Leclerc pole thrills Ferrari fans at Monza

·2-min read

Charles Leclerc has taken pole position for the Italian Formula One Grand Prix to send Ferrari hopes soaring, while George Russell joined him on the front row for Mercedes.

Leclerc is likely to be the only driver starting where he qualified, with nine of the 20-man grid incurring penalties mainly due to power unit changes exceeding their season's allocation.

"It is a very good surprise today, considering where we come from," said Leclerc, alluding to the Italian team's struggles in qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps last month, as the army of Ferrari fans celebrated a home success on Saturday.

"We were not expecting to fight for pole here ... There's a special motivation for this weekend and it's great that we managed to do a good job today."

The pole was the Monegasque's eighth of the season and first since France in July, and it came with Ferrari president John Elkann in attendance.

The last time Leclerc, and Ferrari, started on pole at Monza was in 2019 - and he won that weekend.

Red Bull's runaway championship leader Max Verstappen, 109 points clear of Leclerc with seven races remaining and chasing his fifth win in a row, was second fastest in qualifying but will drop back for Sunday's start due to a five-place penalty.

There was confusion about where he might start, however, with the Dutch driver convinced he would drop to seventh but others calculating it could ultimately be as high as fourth.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, Red Bull's Sergio Perez and Russell's seven-time world champion teammate Lewis Hamilton qualified third, fourth and fifth respectively but all have significant penalties.

Russell was only sixth on the qualifying timesheets.

Lando Norris will line up in third place for McLaren after qualifying seventh, while teammate and reigning Italian GP champ Daniel Ricciardo will start from eighth on the grid.

"I think for tomorrow it can be quite strong and also knowing we have to start a bit back," said Verstappen, who has won 10 of 15 races so far.

"All in all, it was a good lap and I enjoyed it. I think it will be an interesting day tomorrow."

Sainz, Hamilton and AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda all have back of the grid penalties, although clearly only two of the three can be on the last row.

"It is going to be tough tomorrow because the DRS (drag reduction system) doesn't make a huge difference, it is quite small and there could be a lot of people in a DRS train," said Hamilton.

"So it could be quite a frustrating day. Nonetheless, I will try to be positive going into it."

Formula One will observe a minute's silence before the race in honour of Queen Elizabeth, Britain's longest reigning monarch, who died on Thursday aged 96.