February 26, 2021

F1 drivers braced for Monza qualy ‘nightmare’

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Qualifying chaos expected again despite F1’s attempts to minimise disruption; Watch session live on Sky F1 on Saturday at 2pm

By Matt Morlidge

Last Updated: 04/09/20 5:14pm

2:28
There was chaos in the final run of qualifying at the 2019 Italian GP with only one car making it through before the chequered flag!

There was chaos in the final run of qualifying at the 2019 Italian GP with only one car making it through before the chequered flag!

Formula 1 set looks set for another chaotic Italian GP qualifying session this weekend after traffic jams and slipstream attempts hampered flying laps throughout Friday’s practice sessions.

Last year’s qualifying at Monza descended into farce in Q3 as eight out of nine drivers failed to post a final lap after jockeying for position for too long on the out-lap, so desperate to pick up a ‘tow’ from cars ahead.

F1 has implemented new event rules in a bid to avoid a repeat – making drivers conform to a maximum lap time on their preparation laps – but in Friday practice, the track was often too busy with the field packed too closely together for the qualifying simulation laps.

“That is still going to be a nightmare,” said Lewis Hamilton, the fastest in Practice Two.

Max Verstappen added: “I think everybody will go for the tow again. It’s getting more and more powerful every single year because of the increased downforce on the cars.

“So you will see in Q3 again that people will try to tow each other around.”

The fastest circuit on the F1 calendar, straight-line speed is all-important at Monza and so is the aerodynamic tow – when one car punches a whole in the air for the driver behind to give them a pace advantage on their lap.

Teams have regularly utilised the tactic with their two drivers to give one an advantage, but drivers – particularly in Italy – can also benefit from rival cars.

“It’s really interesting to see,” said Sky F1’s Jenson Button. “I’ve never seen all of this towing before.

“I raced for many years here and we never went out of our way to get a tow. If you got one, fair enough you took it, but you didn’t plan to go out and get a tow.”

What happened last year?

Sky F1’s Martin Brundle called the scenes in 2019 “one of the silliest things I’ve ever seen in F1”, Lewis Hamilton said it was “a mess” while Mercedes boss Toto Wolff insisted it made “everybody look like idiots.”

There was also a post-qualifying investigation, although nobody was penalised.

The chaos started as teams bode their time to send cars out at the end of Q3, presumably hoping others would exit first to give them the tow. But that didn’t happen, and the nine drivers only left the garage with less than two minutes remaining before the chequered flag.

Though they should have been in a rush, drivers were jostling for position to try and get the tow for their flying laps – Nico Hulkenberg even went straight on at the first chicane to vacate the leading position – but despite getting the hurry-up from their teams, only one driver managed to start their last lap in time.

That was Carlos Sainz, and he couldn’t improve – meaning Charles Leclerc kept pole position.