Leclerc takes pole for Italian GP with Verstappen facing five-place grid drop and Lewis Hamilton starting from back
CHARLES LECLERC took pole to send the Tifosi wild as Ferrari took pole position for the Italian GP.
The Monaco-born racer set the quickest lap of the day ahead of championship leader Max Verstappen.
Leclerc, who won here from pole in 2019, was unstoppable and needs to take full advantage of his P1 start with Verstappen facing a five-place grid drop for taking a new engine.
Leclerc said: “It is amazing. It was not an easy qualifying session and I knew there was potential in the car but I knew I needed to put everything together in Q3 and I was happy to do it.
“I really hope we can do what we did in 2019. I just went for it and it worked out.”
Meanwhile, Verstappen is expected to start in fourth place – once all the penalties have been applied – and is confident of working through the field.
At the Belgian GP he started in 14th due to similar penalties but still managed to win the race.
He added: “It was close but we chose to go for a little more downforce and for one lap it is not the best but for tomorrow in the race I hope we will be strong.
“It will be an interesting battle tomorrow. I will try to stay out of trouble at the beginning and try to work my way forward.”
The penalties mean that George Russell will line up in second place and Lando Norris will start in third.
However, Lewis Hamilton will start way down in 19th due to more penalties himself, as Leclerc becomes the only person to start the race where he qualified.
Meanwhile, London-born Willams driver Alex Albon was forced to pull out of the weekend due to an appendicitis.
He missed final practice resulting in reserve driver Nyck de Vries being given an 11th hour call up.
The Dutchman had minutes to get ready before running in final practice which he used to acquaint himself with his new team and car.
However, last year’s Formula E champion was still quick enough to beat his team-mate, the hopeless Nicholas Latifi.
While the Canadian was again eliminated at the first hurdle, along with four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, De Vries made it into Q2.
He qualified in 13th place but will start inside the top 10 owing to grid penalties to other cars ahead of him.