MONZA, Italy — Lewis Hamilton took the all-important pole position for the Italian Grand Prix on Saturday, beating Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg’s time by nearly half a second in a commanding performance.
Since 2000, the pole sitter has won 13 of 16 races in Monza and each of the past six years — with Hamilton himself taking three of those victories.
That means the pole has been more important in Italy recently than Monaco, where the top qualifier has won only 11 of the last 17 years.
Featuring long straights and the highest speeds in F1 — up to 355 kph (220 mph) — there’s plenty of space to overtake but aerodynamics make it a challenge.
“It is obviously a track you can overtake on but for some reason you need a second advantage (of speed) on the car in front to be able to really put the overtaking maneuver into action,” Hamilton said of the storied Monza track, which has hosted more F1 racing than any other circuit.
“With these long straights the turbulence lasts for a long time and the closer you get, the less downforce you have.”
Hamilton finished 0.478 ahead of Rosberg.
“That last lap felt incredible,” Hamilton said. “I’ve got it right in the sweet spot and was able to do an exceptional time with it.”
The Ferraris followed, with Sebastian Vettel eight tenths back in third and Kimi Raikkonen nearly a second behind in fourth.
“We’re just not quick enough yet,” Vettel said, after Ferrari finished further behind Mercedes than in last year’s qualifying. “It’s up to us to catch up.”
Hamilton joined F1 greats Juan Manuel Fangio and Ayrton Senna with a record five poles at Monza.
“I feel incredibly proud and honored to be up amongst Senna and Juan Manuel — incredible drivers — and I never thought my name would be mentioned in the same sentence as theirs,” Hamilton said. “So I’m very proud of that.”
It was Hamilton’s 56th career pole and the British driver also ended Rosberg’s run of three straight poles this season.
“I had a decent weekend until now and got some good laps in today and (was) just not quick enough,” Rosberg said. “The problem was that I think (Hamilton) had his best qualifying in a long time.”
Hamilton’s championship lead over Rosberg was cut to nine points after Rosberg won last weekend’s Belgian GP.
On Sunday, Hamilton will be aiming to become the first driver since Fangio in 1955 to win at Monza three consecutive years.
Valtteri Bottas in a Williams qualified fifth, followed by the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
Conditions were sticky, with the track at 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and the air at 29 C (84 F).
Williams’ Felipe Massa — who announced Thursday he will retire at the end of this season — and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were among those eliminated in Q2.
“I didn’t feel the power, losing on the straights unfortunately,” Alonso said.
Esteban Ocon’s Manor car stopped at the first chicane in Q1 and Kevin Magnussen’s Renault was again all over the track, as both were eliminated early on.
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