Grand Prix of Italy – Qualifying & Sprint

The third part of the triple-header is in Monza following the Grands Prix of Belgium and Holland.

There have been some expected driver announcements but also RAI announced his retirement. In short, BOT moves to Alfa Romeo; RUS to Mercedes; AlphaTauri re-signed GAS and TSU; Alex Albon joins Williams, alongside LAT.

This weekend will follow the same sprint format that was used at the British GP back in July:

  • Friday: morning = Free Practice 1; afternoon = Qualifying
  • Saturday: morning = Free Practice 2; afternoon = Sprint (the grid for which is set in Quali)
  • Sunday: morning = nothing; afternoon = Race (the grid for which is set by the Sprint)

There are points for the top 3 finishers of the sprint (3 points for P1, 2 points for P2 and 1pt for P3) but there’s no podium ceremony. (FP1, Quali and FP2 are each 60mins; Sprint is 30mins)

Alfa Romeo confirmed KUB will deputise for RAI, same as last weekend following RAI testing positive for COVID-19

Williams tweeted photos of RUS’ latest helmet design; he’ll also have a helmet cam, like ALO did in Spa [video]

Free Practice 1:
Air temperature 27°C; track 39°C; humidity 36%; wind 1.5km/h
Radio from NOR, “Brake pedal feels a bit spongey”
HAM 1:22.262 (on medium tyres)
I’m surprised/disappointed that TSN’s “multiplex” (multiple camera feeds) doesn’t have RUS’ helmet cam as a selectable view
TSU reports his seatbelt is loose, but a couple of corners later says it’s ok
VER uses the escape road at Turn 1
TSU nearly rear-ends MAZ
HAM takes to the escape road around Turn 6
PER 1:22.127 (mediums)
Some teams trying to create a tow by running their drivers close together
RIC 1:22.003 (mediums)
20mins left of FP1; PER is the first to start running on soft tyres
BOT 1:21.451 (mediums)
VER 1:21.378 (softs)
HAM 1:20.926 (mediums) – he had a bit of a tow from TSU
Radio from GAS complaining HAM blocked him
NOR goes P2 but his time is deleted for exceeding track limits in Parabolica (which apparently will be officially renamed after Michele Alboreto tomorrow)
Chequered flag
Timing sheet: HAM (1:20.926), VER, BOT, STR, GAS, VET, SAI, ALO, RIC, PER
It’s odd that only a few teams ran the soft tyres in FP1 (but everyone is restricted to only softs in Quali)

FIA shared a video from RUS’ helmet cam during FP1

Qualifying session 1 (Q1)
Air temperature 25°C; track 33°C
The Ferrari pair are first to leave the pits; LEC followed by SAI, both on soft
LEC 1:22.801
SAI 1:22.495
SCH has his lap time (on his out lap) deleted for exceeding track limits; that means his next lap won’t count either
VER 1:22.108
Radio from LEC asking if there’s a problem with his engine braking; he’s told to box
NOR 1:21.681
BOT 1:20.804
HAM 1:20.543
VER puts a wheel in a gravel trap but keeps his foot down and continues
Haas release MAZ just ahead of the Ferrari duo – Race Control say “incident noted”
VER frustrated as he catches an Alpine as they enter the chicane
Oh dear, the backing up has started – there’s a queue forming part-way around the track
GAS angry at the traffic in his way too
(VER P3)
5mins left of Q1; bottom 5 are RUS, LEC, SCH, MAZ, KUB
LEC P5, relegating LAT to P16
Radio from LEC – sounds like he’s struggling with a problem in his Ferrari
LAT P13, OCO P16
RUS P11, VET P16
Chequered flag; bottom 5 are VET, OCO, SCH, MAZ, KUB
VET P9, LAT P16
OCO P14, RUS P16
KUB P18
TSU P15, ALO P16
ALO P13, RUS P16
SCH P18
MAZ P20
Back of the grid (for the sprint): RUS, LAT, SCH, KUB, MAZ
RUS avoids some wildlife running across the track as he’s told he’s out of Quali…
TSU’s back to P17 – his lap time was deleted for running wide in Parabolica, so he’s dropped back to P17
…so RUS is through to Q2
Revised back of the grid: LAT, TSU, SCH, KUB, MAZ

