Lewis Hamilton fears it will take an accident for Formula One to change the qualifying format which brought a farcical and “dangerous” conclusion to Saturday’s battle for pole position.
The sport’s safety record is in the spotlight here at Monza following the death of young Formula Two driver Anthoine Hubert at the Belgian Grand Prix last weekend.
It emerged on Saturday that Juan Manuel Correa, the American who broke both his legs and suffered spinal cord damage in the 160mph tragedy, has been placed in an induced coma at a London hospital.
A terrifying crash then overshadowed Saturday’s Formula Three race when Alex Peroni, a 19-year-old Australian, somersaulted through the air three times before landing upside down on the catch fencing.
Incredibly, the teenager walked away unaided from the spectacular accident, but after displaying signs of concussion, tests later revealed he had fractured his vertebra and will remain in a Monza hospital for observation. He has also been ruled out of Sunday’s F3 race.
Charles Leclerc might have delighted the scores of Ferrari fans by securing his second pole in as many weeks, edging out Hamilton by just 0.039 seconds, with Valtteri Bottas third and Sebastian Vettel fourth.
But the final moments of qualifying verged on the preposterous as the 10 drivers jostled for position and failed to complete a lap. As they left the pits, the field bunched up, first going too slowly and then speeding up, darting from one side of the circuit to the other in an attempt to gain a slipstream at the fastest track in Formula One.
The farcical few miles were investigated by the FIA. The drivers had been warned about their conduct in Friday night’s briefing with race director Michael Masi.
“It doesn’t look good for Formula One,” said Hamilton. “I am sure it is going to continue to be an issue, particularly where you need a tow and positioning is key. But it will be until someone crashes that they will change it.
“Everyone was slowing right down, and blocking so you couldn’t get through. It was a dangerous and risky business. I nearly crashed a couple of times just staying out of the way of the guys ahead and the people trying to get past me.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff added: “That was not even worthy of a junior formula. Everybody looks like idiots.”
The chaos ensured Leclerc’s opening lap went unchallenged as the sport’s rising star secured his fourth career pole six days after registering his maiden win.
Leclerc, 22 next month, left Vettel in his shadow at Spa-Francorchamps last weekend and here, he finished 0.150 sec clear of the German.
Vettel is in danger of becoming yesterday’s man. The German may have been hired as the man to end Ferrari’s 12-year championship drought, but Leclerc has emerged as the man carrying the hopes of a nation.
Tellingly, it is his face and not that of the four-time world champion’s, which looks out from a huge Ferrari fan club flag opposite the team’s garage.
“It feels amazing,” said Leclerc. “I am happy with the pole but it is a shame there was a big mess at the end.”
Hamilton will go in search of a record-breaking sixth win at the Cathedral of Speed, and the Mercedes star, 65 points clear in the championship, is well placed to take the fight to his young rival.
“I have to be grateful that I am on the front row,” added Hamilton. “We will get to have a fight with the Ferraris.”
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Sebastian Vettel raised hopes of a home pole position for Ferrari after he finished quickest in final practice for the Italian Grand Prix.
Vettel ended the concluding running before qualifying at Monza, just 0.032 seconds clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas third and Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc fourth.
Lewis Hamilton finished only sixth, three tenths off Vettel’s pace after he made a mistake.
The world champion, who holds a 65-point lead ahead of Sunday’s race, lost time after going too deep at the Ascari chicane.
The final practice session was delayed by 10 minutes following Alex Peroni’s terrifying airborne crash in a Formula Three race earlier on Saturday.
CLASSIFICATION: END OF FP3— Formula 1 (@F1) September 7, 2019
Vettel takes P1, giving @ScuderiaFerrari a clean sweep of the practice sessions at their home weekend
Up next: qualifying in two hours! 🤲#F1 #ItalianGP 🇮🇹 pic.twitter.com/S4lsMPSFq6
Peroni, the 19-year-old Australian, emerged unscathed from the accident, but the kerb which appeared to launch him airborne at the high-speed Parabolica corner, was subsequently removed by the FIA.
Leclerc finished fastest in both practice sessions on Friday, but it was the Monegasque’s Ferrari team-mate who led the way ahead of the battle for pole position.
The top six drivers were separated by just 0.301 seconds, with Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo one spot ahead of Hamilton.
British novice Lando Norris finished 14th for McLaren. Norris’ compatriot George Russell was 19th, two seconds off the pace.
Charles Leclerc continued his good form to complete a practice double for the Italian Grand Prix.
Just five days after he registered the maiden victory of his Formula One career in Belgium, Leclerc ended both rain-interrupted sessions in Monza at the top of the leader board.
Lewis Hamilton, who heads into Sunday’s final round of the European season with a 65-point championship lead, trailed Leclerc by just seven hundredths of a second.
Leclerc’s Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel finished third ahead of Valtteri Bottas for Mercedes.
Leclerc delivered an impressive performance last time out at Spa-Francorchamps, dominating throughout practice, sealing pole position before marching to the chequered flag.
And the young Monegasque driver seems in fine fettle here, too, after he set the pace in both sessions.
Despite drops of rain, the afternoon running took part largely in dry conditions, and the high-speed Monza layout appears to suit the grunt of the Ferrari engine.
But Mercedes’ Hamilton, who is bidding for a record sixth win in Italy, is in contention to deny Leclerc back-to-back victories, and Ferrari their first home win in almost a decade.
Fernando Alonso was the last driver to triumph in Monza for Ferrari in 2010, with Hamilton winning four of the last five races staged here.
One more on Sunday will move the Briton ahead of Michael Schumacher as the all-time master of Monza with six triumphs.
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen finished fifth for Red Bull, 0.369 seconds down on Leclerc. However, the Dutchman will start Sunday’s race from the back of the field, penalised for taking on Honda’s upgraded engine.
Joining Verstappen down the grid will be British teenager Lando Norris, also punished for engine part changes after his McLaren team were unable to salvage the failure which robbed him of a career-best fifth in Belgium.
Norris was struck by further mechanical problems in second practice and finished a lowly 18th.
Earlier, the opening running was suspended twice after Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez crashed out.
In wet conditions, both men lost control of their cars and ended up in the wall. Raikkonen finished 14th in the day’s concluding running, with Perez 16th.
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