Ferrari’s Leclerc takes pole position in Italian GP

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Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took pole position at the Italian Grand Prix ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Cheered by the tifosi, Leclerc beat the championship leader Max Verstappen of Red Bull by 0.145 seconds.

Verstappen will be demoted as one of nine drivers who have a grid penalty – his is only five places.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who have bigger penalties, completed the top five.

That means Mercedes’ George Russell, who qualified sixth fastest, will probably start second on the grid.

Leclerc, who won this race in 2019 in his first season for Ferrari, said: “It’s amazing. It wasn’t an easy qualifying session. I knew there was quite a bit of potential in the car but I didn’t manage to put everything together, and on the last lap I managed to do it.

“The car has been feeling great all weekend and I really hope I can finish like in 2019 tomorrow.”

Verstappen, who is 109 points clear of Leclerc and on course to win a second title within two or three races, said: “The lap was pretty decent just the first sector we seemed to be a little bit slow, a bit of straight-line speed, bit of not finding the grip but the rest of the lap felt pretty strong.

“We chose a higher downforce (level) than some other cars and the races runs felt good so I am looking forward to the race.”

McLaren’s Lando Norris was eighth fastest, ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian’s best qualifying performance since the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix back in April.

Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly qualified ninth, ahead of Fernando Alonso, who had a disappointing session in the Alpine.

Alonso aborted his first lap in the final session and then had his second deleted for exceeding track limits at the second Lesmo on his final lap.

“The Q3 was not very well executed,” he said. “I tried two runs but the first run was also not good. So I am sorry for the team that I did not put a lap together. Even this lap I put together was only enough to be P8 so it seems we are lacking a bit of performance in qualifying. Let’s see if we can improve tomorrow.”

The multiplicity of penalties make it difficult to work out the grid order – along with Verstappen, Sainz and Perez, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher will all drop down the grid to varying degrees.

Some of them are likely to promote Dutchman Nick de Vries into the top 10 in the Williams.

De Vries was drafted in on Saturday morning after Alex Albon was diagnosed with appendicitis, and qualified 13th, ahead of team-mate Nicholas Latifi. (BBC Sport)

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