Max Verstappen is the driver chasing history.
But it seems the Ferrari duo of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Charles Leclerc are going to make him earn it.
With a win in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Verstappen will set a new Formula 1 record with ten straight victories. However, the path to that historic mark got a little tougher on Saturday, as Sainz edged past him for pole position. While Verstappen will start second, Sainz will have his teammate Leclerc right behind him, who starts third.
Of course, given how strong Verstappen and the RB19 have looked all year — he is chasing his tenth-straight victory after all — he may very well have the lead by the time the first lap draws to a close. But as Saturday ends at Monza, the Tifosi believe that tomorrow could be their day.
Here are the winners and losers from qualifying at the Italian Grand Prix.
This is the day the Tifosi have been waiting for.
At their home race, the Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. delivered for the crowd, with Sainz grabbing pole position and Leclerc finishing in third.
For Sainz, the result is the first pole position of the season and just the fourth of his career. During his trackside interview, he could barely be heard over the roars of the Tifosi. “I haven’t stopped the goosebumps,” said Sainz. “Everywhere we go it’s just noise, support, and encouragement.”
“Tomorrow I’m going to give it everything to hold onto that P1.”
Leclerc praised his teammate trackside, saying that Sainz had done an “incredible” job all weekend. He also had praise for the Tifosi. “I don’t smile very often when I’m P3, but being here and obviously having so much support is a great feeling.”
It was the kind of Saturday Ferrari fans have been hoping to see all season long.
Hopefully, Sunday is even better.
The up-and-down season for Alpine rolls on.
A week after Pierre Gasly delivered a stunning podium at the Dutch Grand Prix, the team struggled on Saturday at Monza. Esteban Ocon finished in P18 during FP3, while Gasly finished dead last during that third practice session.
Qualifying did not get much better. Ocon went off the track and into the gravel at Ascari, and there were immediate concerns about floor damage. The team pushed his A523 back into the garage with under five minutes left in Q1, while Gasly remained on the track trying to get out of the drop zone.
With just two minutes to go, both Alpines rolled out of the garage with a lot of work to do. Gasly was in P19 with Ocon in P20. Could they somehow put together a lap to just get out of Q1?
They could not.
Both Gasly and Ocon were out in Q1, with Gasly finishing 17th and Ocon and 18th. For Ocon, it was just his second Q1 exit this season, while it was the fourth Q1 exit for Gasly this year.
Winner: Alex Albon
Earlier this week, I went ahead and made the call that Albon would notch a podium at Monza.
With the straight-line speed, he showed again on Saturday, that does remain a possibility.
Albon qualified sixth on Saturday, behind the Ferraris, the Red Bulls, and George Russell. That put him ahead of not just the McLaren duo of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, but also ahead of Lewis Hamilton, and Fernando Alonso, who qualified tenth.
That marks two straight races with Albon advancing to Q3, in the wake of his fourth-place finish at qualifying in the Dutch Grand Prix. The FW45 is fast, particularly on the straights, and at Monza, there are a lot of straights.
He’ll be on the third row tomorrow, and there is every reason to believe he can come away with another great result for Williams.
Loser: Lance Stroll
Things have not been going well for Lance Stroll in recent weeks. He has scored points in just two of the last four races — a P10 in Hungary and a P9 at Zandvoort — and it has led to speculation about his future in F1.
With some even wondering if a switch to tennis is in his future.
While the driver dismissed those tennis rumors out of hand, Saturday’s qualifying session will only add to the speculation regarding his future. Stroll was knocked out in Q1, finishing dead last. It marked the fourth time in five races where he failed to reach Q3, and the third time this year he failed to get out of Q1.
Following qualifying, Stroll spoke with the media and called the session the “worst” of his career.
Aston Martin is locked in a battle for second in the Constructors’ Championship with Mercedes, and the team is currently sitting 40 points behind the Silver Arrows in that fight. Every point matters, and with Stroll struggling again this weekend, that is only going to up the pressure on the driver to deliver.
Winner: George Russell
The week began with George Russell putting pen to paper on a new contract extension.
Could it end with a podium for the Mercedes driver?
Russell qualified fourth, just ahead of Sergio Pérez, and with this finish coming after his third-place start a week ago at the Dutch Grand Prix, it seems like he is rounding into form as the second half of the season begins.
What could give him some hope for that podium? Russell and Mercedes believed that their race pace was a strength on Friday, and finding good qualifying speed was going to be the issue. “The car was feeling reasonably good, but we have some improvements to make on the soft tyre,” said Russell after practice on Friday. “The high fuel pace was looking pretty strong, so the focus tomorrow will be on finding more speed for qualifying.”
It seems they found the speed they needed. Now hopefully that race pace delivers in the Grand Prix.
Loser: Logan Sargeant
A week after advancing to his first-ever Q3, Logan Sargeant failed to advance out of Q2 at Monza.
Making matters worse is the fact that Sargeant is under increasing pressure to keep his seat for next season. He is currently on a one-year deal with Williams, and with the difference in performance between him and Alex Albon, you can envision a world where Williams makes a change.
Team Principal James Vowles has preached patience at Williams, but Sargeant needs to live up to his end of the bargain. Monza offered an opportunity for him to deliver that kind of performance, given his prior experience at the Temple of Speed. Now he’ll have to tackle some unfamiliar tracks, with his seat on the line.
Perhaps he can find something on Sunday, but he’ll have to work his way up through the field to get into the points on race day.