Kimi Raikkonen steals Sebastian Vettel's limelight with some Monza magic

Nate SaundersF1 Associate Editor4 Minute Read

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ESPN rounds up the main talking points from qualifying at Monza, where Kimi Raikkonen claimed an unlikely pole position ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.

Kimi back on pole: It seemed like a good bet a red car would be claiming pole position come Saturday afternoon, but most of us assumed it would be Sebastian Vettel. Raikkonen stunned everyone, however, with the quickest lap ever seen in an F1 qualifying session. The crowd erupted regardless -- Raikkonen remains one of the grid's most popular drivers.

Shocker: Sergio Perez and Force India should have been comfortably through to Q3, but instead the Mexican driver was eliminated in Q1 after a late flurry of improvements from midfield drivers saw him tumble down the order.

Another blow for Stoffel: It's just not going Stoffel Vandoorne's way. Expected to be leaving McLaren at the end of the year, the Belgian driver is hanging on to his F1 career by a thread. McLaren was never going to qualify well here but finishing bottom of the order is another gut-wrenching blow to his chances of remaining on the grid.

Fernando mischief: Fernando Alonso appeared to ruin the qualifying lap of Kevin Magnussen at the end of Q2. The McLaren driver caught the Dane as they ran down to Turn 1, meaning they both went into the corner wheel to wheel.

On his radio channel afterwards, Alonso chuckled and claimed "Magnussen wanted to race". Haas boss Guenther Steiner immediately marched down the pit lane to remonstrate with McLaren boss Zak Brown. Alonso, knowing he's on his way out of F1 at the end of the year, might well have just entered full-on troll mode at a weekend that otherwise is all about the team he left at the end of 2014, Ferrari, due to its failure to deliver him a championship winning car.

Raikkonen stormed to his first pole position since Monaco, 2017.ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images

Sauber struggle: Sauber has had an odd weekend, which started with Marcus Ericsson's odd DRS issue on Friday. Charles Leclerc seemed baffled by his car's lack of pace in Q1 and he and Ericsson will start in the lower reaches of the grid.

Power track: The nearest car to Ferrari and Mercedes was Max Verstappen's Red Bull, a huge 1.496s off the pace, hinting at just how big the outright power advantage is of the top two manufacturers over the rest.

Start prediction: This one could be a real doozy. Ferrari has been good off the line this year so Raikkonen and Vettel will feel confident of keeping Hamilton behind them. However, the prospect of championship contender Vettel having to keep one eye on Hamilton behind, and another on a chance to pass Raikkonen into Turn 1 ahead, could provide a fascinating charge down to the opening corner.

Star of the session: Kimi is the popular choice after his first pole since Monaco last year, but I'll throw a left-field suggestion in and say Lance Stroll. The Canadian driver has come under much criticism because of his father's wealth (not helped by the expected move to Force India, now owned by his dad) but he did well to deliver Williams its first Q3 appearance of what has otherwise been a dismal campaign so far.