Carlos Sainz had Ferrari fans dreaming of ending Red Bull’s domination, and Max Verstappen’s record run, after the Spaniard roared to pole position at their home Italian Grand Prix on Saturday.
Verstappen will be chasing his 10th consecutive Formula One win on Sunday and joined Sainz on the front row after missing out on pole by a mere 13 thousandths of a second at Monza’s atmospheric “Temple of Speed”.
Only 0.067 separated Sainz’s fastest flying lap of one minute 20.294 seconds from team mate Charles Leclerc in third place.
The Ferrari fans, who unfurled giant prancing horse flags in the grandstands before the session started, have had little to cheer about this season but they roared on the red cars with passion and pride.
The pole was Ferrari’s third of a season in which Red Bull have won all 13 races so far and Sainz’s first since Austin, Texas, last October.
The final top 10 shootout took place with a stewards’ enquiry hanging over Ferrari for going too slowly in the first phase but that threat dropped away as officials decided to take no further action.
Sainz, who turned 29 on Friday and set the fastest lap in practice, said he felt goosebumps on the slowing down lap as he felt the crowd’s excitement.
“It’s incredible. Everywhere we go it’s just noise, support and encouragement and it’s the best feeling you can have as a driver,” he said.
“Tomorrow I will give it everything to hold on to that P1. A good start, a good first stint and see if we can battle Max. Normally in the long runs he is quicker but I am going to give it all.”
Verstappen, last year’s winner to boos from the crowd after the race finished behind the safety car, had to settle for second but did not expect that to be for long.
“Of course tomorrow we’ll try to win the race. Normally we have a quicker race car,” said the Dutch driver.
George Russell, third last year, will start fourth for Mercedes with Verstappen’s team mate and closest rival Sergio Perez fifth.
Perez is a hefty 138 points behind Verstappen in the championship and in danger of seeing the gulf become even greater.
Alex Albon qualified an excellent sixth for Williams, ahead of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, Mercedes’ seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton and McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Verstappen was quickest in the first two phases of qualifying but could not complete the hat-trick.
He made a mistake on his first effort when he put a rear wheel on the gravel at the Variante della Roggia, the second chicane, before snapping the car back in line.
Verstappen was only third behind the Ferraris, with Sainz leading and everything riding on one last shot and the outcome too close to call.
Leclerc went fastest, then Verstappen before Sainz finally clinched it.
“It was such an intense qualifying. We were very on the limit and on that last lap I knew I had some lap time to come and I went for it,” said Sainz.
The Ferraris were also Red Bull’s closest rivals in the second stage, a roar from the crowd greeting Sainz going fastest and then Leclerc before Verstappen brought them back to reality.
AlphaTauri’s Liam Lawson qualified 12th on his first full weekend after stepping in a week ago as replacement for Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who broke a hand in Dutch Grand Prix practice.
Japanese team mate Yuki Tsunoda, a useful benchmark, qualified 11th.
Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, a surprise winner at Monza with AlphaTauri in 2020, and team mate Esteban Ocon both failed to progress beyond the first phase with the latter running wide at turn 10.
Lance Stroll’s underwhelming form for Aston Martin continued, with the Canadian team owner’s son qualifying last of all while team mate Fernando Alonso qualified 10th.