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Italian GP surprise: Raikkonen triumphs over unhappy Vettel for Ferrari 1-2 in Monza qualifying

In one of the closest, most dramatic qualifying sessions of the year, Kimi Raikkonen headed Ferrari's first Italian Grand Prix front-row lockout s...

Italian GP surprise: Raikkonen triumphs over unhappy Vettel for Ferrari 1-2 in Monza qualifying

In one of the closest, most dramatic qualifying sessions of the year, Kimi Raikkonen headed Ferrari's first Italian Grand Prix front-row lockout since 2000, also taking his first pole position since Monaco 2017.

With Sebastian Vettel having the edge over both Raikkonen and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in the free practice sessions, Ferrari could now face an interesting race; needing to get their main championship contender ahead of his team-mate. Vettel said that Raikkonen is free to go for the win on Sunday, but with the Finn well adrift in the drivers championship and points dropped to Hamilton before the summer break, Vettel is the one who needs a maximum result with his team mate taking further points off Hamilton.

Hamilton looked close throughout qualifying and on course to spring a surprise and disrupt the Ferrari party by leading the opening exchanges of Q3, but slipstream-assisted improvements from Vettel and then Raikkonen (running directly behind Hamilton) put the Ferraris on the front row.

Vettel, who appeared unimpressed at being beaten to pole position by his team-mate, said after qualifying:

"It's always like this [slipstreaming] in Monza, and I think for him [Raikkonen] he was in a sweet spot.

"I think my last run was okay, my lap wasn't very good so we'll have to have a look."

The second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas showed no signs of being able to join the battle for pole position and fell short of Raikkonen's time by over half-a-second.

Highlighting Red Bull's lack of grunt at the Monza circuit, Max Verstappen finished the hour over 1.4 seconds away from pole, with the Dutchman being much closer to the midfield than the front four, whilst the penalty-affected Daniel Ricciardo didn't bother progressing into Q3.

Romain Grosjean led the midfield contest and qualified his Haas car in sixth ahead of Renault's Carlos Sainz.

Qualifying Session One

A few drops of rain hit the circuit in run-up to the qualifying hour, but track conditions were still dry and many of the drivers took to the track immediately to avoid being caught out by any potential rain.

However, with the threat of rain not materialising in Q1, none of the front-runners struggled to progress.

With Williams and McLaren having a stronger qualifying session than usual, there were more candidates for Q1 elimination.

For the first time since Baku, Williams managed to get both cars into the second part of qualifying, whilst Fernando Alonso also dragged his McLaren through to the next session.

The shock of the session was elimination of Force India's Sergio Perez, who wasn't on track when other drivers were improving, and he missed the cut by 0.001 of a second.

Joining him are the two Saubers of Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson, along with Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley and McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne.

Qualifying Session Two

With rain staying away, track conditions were improving, and Vettel, Hamilton and Raikkonen were on the verge of breaking the Monza circuit record.

With that particular record having to wait to be challenged in Q3, the top five of Vettel, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Verstappen and Bottas were comfortably through to Q3.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Renault's Nico Hulkenberg avoided setting a lap time due to their back-of-the-grid penalties, leaving thirteen cars vying for ten places.

Following their surprise progression into Q2, Lance Stroll continued his own personal qualifying heroics at Monza by finishing eighth and sending Williams through to Q3 for the first time this season.

A slight surprise elimination was Haas' Kevin Magnussen, whose final lap was disrupted when he was challenged into turn one by Alonso, hampering both laps.

The McLaren driver joined Magnussen on the sidelines along with Sergey Sirotkin, who couldn't match his team-mate's efforts.

Qualifying Session Three

With the front-runners finally turning their cars up to the maximum, it seemed like a shock was on the cards when Hamilton took provisional pole position, with the top three split by just over one tenth of a second.

When comparing sectors of the first runs, Hamilton set the fastest opening sector, Vettel was fastest in S2 and Raikkonen was quickest in S3.

With many anticipating that Raikkonen would play the role of a number two driver and provide a slipstream for Vettel - like Bottas did for Hamilton - the top four emerged from the pits in the order of Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonen.

The slipstream effect appeared to be the difference; Hamilton improved his time, but was marginally beaten by Vettel, who was then pipped by Raikkonen, with the Finn setting the fastest-ever Formula One lap in the process.

Unimpressed at receiving the news that he had been beaten to pole position, Vettel simply responded to the team; "we'll talk about this".

Bottas was unable to spring a surprise and compete in amongst the top three, but he had a comfortable margin over fifth-placed Verstappen.

A late improvement from Haas' Grosjean put the Frenchman as 'best of the rest' ahead of the higher-than-expected Renault of Carlos Sainz and Force India's Esteban Ocon. Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll completed the top ten.

ITALIAN GRAND PRIX, Qualifying

1 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m19.119s

2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m19.280s 0.161s

3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m19.294s 0.175s

4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m19.656s 0.537s

5 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m20.615s 1.496s

6 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m20.936s 1.817s

7 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m21.041s 1.922s

8 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1m21.099s 1.980s

9 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1m21.350s 2.231s

10 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 1m21.627s 2.508s

11 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1m21.669s

12 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 1m21.732s

13 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault 1m22.568s

14 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault No time

15 Nico Hulkenberg Renault No time

16 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m21.888s

17 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 1m21.889s

18 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 1m21.934s

19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m22.048s

20 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 1m22.085s

By: Luke Murphy

All images: Motorsport Images

Who do you think is the favourite to take the victory at the Italian Grand Prix? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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