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Sainz gives Ferrari Italian GP hope after pipping Verstappen to pole

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz. Photo: Ben Stansall / AFP

Carlos Sainz is gunning to end dominant Max Verstappen’s record run of Formula One wins after delighting Ferrari’s passionate army of home fans on Saturday by claiming pole position for the Italian Grand Prix.

Spaniard Sainz will start at the front of the grid for the first time this season after pipping by 0.013 seconds reigning world champion Verstappen who is hunting a historic 10th straight victory.

Charles Leclerc in the other Ferrari took third to start from the second row alongside the Mercedes of George Russell on a great day for Ferrari in front of a typically colourful sea of support.

Sainz trails Verstappen by a whopping 237 points in the drivers’ championship and is yet to claim a podium finish this season.

But the 29-year-old shone in Saturday’s qualifying after already showing his speed by topping the times in two practice sessions, and celebrated snatching the fourth pole of his career in the final moments with the jubilant crowd.

“It’s just amazing you know, the whole weekend really. Since we arrived here on Wednesday the support and the feeling with the crowd and the energy they put into us is incredible,” Sainz told reporters.

Ferrari were also boosted by governing body FIA deciding not to pursue disciplinary action on Leclerc and Sainz for breaches to lap time limits imposed on Saturday morning in order to cut down track congestion.

That decision came moments after Sainz beat Verstappen to the top of the grid on a day which will give Ferrari hope of their first win of the season at the iconic Temple of Speed.

“We’ve got the motivation and the energy to do it. The car has been very good all weekend, especially over one lap,” added Sainz. 

“From what I’ve seen through the long runs, I’m not going to lie, it’s been tricker. It’s not the same picture as in qualifying.

“It’s a good opportunity tomorrow, but also being realistic the Red Bull should be quicker. We’re just going to try to make their lives as difficult as possible.”

Record hunter Verstappen

Dutchman Verstappen still has a great chance to break the record of nine straight GP wins he shares with four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel after winning a dramatic race on home soil in Zandvoort last weekend.

Verstappen has won 11 of the 13 races so far this year and leads Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, who is the only other driver to win this season and finished 0.394sec back in fifth, by 138 points in the drivers’ standings.

Ferrari and Red Bull will do battle at Monza as the two teams did last year when Verstappen eased to victory after superior pit strategy saw off pole sitter Leclerc.

“Here in Monza it’s always very tight, you might jump ahead and sometimes you’re just behind but I’m confident for tomorrow,” said Verstappen.

Red Bull’s closest challenger Fernando Alonso has a job on his hands on Sunday after he finished over a second off the pace in 10th, while Lewis Hamilton will start Sunday’s race in eighth.

Mercedes announced on Thursday that seven-time world champion Hamilton had signed a new deal until 2025 which will extend his career beyond his 40th birthday.

Hamilton, 38, is convinced he can win more races and world championships with the Silver Arrows, although he is 183 points behind Verstappen in fourth place.

Last season Hamilton failed to win or claim pole position at any GP for the first time in his career, while this year he is yet to add to his record 103 race victories.

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