Carlos Sainz said he had goosebumps after sending Monza wild by putting his Ferrari on pole position for the Italian Grand Prix.
The Spanish driver saw off Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by just 0.013 seconds to huge roars at the sun-cooked Temple of Speed, with Charles Leclerc third in the other scarlet car.
George Russell took fourth for Mercedes with team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who this week signed a two-year contract extension, only eighth.
The battle for pole position was box-office! 🍿
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 2, 2023
Verstappen has swept all before him this year – winning 11 of the 13 rounds so far – and, despite being pipped to top spot in qualifying, he will still be the favourite to land a record 10th straight win in Sunday’s 53-lap race.
But Saturday belonged to Sainz and the tifosi celebrated their man’s pole like a victory. Ferrari flags were hoisted into the air as Sainz, who celebrated his 29th birthday on Friday, hoisted his right arm from the cockpit.
“It is difficult to put into words to describe how I feel,” said Sainz after taking just the fourth pole of his life and his first in Monza.
“I have had goosebumps since I crossed the finish line. Watching the crowd and getting out of the car and seeing this is incredible.
A home pole position 💚🤍❤️
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) September 2, 2023
“Everywhere we go, it is just noise, support and encouragement, and it is the best feeling you can have as an athlete.
“I have been feeling comfortable with the car, I cannot fault it, and I honestly put in one my best laps in Q3 to take pole. And tomorrow I am going to give it everything for that first place and see if we can battle Max.”
Verstappen has been an unstoppable force this season and he will make history if he goes behind enemy lines and betters the record he shares with Sebastian Vettel by reaching double figures for consecutive triumphs.
But the Dutchman, who took the chequered flag here last year, might be wary of a curious streak in Monza. Leclerc, Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo, who won here in 2019, 2020 and 2021, did not finish on their next visits.
Verstappen’s Red Bull team are also bidding to become the first team to go through a season unbeaten. McLaren came the closest to achieving a perfect campaign. The British outfit failed to win on just one occasion in 1988. The venue was Monza and the winner that afternoon was Gerhard Berger – in a Ferrari.
“Honestly, I don’t believe in statistics too much and this kind of curse,” added Sainz.
“On Sunday, the winner is the one who deserves it the most and is quicker and I am just going to try to be that one.”
Over at Mercedes, Hamilton snuck into Q3 after bemoaning a lack of grip and suggesting he had been impeded by Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.
He ultimately qualified eighth, half-a-second behind Sainz and two tenths adrift of team-mate Russell.
When, erroneously, he was told he had qualified one place lower, the 38-year-old replied: “I thought I was P8? It is s*** either way.
“I was just struggling. Our car is hard to optimise. There is nothing easy about this car.”