The much talked about “halo” has reaffirmed itself as a must-have after Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber had a DRS wing failure. His car snapped left at around 220 mph or 350 km/h and nosed straight into the protective wall barrier. Both front wheels and the struts were instantly broken away however the reinforced tethering system kept them near the car. The impact resulted in Ericsson rolling four times before stopping, with the structure immediately above his head digging into the dirt, with the halo protecting his head.
Amazingly Ericsson was completely unharmed, emerging from the wreck and indicating straight away that he felt fine. Footage later showed the young Swedish born driver walking in pit lane smiling and giving the camera crew the thumbs up. Sauber will bench that car and provide a backup vehicle for Ericsson for his qualifying sessions.
As expected, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were fastest in the practice sessions, with Vettel lapping in a 1:21, just under three tenths quicker than the taciturn Finn. Vettel also spun in the second practice session, however there was only minor damage to the rear wing.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third in the practice times, ahead of a re-energised Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Sauber’s Charles Leclerc.
In qualifying it is a Ferrari front row lockout and the first on what is effectively home soil since 2000. Kimi Raikonnen has pole and claimed the fastest lap seen at Monza. The time is an incredible 1:19.119 and at 38 years of age he becomes the driver with the most candles on the cake to be a pole-sitter in F1.
It’s an average speed of 163.78mph or 263.58 km/h for the “Flying Finn” and it’s over 5.7 kilometres of the iconic Monza circuit.
Raikonnen is third in the drivers’ standings at 146 points. He is 68 behind team mate Vettel and three GP wins behind ladder leader Lewis Hamilton who qualified third for Sunday’s event.
“Obviously we know as a team, we can race but we need to be careful with each other. But I don’t see how it changes. I don’t think anybody would be purposefully take the risk in Turn 1 to damage somebody else’s car and yours at the same time.” said Raikonnen when asked about start line tactics.
Mercedes still had pace, with Valterri Bottas taking fourth and just over three tenths adrift of Hamilton. Red Bull claimed fifth with Max Verstatppen the first of the top five out of the 1:19 bracket with a 1:20.615. He’s ahead of Hass driver Romain Grosjean by three tenths with the top ten rounded out by Carlos Sainz, Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly and a delighted Lance Stroll. The most talked about men in the paddock, Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso were in fifteenth and thirteenth respectively
Race start is on Sunday at 15:10 local.