Six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton smashed the Monza track record to take pole position for the Italian Grand Prix with the fastest lap in Formula One history on Saturday.
While Mercedes soared, Ferrari slumped to further humiliation with neither of their cars starting their home race in the top 10 for the first time since 1984.
Hamilton’s lap was simply sensational, a prodigious one minute 18.887 seconds at an average speed of 264.362kph (164mph) to lead Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas in another front row lockout.
It was the 94th pole of Hamilton’s stellar career, and his seventh at the ‘Pista Magica’, and shattered the idea that a clampdown on so-called engine ‘party modes’ would affect his team’s performance.
“No party. No problem,” said the team on its official Twitter feed.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, who is joining Ferrari next year, burnished his credentials with an impressive third place on the grid on a sunny afternoon, with Racing Point’s Sergio Perez fourth in his ‘Pink Mercedes’.
Hamilton’s closest championship rival Max Verstappen, 47 points behind after seven races, qualified for Red Bull in fifth place.
Another win for Hamilton on Sunday would be his sixth in eight races and career 90th — one short of former Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s all-time record.
There will be no crowd at the most passionate and atmospheric of venues on Sunday, due to COVID-19 restrictions, which may be just as well for Ferrari as they endure their worst season in decades.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel will line up 13th and 17th respectively.
“(It was) the best I can do,” said Leclerc over the team radio.
Vettel, in his last Italian Grand Prix as a Ferrari driver with his future uncertain, was caught out in a messy first phase with drivers jockeying for position in an attempt to slipstream and gain an aerodynamic tow.
“What a mess!,” exclaimed the four-times world champion, who took his first F1 win at Monza with Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri) in 2008.
Hamilton was fastest in the opening session before breaking the track record with a 1:19.092 lap in the second — only for Bottas to produce a 1:18.952 effort.
The Finn was unable to improve on that time in the surprisingly chaos-free final phase, his best a 1:18.956, but Hamilton could and did to pip him by 0.069.
The previous track record, and fastest ever lap, of 1:19.119 (at an average 263.587kph) was set by Kimi Raikkonen on his way to pole position for Ferrari in 2018.
“Fantastic performance from the team today and I think just in terms of timing, when they put us out on track. It really demanded a clean lap and I think I got that on both.
“Valtteri was very very close, pushing. I made some big changes going into qualifying, so I was a little bit nervous going in that it was the right thing to do but it worked just fine.”
Lando Norris qualified sixth for McLaren with Daniel Ricciardo seventh for Renault and Canadian Lance Stroll eighth for Racing Point.
Thai racer Alex Albon and Frenchman Pierre Gasly completed the top 10 for Red Bull and AlphaTauri respectively.