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Italian Grand Prix 2017: What we learned from qualifying

RealSport takes a look at what we learned from a delayed, and frantic qualifying session at Monza.


Formula 1 tests our patience 

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Almost four hours after qualifying started, it came to a thrilling end, as qualifying at Italy proved patience really is a virtue. Monza was victim of torrential rainfall, which to the dismay of many, wouldn’t halter. 

This resulted in continuous and painful 15 minute delays after Q1 was red flagged due to Romain Grosjean losing control of his car on the pit-straight and going straight into the barrier. It seemed that the stewards had let the cars out too early, as several drivers found themselves aquaplaning, as standing water had developed in several areas of the fast-speed circuit. 

Time passed, and frustration grew among fans who wanted to see cars out on track, but the stewards refused to give the go-ahead for the session to resume. Wet weather conditions in F1 really do present a tricky situation for Formula 1’s referees who often face strong criticism based on their affirmative decisions. 

Fans understandably don’t want to see cars in the garages, but driver safety is ultimately the priority for the stewards when making decisions on whether to let drivers out on track when it is wet. But fans tend to point the gun at the stewards when they indeed do let drivers out on wet circuits, and hefty collisions occur. 

Personally, I think that the stewards made the right call to red flag the session when they did, but missed several opportunities to resume the session during the few breaks in showers. I also understand fans’ view that the best way to clear a track of standing water is to send 20 racing cars around on tyres which are designed to clear 60 litres of water every second. 

Anyway, at least we got a qualifying session today, which seemed very unlikely at several points. I just hope that the events of today make the stewards re-assess their strategy to prevent sessions from lasting so long in the future. 

Hamilton shines in the wet

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Formula 1 has a new all-time record pole-sitter in Lewis Hamilton, a title which is fitting for one of the fastest drivers the sport has ever produced. 

He achieved his record breaking 69th pole position in emphatic style, by out-qualifying his teammate by over two seconds, and proving once more his immense talent in wet-weather conditions. 

Several drivers over the years have developed a reputation for being masters in the rain, as they have the ability to find the best racing line, and pick their braking points perfectly, and Hamilton falls into this category. Remember his win back at Silverstone in 2008, which featured similar conditions to today’s session? Along with today, this is just one of many performances which proves his incredible ability in the wet. 

Qualifying on pole doesn’t guarantee 25 points, but you’d fully expect Hamilton to go on and take victory at Monza for the fourth time in his career, whatever the conditions come Sunday. 

Formula 1’s youth excel at Monza 

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Max Verstappen proved last season his incredible ability in the rain at the Brazilian Grand Prix, and he showed it once again today by qualifying in a superb second position. This too comes at a track which theoretically should be Red Bull’s worst of the season, which makes the teen’s feat even more impressive. 

Whereas we knew that Verstappen was a wonder kid in the wet, we weren’t so aware of the ability of Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon in these conditions. The two out-qualified their respective much older, experienced teammates, and due to grid penalties ahead, they will start an incredible 2nd and 3rd on the grid. 

It really is an amazing turn around for Williams who have struggled to progress beyond Q1 in several races, and have been notoriously poor in wet-weather conditions. Both young Ocon and Stroll will dream of a podium finish in tomorrow’s race, which would definitely be a headline. At the very least, they can both expect strong point finishes tomorrow, and be extremely pleased with their qualifying performances.  

Ferrari have work to do 

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Well, that was certainly not what the Tifosi came out to see as The Scuderia put up an awful qualifying display in front of their home fans. 

A qualifying result of 7th and 8th wont please anyone in red, least of all Sebastian Vettel who was hoping to be challenging for pole, but couldn’t even out-qualify his own teammate. Its hard to exactly say what went wrong for them either, apart from the fact that their car looked hopeless in the wet, as it struggled for grip, and looked all over the show. 

Starting positions of 5th and 6th isn’t so bad in the grand scheme of things, considering the drivers ahead, and the likelihood of a dry race tomorrow. But even though a double podium is very achievable for the team, Vettel might find Hamilton far in the distance even if he is able to claw himself back up into second position. 

Formula 1’s penalty system must change 

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As aforementioned, there was some brilliant qualifying performances in today’s session, but some were unfortunately made redundant due to engine related penalties. 

Six drivers in total faced grid penalties due to various engine-related changes, most damaging of which was for the Red Bull pair who qualified in 2nd and 3rd position, but will start near the back of the grid. 

Its a real shame too, as there are alternate ways of punishment for teams changing engines apart from demoting drivers from their qualifying position. I am not saying here that teams and drivers should get off scotch free if they change engines, as this would just mean that the bigger teams would change their power units each race, as has been the case previously. But what I am suggesting is that there are better ways to punish teams without compromising drivers’ grid position, such as a hefty fine or a deduction in constructors points. 

The Red Bull’s being out of position will at least provide for some action tomorrow, as their two punchy drivers will be for sure making some characteristically brave overtakes, as they make their way back up the field.

Thoughts on qualifying?  Discuss in the comments below!

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Shwuaib Malik

A 19 year old undergraduate with an affection for Formula 1, who hopes some may enjoy reading his insignificant opinions.

Italian Grand Prix 2017: What we learned from qualifying

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