The Saturday in F1 Italian GP was happy one for Ferrari as Carlos Sainz edged out the mighty Max Verstappen in qualifying battle.
It was a happy hunting day for Ferrari on Saturday of F1 Italian GP at Monza after Carlos Sainz managed to beat Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to take pole by just the 0.013s margin. The Spaniard had been on point all-weekend long and showed his power in qualifying.
Ferrari has been good on one lap pace and Sainz showed that even though it was a close battle. The Spaniard had to dig deep at certain areas to eke out the gap to Verstappen as Sainz’s teammate Charles Leclerc was also just 0.067s off the pole time.
The Monegasque wasn’t looking good in practice but he changed to Sainz’s set-up and had to re-adapt in FP3 to eventually end up in the Top 3. But both the Ferrari F1 drivers are still wary of Verstappen’s race pace who felt he did well enough to get a front row start.
The Dutchman is confident of taking on the Ferrari drivers to create a new record of 10 consecutive wins. His teammate Sergio Perez managed a Top 5 finish but wasn’t too happy considering the engine change he had to undergo after issues in FP3.
It was a recovery drive after missing out running. The Mexican was beaten by Mercedes’ George Russell who felt good after an unpredictable fourth place finish when his teammate Lewis Hamilton was only eighth and not too pleased with the result and the car.
The McLaren F1 pair slotted around Hamilton where Oscar Piastri managed to out-qualify Lando Norris. Both were not too pleased with their result, as did Williams’ Alexander Albon who was only sixth after looking strong all-through practice and qualifying.
Sainz: “It’s difficult to put into words, to describe the feeling. It’s just amazing, you know. Just the whole weekend really, since we arrived here on Wednesday, the support and the feeling with the crowd and the energy that they put into us, it’s incredible. I had my birthday yesterday also, so I enjoyed that and I’m pretty sure it gave me also a good feeling, good vibes and good energy into today. I’ve been feeling very comfortable with the car and I put together, honestly, one of my best laps there in Q3, run two, to settle pole. It was tight with these two, like it used to be last year, and like it gets to be normally and I enjoyed a lot that lap. We’ve got the motivation and the energy to do it.
“The car, it has been very good all weekend, especially over one lap. From what I’ve seen through the long runs, I’m not going to lie, it’s trickier. It’s not the same picture as in Quali. That Red Bull, as soon as you put five or six laps on the tyre, and everything starts to degrade a bit, it’s where they come, their strengths, and the race pace that we’ve seen all year. But hopefully I can get a good start and then I can make Max and Checo behind and Charles’ life, obviously, as difficult as possible. But I think we will need to work well as a team and give it our best shot. I think it’s a good opportunity tomorrow, but also being realistic, the Red Bull should be quicker. We’re just going to try and make their life as complicated as possible and try to take the win.”
Verstappen: “I think it was just very tight. You know, you could see Q1, Q2, Q3. Yeah, it was… every run, you could see that we were very closely matched. And I think this weekend, especially from my side, I think Friday was a little bit more tricky, but I think we can’t really complain. So many weekends in a row where we put the car on the track and it has been easy going, it has been really well set-up and it seemed like here it was just a little more difficult to find the right trade-off of downforce for us. But I was very happy this morning. I thought the car’s working well on one lap and on the long run as well. So, yeah, I’m happy with second, to be honest. Here in Monza it’s always very tight. Sometimes you might jump ahead, sometimes you’re just behind but I’m confident for tomorrow.”
Leclerc: “Our Q3 was really on the limit. I mean, the two laps I’ve done, I was really happy with my laps. But we were very close with Max and Carlos. To be honest, it’s not something that I expected. Until now it’s been such a difficult weekend for me. Yesterday, I went into a direction that was completely wrong with the car set-up and I really struggled to put a lap together. This morning in FP3 was all about adapting to that new car, following the direction of Carlos’ set-up. And then in Quali, I managed to put everything together and I’m really happy with the performance we’ve shown today.
“Yes, it’s only P3 and I’m never completely happy with third place but considering where we started the weekend, it’s not a bad place to be. I had a feeling that this was the right direction to go. But obviously after FP2, I realised that it wasn’t. It’s as simple as that. And yeah, then it was all about re-adapting to everything in FP3 as quickly as possible, but also there I have been quite inconsistent. And then, coming into Qualifying, I put everything together. And the last lap in Q3 was really good. I mean, Carlos has done an incredible job since FP1, he’s been on it, and in Q3 as well, his lap was really, really good. But yeah, happier to be that close.”
Hamilton: “Was not fun. Was a real challenge. I was just slow from the get-go. It started off great in FP1, and then it just got away from us. Didn’t feel the car underneath me, and I can’t pinpoint what it is but very slow today. Always with this car. Pretty much all the time. Think I’ve only been able to pinpoint it once with this car.”
