MONZA, Italy -- Lewis Hamilton set a new record for Formula One pole positions after taking the 69th of his career during a soaking wet final qualifying session for the Italian Grand Prix.
The two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo finished the session second and third, but will be demoted down the grid once penalties for engine changes earlier in the weekend are applied. That will promote Lance Stroll to the front row after the 18-year-old rookie hooked up a remarkable lap to set the fourth fastest time behind the Red Bulls. Esteban Ocon will start third for Force India ahead of Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas, with Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel fifth and sixth on the grid after struggling in the wet conditions.
Hamilton's lap proved to be a rewarding climax following an extensive rain delay in the first part of qualifying, which resulted in the hour long session taking three hours and 40 minutes to complete. A break in the rain saw Q1 and Q2 took place in drying conditions, but another deluge ahead of Q3 resulted in full-wet conditions as the pole-position shootout got underway.
For much of the session the Red Bull drivers looked as though they would set the fastest times, but in the final moments Hamilton put on a fresh set of full-wets to set a remarkable lap, 1.148s clear of Verstappen's best effort. Ricciardo was another 0.139s off his teammate but both drivers will slip down the order -- Verstappen 20 places and Ricciardo 25 -- once their grid penalties for engine changes earlier in the weekend are applied.
That will promote Stroll to the front row alongside Hamilton after he set a time 1.478s off the Mercedes driver. The 18-year-old put together a brilliant lap in the conditions to beat Ocon's Force India by 0.687s. Bottas made a mistake on his final lap in Q3 and will start fourth as a result, directly ahead of the two Ferraris which both looked uncomfortable in the full-wet conditions. Felipe Massa took ninth -- 1.2s off Williams teammate Stroll -- ahead of McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne.
Drying conditions during Q2 saw the fastest times set on intermediate tyres right at the end of the session, providing Vandoorne with the opportunity to break into the top ten. Sergio Perez fell victim to the changing conditions, missing out on a place in Q3 by just 0.002s to teammate Ocon. Nico Hulkenberg was 12th fastest ahead of Fernando Alonso in 13th, although both face grid penalties (Hulkenberg 10 places and Alonso 35) and will slip behind Daniil Kvyat in 14th. Carlos Sainz was 15th but also faces a penalty of ten places on Sunday's grid.
The first session of qualifying got underway in heavy rain and within four minutes it was suspended after Romain Grosjean aquaplaned on the pit straight at over 290km/h and clipped the barrier. The Frenchman had complained about the conditions moments earlier and after coming to a halt with a damaged front wing and right rear wheel, opened his radio channel to say "I told you it was too dangerous!"
The rain intensified as the Haas was cleared away, causing a delay of over two and half hours before a break in the weather around 16:30 local time. When Q1 got back underway at 16:40, all drivers initially went out on the wets before switching to the intermediates as conditions improved. Despite the mixed conditions, the usual suspects dropped out in Q1, with Kevin Magnussen, Jolyon Palmer and the two Saubers all getting knocked out along with Grosjean, who will start from the very back of the grid after failing to set a time within 107 percent of the fastest in Q1.
On Sunday morning, the Honda confirmed that a power unit change on Vandoorne's car would also result in a 25-place penalty, dropping him to 18th on the grid. Once all the penalties have been applied, the bottom seven places on the grid are expected to be as follows: