The Malta Independent 17 October 2019, Thursday

Formula 1: Leclerc takes pole position for Italian GP

Associated Press Saturday, 7 September 2019, 16:50 Last update: about 2 months ago

Charles Leclerc secured a second straight pole position at the end of a chaotic qualifying session for the Italian Grand Prix on Saturday to give Ferrari encouragement it can end a nine-year wait for success at its home race.

In a somewhat farcical situation, the front-runners ran out of time in Q3 as they waited for a slipstream, with tow playing a crucial role at the high-speed Monza track.

"What a mess. Pole position anyway guys. Sorry for the mess in the last lap," Leclerc said on team radio at the end of qualifying.

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was even more critical.

"That was worse than a junior formula," Wolff said. "The problem was everyone wants a slipstream and nobody wants to go first ... and then everyone looks like idiots."

Leclerc, who claimed his first victory in Formula One last weekend at the Belgian GP, was 0.039 seconds ahead of championship leader Lewis Hamilton and 0.047 clear of Valtteri Bottas, much to the delight of the passionate Ferrari tifosi.

It was Leclerc's fourth pole position in only his second season in F1.

It was also the seventh race in a row that Leclerc has beaten four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel in qualifying. Vettel will start Sunday's race from fourth after finishing 0.150 seconds behind his Ferrari teammate.

The start of Q3 was delayed after last year's pole sitter, Kimi Raikkonen, hit the wall at Parabolica for the second time this weekend. The Alfa driver escaped unscathed.

Ferrari hasn't won its home race since 2010 through Fernando Alonso, even after the storied Italian team secured a front-row lockout last season.

Hamilton is the man most likely to deny Leclerc back-to-back wins. The Mercedes driver has won four of the past five Italian GPs and is bidding for a record sixth triumph at the historic track to move ahead of Michael Schumacher as the master of Monza.

Hamilton, a five-time world champion, has a 65-point lead over teammate Bottas in the standings.

Ferrari has once again dominated the weekend, with Leclerc fastest in both Friday practices and Vettel clocking the best time in Saturday's final practice.

Practice was delayed on Saturday due to track repairs after a huge crash in the Formula Three race.

Alex Peroni's car was launched into the air and landed on top of the catch fencing. The 19-year-old Australian driver was able to walk to the medical car and has since been taken to hospital.

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