Albon: “Very good. A good weekend, a good session. In some ways a bit disappointing, because Q1 and Q2 were looking a bit stronger, but I was happy with my lap. I felt like we did a good job, we executed it well. It was just not quite top five – I guess in some ways that was a bit of an aim. But let’s see tomorrow. I think the car’s feeling good. The race pace on Friday wasn’t as good, we had a bit of degradation. We’ve been chipping away at it, because since FP1, the car’s actually been focused a bit more towards the race car than the qualifying car. Anyway… I ramble!
“Now the session’s finished, I want to see if everyone saved a set of tyres – who did, who didn’t. I feel like in Q2, we did a really good Q2 run one, and maybe it wasn’t necessary to put that second set of mediums on because now we don’t have any new tyres for tomorrow. So, it’s going to be really interesting to see who’s saved a new set or not – that will make a big difference in the race tomorrow. So, we’re at a slight disadvantage, but we’re not really racing those cars in the front; our race tomorrow is with the McLarens and Fernando, so let’s see.”
Norris: “Not my best qualifying, but not a bad day. We struggled a little bit to find the last couple of things on the final lap. Probably a little bit too close to the car ahead. That compromised me maybe a little bit more than I was hoping for but other than that I think it was pretty much as good as we were going to get between Oscar and myself. Oscar did a good job. Tough day but I think we did the maximum.”
Outside the Top 10, it was a a solid result for the AlphaTauri F1 pair where Yuki Tsunoda ended up 11th with teammate Liam Lawson just behind 12th. Both and Japanese and the Kiwi were pleased with how they managed to recover from an average Friday.
Even Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas was happy to make it inside Q2 after low-key practice as Zhou Guanyu failed to make it out. It was same for Haas where Nico Hulkenberg found a place in Q2 but Kevin Magnussen couldn’t get the hard tyre to work in Q1.
While there was mixed run for these F1 teams including Aston Martin pair where Fernando Alonso made it in Q3 but Lance Stroll was not only knocked out in Q1 but ended up 20th. Only the Alpine pair were ahead of him, who had their worst qualifying of 2023.
Tsunoda: “We struggled a lot yesterday, but straight away in FP3, the car felt much better. We made a big step and quite some changes to the car, and that worked well today. I’m pretty frustrated and disappointed with myself, because I think I could’ve done a better lap at the end. I apologise to the team, as I think there was the pace in the car to get to Q3. The team did well, and the track position was good in qualifying, I lost some time in a couple of places, so the frustration is more towards myself. For tomorrow, the race pace doesn’t seem too bad, and we’re just outside the top ten, so we just have to put it together, and points can be possible.”
Hulkenberg: “Our pace on the soft tyre in FP3 was as expected, the soft tyre always helps a weaker car more than the hard tyre. Going into qualifying, I expected the challenge to be very difficult. I’m glad we made it into Q2, I ended up with no tow in Q1 which is quite costly around here but somehow, we still managed to pull it off, so I was quite surprised and happy about that. Q2 wasn’t perfect, not super smooth and the final attempt was a bit difficult, but P13 is a realistic picture for us.”
Bottas: Qualifying has been a pretty straightforward job and to get a place in Q2 is a good result: the car felt decent with all tyre compounds, which was an advantage with the Alternative Tyre Allocation rules. Our pace hasn’t been quite there earlier this weekend, but we made a step forward compared to practice: we are good on the straights, but we lost a little bit in the corners. I reckon the pace of our closest competitors is quite similar to ours, and hopefully we’ll get to put up some good battles out there tomorrow to make up some ground. After all, this is Monza: races are often unpredictable here, and we might still have a chance climb up the grid and get into the top ten.”
Ocon: “Obviously, it’s very disappointing to exit Q1 today. It was clear that our package was not quite suited to this track and I feel like both cars maximised their potential today, finishing with very similar lap times. It’s up to us to really pin down the causes, which led to this lack of performance and I am sure we will find some solutions going forwards. In the meantime, the focus shifts to tomorrow and coming up with a plan to fight our way up the field to salvage something from this weekend. I am sure we can race much better tomorrow and we look forward to the fight.”
Gasly: “We knew this was going to be a tough day as a team and unfortunately that is the case with both cars out in Q1. Obviously, that’s a disappointing feeling and not where we want to be but tomorrow is the race and we will see what we can do to advance. We know the areas where we are lacking pace – it has been the focus for us this weekend in practice – but ultimately, this circuit does not suit our overall package and that has shown today. We have work to do tomorrow but we will see what we can do on strategy and aim for a positive race.”
Stroll: “It was a tricky session on track; I just wasn’t feeling any grip from the tyres so I couldn’t push where I needed to. I didn’t get a single lap yesterday during the first and second practice sessions, and while that didn’t help, I don’t think it was the cause of today’s result. We’ll regroup as a team this evening and look through the data to see if we can identify where things went wrong today. Tomorrow’s race will be tough – I’ve got a big job to do – but we’ll be prepared for anything that comes our way.”
Here’s how F1 Italian GP qualifying panned out