Lewis Hamilton takes historic pole in the rain at Monza

He goes one ahead of Michael Schumacher after claiming 69th pole position

Lewis Hamilton drives his Mercedes through the rain on the way to winning pole position at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza. Photograph: Andrej Isakovic/AFP/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton has admitted it may take some time for his record-breaking lap to sink in after he surpassed Michael Schumacher's haul of poles following a wet-weather masterclass in Monza.

Hamilton’s excellence in Saturday’s rain-hit and fascinating qualifying session for the Italian Grand Prix – one which will go down among the longest in Formula One history – sees him now stand alone as the all-time one-lap specialist with his 69th career pole position.

The Englishman, 32, held his nerve in the shoot-out for top spot to clock a lap which was an extraordinary 1.1 seconds faster than any of his rivals in treacherous conditions at the so-called Temple of Speed.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates after qualifying in pole position. Photograph: Max Rossi/Reuters

Max Verstappen, another to revel in the rain, and Daniel Ricciardo finished behind Hamilton, but both will be bumped towards the back of the pack following grid penalties after engine changes on their Red Bull cars.


Hamilton will instead be joined on the front row by Canadian teenager Lance Stroll, with Force India’s Esteban Ocon lining up in third.

Sebastian Vettel, who holds a seven-point championship lead over Hamilton, was never in the reckoning and finished a lowly eighth in the order, an eye-watering 2.5secs adrift of his rival.

He will take some comfort from the Red Bull penalties as he moves up to sixth on the grid, but it was a day to forget for his Ferrari team in front of an expectant Tifosi.

Indeed, Vettel’s demise made Hamilton’s triumph all the sweeter and he will lead the championship for the first time this year if he wins on Sunday.

“It is very hard to find the words to explain how I feel, ” said Hamilton, who punched the air as he crossed the line. “I am still trying to figure it all out.

“The weather has been incredibly tricky for us all. To come here to this beautiful country and face typically English weather was a massive challenge.

“It was very difficult to see out there, difficult to see the lines and, as always in the rain, very easy to make mistakes. But I gave it everything with that last lap and it probably won’t sink in for a long time.”

Hamilton is unlikely to forget his record pole in a hurry after a frenetic climax to a qualifying session which lasted more than three-and-a-half hours.

Despite persistent rain, qualifying started on schedule, but it was suspended after only five minutes when Romain Grosjean lost control of his car at speeds approaching 190mph.

The Frenchman narrowly avoided contact with barriers on both sides of the main straight, but, with his Haas car in a precarious position, qualifying was immediately suspended.

“I told you it was f*****g dangerous,” an exasperated Grosjean yelled over the radio. Veteran English race director Charlie Whiting called for the session to be red-flagged.

Fans, who sought cover from the inclement conditions by wearing ponchos and huddling under umbrellas, jeered the subsequent delays and the lack of action will have left the sport’s new American owners Liberty Media red-faced.

It was down to Ricciardo to provide the entertainment as he took control of a TV camera and headed straight for the Mercedes garage. His shoddy, but amusing, work was beamed around the world.

Meanwhile, Hamilton spent the rain break engaging with his supporters on social media before playing computer games from the comfort of his Mercedes team’s hospitality suite. Finally, after a delay of two hours and 36 minutes, the circuit was deemed safe and it was Hamilton who triumphed.

“After playing the PlayStation I was nervous, but still in the zone, and I was grateful for when we got back out,” Hamilton added.

“Some people say it is not about the journey or where you begin, but about the finish. I feel the beginning and the middle is more important, and not necessarily where you are going. I have learnt so much over the years. It was an epic day, and I am truly blessed.”