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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Kimi Raikkonen plays it cool after recording fastest lap in F1 history to secure pole at Italian Grand Prix

Ferrari to occupy front row for Sunday's Grand Prix at Monza - their first at Italian GP since 2000

Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen steers his car during the qualifying session at the Monza racetrack on Saturday. AP Photo

Kimi Raikkonen put his Ferrari on pole position for the Italian Grand Prix with the fastest lap ever recorded in Formula One history on Saturday.

The Finn's record lap was clocked in 1min 19.119sec at an average speed of 263.587 kilometres per hour, convincingly beating the outright record of 1:19.525 set by Juan-Pablo Montoya on the same track in 2004.

Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton's teammate, was fourth ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Romain Grosjean of Haas. Carlos Sainz was seventh on his birthday for Renault ahead of Esteban Ocon of Force India, Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso and Lance Stroll of Williams.

In the final seconds of a dramatic session three leading drivers, Lewis Hamilton, Vettel and then Raikkonen, all broke Montoya's record in turn.

In the end, Ferrari locked out the front row of the grid – their first time at the Italian GP since 2000 – with defending champion and current leader Hamilton of Mercedes-GP third, even though the Briton had twice beaten Montoya's record.

It was Ferrari’s first pole on home soil at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza since 2010 and Raikkonen's first pole in 12 years. At 38, he also became the oldest pole sitter since Nigel Mansell, aged, 41, took pole for the 1994 Australian Grand Prix.

The Finn, whose future at Ferrari is uncertain, was as phlegmatic as ever amid the wild celebrations.

"Thank you," he said. "It's great for tomorrow. Hopefully, everything goes smoothly and we end up in the same position."

Vettel was unhappy not to take pole.

Kimi Raikkonen, right, and Sebastian Vettel enjoyed success in the Italian GP qualifiers. AP Photo

'Not entirely happy'

"Let's talk after," he said to the team, perhaps referring to Raikkonen gaining a 'tow' from him. "I'm not entirely happy with my second run."

Hamilton, who was seeking a fifth consecutive Monza pole, said: "We gave it everything. It's incredibly close."

After his huge high-speed crash on Friday, Marcus Ericsson had been passed fit and took part in a new car, built overnight, and knowing he faced a 10-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race, having taken a new power unit.

As the cars began to filter out of the pit lane, a black cloud threatened overhead. Rain was forecast, with 80 per cent likelihood, but the track had dried rapidly following overnight rain.

To the delight of the tifosi, waving huge Ferrari prancing horse flags , Vettel and Raikkonen went straight to the top of the times, the Finn setting the pace before Vettel responded.

Hamilton, fighting his car for speed, took third, half a second adrift ahead of Bottas.

"Where is everyone?" he asked, sensing he was free of traffic. "All in a bunch behind," came the Mercedes reply.

As a tightly-contested Q1 ended, out went Sergio Perez of Force India, who was caught in the garage by a cluster of late improvements, Charles Leclerc of Sauber, Brendon Hartley of Toro Rosso, Ericsson and Stoffel Vandoorne of McLaren.

"Why are we so slow?" asked Leclerc, who had run off at the second Lesmo corner. "We need to analyse more."

As Q2 began, Hamilton took the initiative with a flier in 1:19.798 before Vettel did 1:19.785, an advantage of just 0.013 seconds.

The German improved to 1:19.629, leaving Hamilton adrift by a tenth as it ended with Alonso's McLaren and Magnussen's Haas side by side in the first chicane.

"He wanted to race!" laughed Alonso.

In a historic final top-ten shootout Vettel, Raikkonen and then Hamilton, in 1:19.390, beat Montoya’s 2004 record lap.

Amid wild celebrations in the final seconds, Hamilton improved again, but was overhauled as Vettel and then Raikkonen outpaced him to deliver an emphatic all-Ferrari front row.

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