Qualifying session 2
Ferrari mechanics still working on LEC’s car
Pit lane is emptying, including LEC although Ferrari say his car still has an issue
PER 1:21.146
VER 1:20.710
BOT 1:20.032
HAM 1:19.936
McLaren P3 and P4; Red Bull falling down the timing sheet – they’re down to P6 and P10
Radio from LEC reporting braking problems again
Replay shows ALO out-brake himself, cut the chicane and then rejoin the track right next to
BBC report BOT will take a new power unit, so penalties will mean he’ll start the race (not the sprint) from the back of the grid
Everyone waiting in the pits
5mins left of Q2; bottom 5 are OCO, VET, SAI, RUS, ALO
3:10mins left; cars heading out
Unsafe release of VET almost into the side of HAM; Aston Martin mechanic steps in to stop STR doing the same
VER frustrated as cars crawl out of the pit exit; he passes a few of them
Chequered flag
Pit lane incident will be investigated after the session
ALO P10, OCO P11
VET P9, STR P11
NOR P3
Middle of the grid: VET, STR, ALO, OCO, RUS

Top 10 shootout will be between HAM, BOT, NOR, VER, RIC, GAS, GIO, SAI, LEC and PER

Qualifying session 3
We’ll see now if Red Bull have been sandbagging
PER leads VER out of the pits, in order to give VER a tow to improve his speed
BOT 1:20.388
HAM 1:19.949
GAS P3
PER P4
VER P2
SAI P5
LEC P5
RIC P3
NOR P3
Order after first run: HAM, VER, NOR, RIC, BOT, GAS, LEC, SAI, PER; no time from GIO
5mins left; everyone sitting in the garage
3:30 left; tyre blankets coming off
Red Bull are first to send their pair out
Chequered flag; everyone already on their final flying lap
PER P8
VER P2
GAS P5
SAI P7
GIO 910
LEC P8
BOT 1:19.555
HAM P2
NOR P4
Front of the grid: BOT*, HAM, VER, NOR, RIC, GAS, SAI, LEC, PER, GIO
*Note: BOT’s penalties for power unit changes are applied to the race, not the sprint

Interviews:
VER: “I think for us, at this track, it’s always going to be difficult. We recovered quite well throughout qualifying, I’m happy to be third. In the race we expect to be closer.”
HAM: “Every point counts. Congratulations to Valtteri, mega lap. It was looking good from our side up to then but he just went quicker and I couldn’t match it. The Italian fans, it’s so good to see them here. The weather’s been great, and what an amazing circuit here.”
BOT: “That qualifying lap was nice, it feels so good when you get a nice lap, it was nice to get a tow finally. I feel good, relaxed and everything is sorted for the future. The car feels so good, focus on tomorrow’s Sprint race – try to take maximum points and see what we can do on Sunday.”
I hope someone coaches Filepe Massa before the post-race interviews – get to the point quicker!

Provisional grid for the sprint: BOT, HAM, VER, NOR, RIC, GAS, SAI, LEC, PER, GIO, VET, STR, ALO, OCO, RUS, LAT, TSU, SCH, KUB, MAZ
Will there be penalties for the unsafe releases?
“Alpine and Aston Martin have both been fined €5,000 apiece for pit lane infractions during qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix, following an investigation by the stewards after the session.” [FIA]
As for the MAZ-KUB incident in Q1, “Nikita Mazepin has avoided a penalty for holding up Robert Kubica during qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix sprint qualifying race.” [racefans]

Free Practice 2:
SAI is off, in the wall at the Ascari chicane; “I have had a massive crash. That hurt a bit, but I’m OK” [video]
Red flag – FP2 suspended because SAI’s Ferrari is across the track; it took about 10mins to clear up
LEC returned to the garage with an undisclosed issue
RIC cut turn 1
VER was warned about track limits in Turn 11
BOT cut across Variante della Roggia (Turn 4) as did HAM
Final practice times: HAM (1:23.246), BOT, VER, PER, OCO, KUB, GIO, ALO, GAS, NOR

The sprint qualifying race event will 18 laps, no pit stops, and a free choice of tyres; it’ll set the grid for the race and there are points for the fastest three.
Ferrari are “working flat out, aiming to get Carlos’ car ready for sprint qualifying”; “We cut [LEC’s] session a few minutes short as he was feeling slightly unwell.”

Green lights; pit lane is open so cars can do installation laps and make their way to the grid
Air temperature 28°C; track 43°C
Drivers are doing practice starts at the end of the pit lane
SAI has brought his car to the grid and it seems calm so the Ferrari mechanics have finished rebuilding it
Christian Horner: “We’ve got to try and get a good start, Mercedes can do formation drives if they get a good start down to the first corner. The main thing is to come out that first and second chicane intact. We need to see how things pan out today, it’s something that’s quite fluid.”
VER reports that his drink is leaking over his HANS device
Toto Wolff: “I’d like to come through the first corner in exactly that ranking, we have so much variability in the starts the most important thing is to protect against Max and then everything will sort itself out.”

