Lewis Hamilton accuses Ferrari of cheating
Charles Leclerc scored a home pole position for Ferrari at the F1 Italian Grand Prix Saturday while Lewis Hamilton accused Ferrari of cheating by slowing the pack to protect provisional pole as qualifying came to a strange close.
Through the first two parts of qualifying, aside from the standout performances of the two Renault cars and Lance Stroll, things went as the season long script would have suggested but when it got to the business end of the session and the top-ten shootout it all suddenly got rather interesting.
Ferrari had undoubtedly the car to beat and, with Charles Leclerc, they also had the driver to beat. In 2018, Kimi Raikkonen had taken pole for Ferrari, but this time around it was an entirely different story. Having made the shoot-out, Raikkonen lost the rear of his Alfa Romeo at Parabolica and spun into the wall.
The incident temporarily halted qualifying as red flags enabled the marshals to recover the badly damaged car.
At the time the session was suspended, Leclerc led the way ahead of Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel, although only by several hundredths of a second.
On a flying lap, the final sector should take 26-seconds to complete and, when this time elapsed, only half the cars had entered the sector. Not wanting to kill the tires prematurely, most did not keep their foot down through the sector and, as a result, only Carlos Sainz was able to cross the line before the flag fell to call time on the session.
It was a colossal error; one that saw Hamilton hint that Ferrari was cheating to protect the pole of Leclerc.
“It definitely is a bit of an anti-climax that we couldn’t all go out and do that final lap. That’s one of the most exciting ones, but it’s crazy with this timing we have, with the system we have where everyone backs up trying to get a position and they basically timed us out. It’s interesting, you get pole position in the first run and then just time everyone out.”
Explaining what it was like to be out in the melee, Hamilton said, “On the out lap, it’s dangerous for us all. You don’t know who’s beside you. It’s definitely risky business out there but it’s kind of enjoyable at the same time.
“For us, we were down on the Ferraris on the straight line, so we definitely needed it (the tow), but I think others also do. I think it’s with this new wing. The drag is much bigger this year, so everyone is focusing on that, but honestly, to be up here on the front row, we can give them a good fight tomorrow.”
Leclerc has now outqualified teammate Vettel in the last seven races and starts from the front for the second Grand Prix in succession.