MONZA: Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton continued to reign supreme in one-lap speed on Saturday when he secured his 11th pole position in 12 races for Mercedes by topping qualifying for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.
The 30-year-old Briton powered around the high-speed Autodromo Nazional in warm sunshine to clock a best lap of 1min 23.383 sec and finish three-tenths of a second clear of a resurgent Kimi Raikkonen, who was cheered to the flag in his Ferrari.
The Finn, inspired by the tifosi packed into the main grandstand opposite the Ferrari pits, produced a flying late effort to beat his teammate Sebastian Vettel, who wound up third.
The Ferrari revival was bad news for Hamilton’s teammate Nico Rosberg who had to change engines before the session. The German reverted to an older power-unit and finished fourth, his worst qualifying result of the year.
Hamilton said, “I am very happy and the guys have done a great job with the car and we’ve improved the reliability really well. I hope Nico can pull through tomorrow and we can finish ahead of the two red cars, but they are very close here and it is going to be a tough race.”
Raikkonen, a popular figure with fans, was more talkative than usual and shook off his taciturn image. “We expected a strong weekend, knew this place was not our strongest and the car turned out to be pretty good,” he said after securing his first front row start for Ferrari since the 2009 Monaco Grand Prix.
For Hamilton, it was a seventh straight pole, enabling him to emulate Michael Schumacher, the last driver to achieve the feat in 2000-01. The record is held by Ayrton Senna with eight in 1989.
It was Hamilton’s 49th career pole and his 20th front row start in succession. His success also extended Mercedes’ run to 23 poles, one short of the record set by Williams in 1993.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2015.
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