MONZA • Formula One three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes stormed to a record 69th pole at the Italian Grand Prix yesterday, when qualifying was suspended for close to three hours due to the incessant rain at Monza.
The Briton has overtaken German legend Michael Schumacher's tally of 68 poles, and he will begin today's race in an ideal position to close the gap in the drivers' standings on Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who finished eighth.
The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo ended qualifying second and third respectively.
However, the duo both have grid penalties, which means that Canadian teenage rookie Lance Stroll will move up from fourth to start on the front row for Williams.
Stroll is joined by Force India's Esteban Ocon in third, while Vettel will move up to sixth.
It was the fourth year in a row that Hamilton has taken pole at Monza - the fastest circuit on the calendar - and he was clearly overjoyed after a tedious afternoon.
"Firstly, Italy, I love you, even though we are in Ferrari's homeland I appreciate all the support," the 32-year-old said.
ITALIAN GP GRID
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
2 Lance Stroll (Can) Williams
3 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India
4 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
5 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari
6 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
7 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams
8 Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren
9 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India
10 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso
14 Max Verstappen (Ned)
17 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull
"It's great to break this record at such a historic circuit and in such a beautiful country.
"I am going to have some pasta tonight to celebrate."
There was, however, a long wait before he achieved his record.
Qualifying was curtailed after only five minutes when Frenchman Romain Grosjean aquaplaned and crashed his Haas car on the straight, leaving thousands of the fans waiting for the rain to clear.
Track inspections took place every 15 minutes, but it was more than 21/2 hours before there was a sign of the "red flag conditions" ending and qualifying resumed.
Grosjean accused race controllers of "double standards" for ignoring drivers' warnings of the dangers of the slippery track.
The Frenchman said the circuit was too dangerous for qualifying to have even started, adding that it was obvious that there was too much water on the Autodromo Nazionale circuit.
"They absolutely don't listen to us," he said. "I just think it's not normal. It's double standards. They should listen to us in these conditions.
"From the out-lap onwards, I complained a lot, saying that it was too dangerous. We couldn't see where we were.
"Clearly, crashing (while I was) in a straight line shows that the car cannot take it. There was too much water. We should have waited."
The FIA's (International Automobile Federation) official race director Charlie Whiting said it was difficult to judge track conditions because the weather was so unpredictable.
"The weather seems to be swirling around a lot and we can't get a clear picture," he said.
"We can look into the reasons for Grosjean crashing, but these things happen from time to time, unfortunately, when drivers are pushing hard."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
F1 ITALIAN GP
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