Sprint event:
Grid: BOT, HAM, VER, NOR, RIC, GAS, SAI, LEC, PER, GIO, VET, STR, ALO, OCO, RUS, LAT, TSU, SCH, KUB, MAZ (Remember that penalties are applied to the race grid, not this one)
Both McLarens (NOR, RIC) are on softs, as are VET, STR, ALO, OCO AND TSU; everyone else on mediums
BOT leads everyone around on the formation lap

01/18: BOT leads into Turn 1
HAM dropping back, down to P5
GAS off across the gravel, into the tyre wall
Safety Car deployed
Before the SC: TSU had tapped KUB, spinning him around

02[SC]: BOT, VER, RIC, NOR, HAM, LEC, SAI, GIO, STR, PER, VET, ALO, OCO, LAT, SCH, MAZ, RUS, KUB, TSU
TSU pits for a new nose
Replay shows HAM got some wheelspin at the start, dropping to P4 before Turn 1

03[SC]: Replay shows KUB trying to go around the outside of TSU through the chicane, which led to their contact
SC in at the end of this lap

04: BOT tries to bolt away from VER
RUS takes P16 from SCH

05/18: BOT, VER, RIC, NOR, HAM, LEC, SAI, GIO, STR, PER, ALO, VET, OCO, LAT, MAZ, RUS, TSU, SCH, KUB; out: GAS
BOT fastest lap 1:23.796 … but there’s no point for f/lap in the sprint

06: RUS steals P15 from MAZ

07: HAM closing on NOR (HAM on mediums, NOR on softs)

08: BOT f/lap 1:23.592

09: BOT nearly 2sec clear of VER
PER cuts Turn 1 so he should let STR reclaim P9
Radio for PER telling him to let STR past

10/18: BOT, VER, RIC, NOR, HAM, LEC, SAI, GIO, PER, STR, ALO, VET, OCO, LAT, RUS, TSU, MAZ, SCH, KUB
VER f/lap 1:23.502
PER makes the same move on STR; clean pass this time
HAM still has DRS behind NOR

11: KUB takes P18 from SCH

12: Incident involving PER and STR “noted”

13: The expectation is that the soft tyres will start to go off after 15 laps, but they had 3 laps behind the SC so that might be too late for HAM

14: HAM got a snap of oversteer

15/18: BOT, VER, RIC, NOR, HAM, LEC, SAI, GIO, PER, STR, ALO, VET, OCO, LAT, RUS, TSU, MAZ, KUB, SCH; out: GAS
Incident involving PER and STR under investigation

16: PER harrying GIO for P8
Red Bull on the radio to Race Director Michael Massi pleading their case for the PER-STR incident (I thought Red Bull whined about Mercedes trying to influence the stewards during the race?)

17: Incident involving PER and STR – no further action

18 = final lap: RUS pushing LAT for P14

BOT takes the chequered flag; that 3 points for the Drivers’ Championship
Order: BOT*, VER, RIC, NOR, HAM, LEC, SAI, GIO, PER, STR, ALO, VET, OCO, LAT, RUS, TSU, MAZ, KUB, SCH, GAS
*BOT’s power unit changes means he’ll be P20 on the grid

Interviews:
RIC: “It’s good to be back! We’re on the front row and that has been a long time so I’m happy for that. Full attack tomorrow. I thought maybe I’d get Max into Turn 1 but he had the inside. I look forward to trying again tomorrow.”
VER: “That went a little bit better than expected, up to second, scored some points, up to pole tomorrow. It’s going to be an interesting battle tomorrow. We did trim our car so we had decent top speed, so we should be okay in the race.”
BOT: “This feels good, feels like it’s been a while! I’m starting from the back tomorrow but the speed is there. But today I enjoyed, good clean race, and we had the pace. It’s not going to be easy with a train of cars with DRS, let’s see if we can do something.”
You’re not supposed to call it a race Valtteri! 🙂

BBC ask the people following their live reporting if they like the Sprint format. The problem is they’re just asking for a simple thumb up or down, not putting it in context. Do you like the sprint as much as a race? No. Is it better than FP3? Yes. Is there a better way to organise the sprint format? Maybe but I can’t think of what that would be.

So the provisional grid: VER, RIC, NOR, HAM, LEC, SAI, GIO, PER, STR, ALO, VET, OCO, LAT, RUS, TSU, MAZ, KUB, SCH, GAS, BOT

[2021 calendar] [2021 line-up] [Points standings]

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