MONZA, Italy (AP) — Charles Leclerc will be looking to reignite the Formula One championship race on his home track after clinching pole position for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.
Runaway points leader Max Verstappen will again have to try and fight his way to the front after being among the many drivers to be hit with grid penalties.
Leclerc set the fastest time on his last lap in Saturday’s qualifying and knew he would start at the front of the grid even before Verstappen crossed 0.145 seconds slower, meaning the Ferrari driver secured pole on merit and not just because of his rival’s grid penalties.
“How lovely. Now guys, tomorrow,” Leclerc said on team radio as the roars from the passionate red-clad tifosi fans echoed around the circuit.
Verstappen is bidding for a fifth straight win and a first-ever appearance on the iconic Monza podium. He had a more daunting task at the Belgium GP two weeks ago, when he was again among several drivers to be hit with grid penalties and started 14th but surged through the field to victory.
Carlos Sainz Jr. was third fastest but he will not start alongside his Ferrari teammate on the front row as he has also been given penalties and will start at the back of the grid, ahead of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and Yuki Tsunoda.
Nine drivers in total received grid penalties. Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez finished fourth, ahead of the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and George Russell, but it is Russell who will start alongside Leclerc on Sunday.
McLaren driver Lando Norris, who was seventh fastest, will start in third.
Meanwhile, there was an impressive qualifying debut from Williams reserve driver Nyck de Vries who is stepping in for Alex Albon this weekend after the Thai driver was diagnosed with appendicitis.
The 27-year-old De Vries made it into Q2 — bettering teammate Nicholas Latifi — and was 13th fastest.