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2018 F1

Raikkonen records fastest ever lap in F1 history to secure Italian GP pole

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Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen took a record-breaking pole position on his team’s home turf at the Monza circuit for the 2018 Italian Grand Prix. The Finn broke Juan Pablo Montoya’s 14 year old fastest qualifying lap record of 1 minute 19.525s, with his pole lap clocked at 1 minute 19.119 seconds. The record breaking pole is Ferrari’s first pole at Monza since Fernando Alonso’s in 2010. Ferrari’s 2007 World Champion was followed by his team-mate Sebastian Vettel who was second fastest and Lewis Hamilton who qualified to the final podium position on the grid with the third fastest time of the session. For Ferrari it is their first front row lockout at the Monza circuit since 1994, which is a delight to the ‘Tifosi’ that throng this track every year.

Raikkonen’s last pole postion was in Monaco last year, and this year a unlucky shunt in Spa at one of his strongest circuits plummeted his chances of a pole or podium. Returning to Ferraris home ground, where the team were aiming for a front row lockout, the Finn and his German team-mate, managed edging out provisional pole sitter Lewis Hamilton through the penultimate stages of their final attempt in the third qualifying session. Sitting in his team-mate’s slipstream throughout the lap, and getting a tow from the cars ahead, the 38 year old Ferrari driver, managed pulling out phenomenal lap to edge out his team-mate carrying unprecedented speed into the closing stages of the lap to edge Vettel by a tenth of a second and Hamilton by two tenths of a second.

In a modest parc ferme interview the Finn said “Its only half the job done. I couldn’t think of a better place to be on pole.” Monza has been one of Hamilton’s favourite circuits, but a dry session did mean a strong performance for Ferrari. Although the reigning champion put in a strong lap to clinch provisional on his first attempt in Q3, he was only able to improvise his timing by a tenth of a second. His team-mate Valterri Bottas was four-tenths of a second slower than him and managed completing the second row for their team, but the junior Finnish driver was half a second slower than the pole-sitter Raikkonen.

When it comes to power both Ferrari and Mercedes seem to be on par with each other, but its factors such as aerodynamics and tyre management, and driving that are making the difference of a tenth of a second or more. On a circuit which is titled the ‘temple of speed’, 70 percent of the lap is driven at full throttle and engine power can play key. According to technical experts, Ferrari has just managed to deploy more power, than the Mercedes on some circuits. When it comes to the Monza circuit in particular, the difference between Hamilton’s and Bottas driving showed, how much of the car and how much of the driver made the difference.

Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen clocked the fifth fastest time of the race, while his team-mate who is taking penalties for changed parts on his car qualified 15th on the grid. The Dutchman was followed by Haas driver Romain Grosjean who clocked the sixth fastest time. Renault driver Carlos Sainz followed wight he seventh fastest time, and was followed by Racing Point Force India’s Esteban Ocon who clocked the eighth fastest time. Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly clocked the ninth fastest time and was followed by Williams’ Lance Stroll with the tenth fastest time, to complete the top 10 points finishing places on the grid.

As seen from the free practice session yesterday, the Ferraris are stronger in terms of race pace on both the soft and supersoft tyre compounds. Come race day, the only opportunity the Mercedes cars have to dislodge their rivals from the front, is at the start here the might be an opportunity, since it is a long run into Turn 1. Unlike, Spa where its short run into Turn 1, long stretch to turn 1 can leave drivers at the front vulnerable to the driver behind them sitting in their slipstream. But the critical question remains as to what Ferrari’s strategy will be between their two drivers, since their title contender is behind their pole sitter. A repeat of Monaco 2017 where they incurred a vehement scenario between their drivers, will not help them at this critical stage in the championship. According to Vettel who addressed a question on it in the FIA press conference, Raikkonen ‘is allowed to win’. A fair strategy for both might help the scarlet outfit use both cars to take some more points off Hamilton in the title, and catapult to first place in the constructor’s title.

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