Monza is a circuit that brings the same round of problems in practice and qualifying every year: too many drivers hit the track in an attempt to occupy the same space at the same time. And in 2020, we’ve already seen eight drivers summoned to the stewards after practice and a traffic jam in Q3.
Let’s start with the third and final free practice session. Lewis Hamilton was running up to the Parabolica corner at speed while a whole slew of cars clogged up the track in front of him. Hamilton had to swerve into the grass to avoid Sergio Perez, Romain Grosjean, and Nicholas Latifi. Carlos Sainz, Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly, and Lance Stroll were also accused of driving unnecessarily slowly in the lead up to the corner.
The rule about driving slowly was implemented after chaos in last year’s qualifying session, where drivers drove slower and slower in hopes of avoiding being the first car out to set a fast lap and thus miss out on the tow, or the aerodynamic pull provided by the car in front.
A similar problem arose in qualifying. At the end of the Q1, almost every team sent their cars out onto track simultaneously. In attempting to avoid being the first car on track, drivers exited slowly. The only problem was, the Alfa Romeos ended up in front of faster cars, and Kimi Raikkonen was slowed by the Renault in front of him.
Unfortunately, Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel was knocked out in the first round of qualifying at the team’s home race.
And then there was the whole problem of deleted lap times. If a driver exceeded track limits at any point—a very easy thing to do at a high speed track like Monza—his entire lap would be deleted.
While all drivers set an initial lap time in Q2, everyone once again left the pits at the same time with the final three minutes to go. The traffic jam was less of a problem this time around, but Charles Leclerc lost out on a top 10 qualifying position. It was likely a good thing that Italian fans weren’t able to be present at the track to see the mess.
Ultimately, the final times were secured long before the end of Q3. Lewis Hamilton secured another pole position followed by Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. McLaren driver Carlos Sainz Jr. took third place with surprisingly blistering pace.