Reminiscent of last year’s qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix, yesterday’s Q1 was an absolute farce. Despite the FIA issuing guidelines over drivers’ slow laps, many teams failed to set a competitive lap time in the first part of qualifying.
Most notably, Esteban Ocon and Kimi Raikkonen battled for position on what was supposed to be a crucial timed lap. Ultimately, Raikkonen and Ocon failed to improve their times with the duo’s battle, subsequently spoiling several other drivers’ laps.
For those who missed Q1, Ocon barely led Raikkonen before the pair began their respective flying laps. With the tow being particularly effective in Monza, the Finn caught up with Ocon a few corners into that lap. And that is where things got really messy.
In a bid to stay ahead of Raikkonen by all means, Ocon appeared to ‘block’ and aggressively defend against the Finn. As expected, the iceman fumed over the team radio in a rant that was peppered with expletives.
Following qualy, both drivers presented their sides of the argument, and Raikkonen, despite being critical on track, didn’t lash out at Ocon. The Frenchman, on the other hand, defended his actions.
“Nothing really happened but, of course, Kimi started his lap too close to me, so he was trying to pass me. But if that had been the case then both of our laps would have been ruined. Obviously his was, but I still managed to complete mine.
“I did what I had to do to keep myself in front,” Ocon said.“I exited the garage in front of Kimi and that’s how we are supposed to start. In the end he was attacking and he was too close to me, so if he goes by, both of our laps are ruined. There’s not much I could have done.”
Ocon also blamed the FIA’s lap time rule, which failed to prevent the problems in Q1.
“I think the new rule, obviously on the delta that we have to follow for not going too slow. Made things worse to be honest than how it was before. We need to review, obviously at the next drivers’ meeting, what we can do better.”
With tensions flying high, today’s race is sure to spice things up in the midfield.