UNI-Virtuosi’s Callum Ilott put a disappointing Round 7 behind him in the best possible style by taking his fourth pole position of the season, and his second in a row at Monza, in FIA Formula 2 Qualifying.
Mick Schumacher took a late trip into the wall, which ended the session early, but Ilott had already put his time on the board, beating the fastest man from Free Practice Yuki Tsunoda by 0.030s. Italian racer Luca Ghiotto was third to clinch a second row start for the Feature Race at his home event.
Having topped Free Practice for the fourth time in 2020, all eyes were firmly on Tsunoda as he looked to follow it up with a third pole of the season. The Carlin driver was instantly out onto the tarmac and led the standings after the first set of flying laps, but with plenty of time still to find.
The Red Bull Junior was the first man to break the 1m 33s barrier, but he wasn’t the only one. Schumacher and Christian Lundgaard both found two tenths more pace than Tsunoda, going first and second, ahead of the Japanese driver.
Jehan Daruvala, Dan Ticktum and Nikita Mazepin were all able to get better laps on the board too ahead of the halfway point, when everyone dashed into the pits for fresh boots.
It’s not unusual to see at least one of the grid opt to run in the gap – but not in Monza. The tow around the circuit can be worth as much as three tenths of a second, meaning that there is little worth in going it alone.
Ticktum led the cars back out on the circuit but made a mistake on his first flying lap which meant he was unable to improve. The provisional pole-sitter, Schumacher, didn’t fare any better either, which allowed four drivers to fire above him.
Top of those was Tsunoda, who beat out home hero Ghiotto by 0.01s, followed by Lundgaard and Roy Nissany.
Title contender Ilott had been unusually quiet for the majority of the session, but pulled it out of the bag when it really mattered. The Briton took a mega tow from the back of Felipe Drugovich and flung his car around in sublime fashion, bettering Tsunoda’s time by three hundredths of second. The UNI-Virtuosi man seemed surprised, telling his team on the radio, “that didn’t feel like a good lap, but okay.”
Ilott dusted himself off and began his cool-down lap as he prepped himself for an expected challenge on the position – but it never came. Schumacher, who had looked so impressive in the first half of the session, lost the rear of his car and dumped his PREMA in the barriers. This brought out a red flag and ended the session prematurely.
The early end means that Ilott will start on pole in Monza for the second year in a row, ahead of Tsunoda and Ghiotto. Lundgaard takes fourth, ahead of Nissany, who scored his best ever Qualifying finish.
Mazepin managed to put in a lap before Schumacher’s crash to take sixth, ahead of the German. Daruvala, Louis Delétraz and Ticktum complete the top ten. Championship leader Robert Shwartzman has left himself with plenty to do on Saturday, with the PREMA racer down in P16.
PREMA face a race against time to fix German’s car ahead of the Feature Race tomorrow, while UNI-Virtuosi will be gearing Ilott up for another front-row start, when the action gets underway at 4.45pm (local time).