the pack after an engine penalty at Spa. With the majority of his rivals with penalties Leclerc does have an advantage but will be more than aware that it also means Verstappen will have fewer competitive cars to pass in coming back at him.

Sainz was third but with back-of-the-grid penalties will start from 18th. Red Bull’s Pérez was in fourth and with his ten-place penalty will start from 10th. Lewis Hamilton also had back-of-the-grid penalties for taking a new power unit and will start in 19th. Russell and Norris were in sixth and seventh for Mercedes and McLaren. Pierre Gasly was in ninth for AlphaTauri and will start in sixth and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso in 10th but moved up to seventh.

Williams’s Alex Albon was diagnosed with appendicitis on Saturday morning and his place was taken by reserve driver Nyck de Vries, who finished in 13th place but is elevated to eighth. Esteban Ocon was in 11th for Alpine but has a five-place penalty and will start in 12th.

Valtteri Bottas was 12th for Alfa Romeo and has a 15-place penalty and will be in 15th. His teammate Zhou Guanyu was 14th and will start in ninth. Yuki Tsunoda was 15th for AlphaTauri but has back-of-the-grid penalties and will start in 20th.

Nicholas Latifi finished in 16th for Williams and will start in 11th, Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll in 17th and 18th for Aston Martin but will start in 13th and 14th. Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher, who both have 15-place penalties, were in 19th and 20th. With the other driver penalties applied, however, they will be in 16th and 17th on the grid.

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