Italian GP: Raikkonen Breaks Record to Take Pole

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Kimi Raikkonen

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest lap in Formula 1 history as he stole pole position from the title contenders at the Italian Grand Prix. The 38-year-old Finn triumphed in a thrilling fight at Monza with team-mate Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, taking pole with the last lap of the session.

Hamilton was fastest after the first runs and improved on his second lap, but Vettel beat him before Raikkonen pipped both.

Raikkonen’s lap of one minute 19.119 seconds meant he averaged 163.793mph. The previous record – 1:19.525 (162.950mph) – was set by Juan Pablo Montoya in a Williams in 2004.

Vettel was not happy, saying “we speak after” as his engineer told him the result. The German declined to elaborate when asked to say what he meant.

In one of the most exciting qualifying sessions for some time, Hamilton fought to overcome what appears to be a slight Ferrari pace advantage and appeared at one stage to have done it.

On the first runs in final qualifying, Hamilton set a 1:19.390, beating Raikkonen by just 0.069secs, with Vettel third just 0.038secs behind the Finn.

Hamilton improved to a 1:19.294 on his final run, but the Ferraris had positioned themselves behind him, Vettel in front of Raikkonen, and the slipstream the second Ferrari driver got may have proved decisive.

Raikkonen, whose pole was his first since Monaco last year, was pleased to set the quickest time on Ferrari’s home track.

He said: “I couldn’t think of being on pole in a better race. I am hoping tomorrow I can end up in the same position.”

That remains to be seen, as Vettel is 17 points adrift in his close title fight with Hamilton.

Vettel said: “Not entirely happy with my last run but Kimi was a bit too fast in the end. It is always like this in Monza, for him it was in the sweet spot. My lap was not very good but for now we have both cars on the front row.”

Hamilton said: “Ferrari did a solid job. We gave it everything we could, it is very close between us but they have had the upper hand this weekend. We will give it everything we can tomorrow. “It was so intense and that’s how F1 should be.”

Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who has been off the pace all weekend, ended up fourth, 0.362secs behind the Briton. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, Haas’ Romain Grosjean, Renault’s Carlos Sainz, Force India’s Esteban Ocon, Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly and Williams’ Lance Stroll completed the top 10.