F1 Italian Grand Prix: Sainz Seizes Monza Pole, Leaving Verstappen in the Dust

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The qualifying round at Monza also marked the second event of 2023 to employ the Alternative Tyre Allocation guidelines. These rules mandated that drivers use hard tyres for the Q1 segment, mediums in Q2, and softs in the final Q3 segment.

Both Ferrari pilots came under scrutiny following the qualifying rounds for not adhering to the stipulated maximum lap time set by the race director. This protocol was established to sidestep any gridlock during the session. However, the officials cleared both drivers, stating no further actions would be necessary.

During the Q3 round, Carlos Sainz had the upper hand against Charles Leclerc in their initial runs. The Spanish driver clocked in at 1m20.532s, narrowly beating his teammate by 0.032 seconds. Max Verstappen, who was leading the Red Bull pack along with Sergio Perez, made a minor blunder at the della Roggia chicane, finishing 0.099 seconds behind Sainz.

In their second attempt, Verstappen sandwiched himself between the two Ferrari drivers, indicating that the advantage of a tow wasn’t a make-or-break factor for either Ferrari or Red Bull. Leclerc initially seized the provisional pole position with a time of 1m20.361s, only for Verstappen to momentarily overshadow him.

However, the spotlight was ultimately on Sainz. After consistently leading throughout practice, and even after Leclerc’s last-second sprint, Sainz made a spectacular final lap. He locked in his pole position with a jaw-dropping time of 1m20.294s, causing the home crowd to erupt in euphoria.

George Russell clinched the fourth spot, leaving Perez languishing in fifth for Red Bull. Alex Albon scored sixth for Williams. Oscar Piastri for McLaren secured the seventh place, followed by Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris, and Fernando Alonso, rounding out the top 10.

Earlier in the event, Verstappen dominated the Q2 segment, while Yuki Tsunoda, Liam Lawson, Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, and Logan Sargeant found themselves eliminated. Lawson marked his F1 debut as a replacement for injured Daniel Ricciardo and managed to reach Q2, whereas Hamilton had to pull off a last-gasp lap to avoid elimination, finally qualifying in sixth place for Q2.

In the opening segment of Q1, Verstappen led the pack but had his first lap disqualified due to a track limits violation. The ones facing elimination in this round were Zhou Guanyu, the Alpine duo of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, along with Kevin Magnussen and Lance Stroll. Ocon had two close calls during the session: narrowly missing a collision with Norris during a warm-up lap and skidding into the gravel at the Ascari chicane.

And that wraps up the rollercoaster ride of the F1 Italian Grand Prix qualifiers. You could say Sainz was the Usain Bolt of Monza—fast and furious, but without any family drama.

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