Kimi Räikkönen at Monza - the fastest lap in F1

It was a record that had been held since 2004, the one and that will perhaps last for one year only as it will be probably broken by the development of these cars which are the fastest ever. But it was broken by Ferrari and its last world champion. Lewis Hamilton, the quickest ever over one lap, said he could do no more; Sebastian Vettel, his championship contender, said his teammate took advantage of the tow.

All true, maybe, but, in Monza, the one on the pole position was Kimi Räikkönen, a driver maybe not capable to win championships anymore but still with a crystalline talent. Kimi killed two birds with one stone – making the fastest lap in F1 and being the oldest pole-sitter; maybe it was three birds since he also managed to make his wife cry.

A pole position at Monza is worth so many disappointments – after all, he did beat two great drivers. He hasn’t lost his touch; he drove his fans, who love him worldwide, crazy. Perhaps the last acute of the Iceman Finn who warms hearts. A silent champion with a big heart and great sensitivity. Special personality and great pride in one. The last exponent of romantic Formula One, when pilots only drove and died. He has been through many eras, he has lived so many lives. He wanted to give us another great joy and we’ll never forget it. Thanks Kimi, thanks champ.

Räikkönen produced a lap of one minute and 19.119 seconds, beating Vettel and Hamilton to pole in Monza qualifying, posting the fastest lap in F1 history. "Yes!" came Vettel's message over team radio, as he crossed the line only to be told he was second fastest to the teammate following behind.

"We'll speak after," was his cold response. Three-quarters of a lap at Monza taken at full-throttle and gaining a tow can enhance times. On the final run, the Finn, who was on track behind Vettel and would have been picking up a slipstream from the German setting the best final sector of the day, claimed, with a last-gasp effort, his first pole position since Monaco last year and a first at Monza since 2006.

The 38-year-old, who has not won since he was with Lotus in 2013, also became the oldest pole-sitter since Britain's Nigel Mansell in 1994. His superb pace in the final sector, aided by a tow from his Ferrari team-mate, was key to his pole, completing it a tenth-and-a-half faster than Vettel. The German was blunt as to why this was the case. “We have an order that changes every weekend and this weekend it was Kimi’s to go second,” he said.

When asked what he wanted to talk to the team about he would not expound but it is reasonable to assume he may have requested the two switched. “Clearly I was not happy,” he said “but I don’t tell you why.” Vettel admitted his lap was “not good enough” but Räikkönen suggested the question of track position had been discussed.

“Obviously, there were a lot of games,” he said. “Who is going first, getting tows and this and that. But in the end, there was a train of cars and that’s enough.” The Finn’s lap broke Juan Pablo Montoya's 2004 record for the fastest lap in F1. The Colombian clocked at an average of 262.242 km/h, whereas Räikkönen averaged 263.587 km/h for his 18th pole position. The roar of approval from the swathes of fans strung as a scarlet ribbon on the edge of Monza’s sweeping thrill-ride heralded a result these tifosi have long waited to celebrate. Ferrari had pole position for the Italian GP after an eight-year absence from the top spot. Lewis Hamilton, in third, believed he had extracted as much as he could from his Mercedes and admitted he could do no more.

"I couldn't think of a better place to be on pole and it went right in the end," said Räikkönen.

Sep 13, 2018