The qualifying to the third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship 2021 was run at the classic Italian track, Autodromo Nazionale Monza just outside Milan.
The weekend started with 37 cars but was reduced to 36 cars in qualifying when Inception Racing Ferrari #71 had to pull out due to a damaged rear on the 488 GTE. It happened in the second free practice when Brendan Iribe went off in Variante Ascari.
The mechanics at Iron Lynx Ferrari #60 were working overtime after Claudio Schiavoni collided with Alpine Elf Matmut #36 also in FP2. It had damaged the entire front of the car, and the mechanics had to work really hard on Saturday afternoon. But they managed to repair the car before the qualifying.
Fifteen GTE Am and four GTE Pro cars rolled out to the track as they began their ten-minute qualifying.
The Am cars were out first, while the Pro cars waited a bit longer before they came out.
Andrew Haryanto in Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88 had a spin in Variante Della Roggia, on his first flying lap. But luckily he could get away from there by himself.
Kevin Estre onboard Porsche #92 outbraked himself at the start of his flying lap, and just like that the lap was over.
Team Project 1 Porsche #46 had a spin but quickly recovered.
AF Corse Ferrari #51 was the first GTE Pro car to set a fast lap, while AF Corse Ferrari #83 also went up to top the GTE Am list.
D’Station Racing Aston Martin #777 went a bit wide over the gravel but it wasn’t serious.
After going off the track, Porsche #92 jumped up to P1 in GTE Pro on the following lap.
TF Sport Aston Martin #33 also wanted to get involved in the top battle and overtook first place in GTE Am.
Both Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 and Iron Lynx Ferrari #85 had an exciting moment in the first chicane, where they had to drive through the run-off area, all at different times.
Ben Keating successfully improved his time on the very last lap, and thus secured Pole Position to TF Sport Aston Martin #33, which he shares with Dylan Pereira and Felipe Fraga. AF Corse Ferrari #83 with Francois Perrodo, Alessio Rovera and Danish Nicklas Nielsen will start the race from second place, while the local heroes, as well as championship-leading car Cetilar Racing Ferrari #47 with Roberto Lacorte, Giorgio Sernagiotto and Antonio Fuoco, will start from P3.
The Pole Position in GTE Pro was secured by Porsche #92 with Kevin Estre and Neel Jani, ahead of Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado in AF Corse Ferrari #51, while Porsche #91 with Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz will start from third, in front of Miguel Molina and Daniel Serra in AF Corse Ferrari #52.
Afterwards, it was time for the five Hypercars and twelve LMP2 cars to do their qualifying.
Alpine Elf Matmut #36 took their time to come around the first lap, but Nicolas Lapierre got the car up to speed halfway through the lap.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 outbraked itself in Turn 1, and had to take a detour through the styrofoam chicane, so that people didn’t try to do full speed on the run-off area.
Glickenhaus Racing #708 drove their best lap at Monza and jumped up to P1, but they quickly had to give away the position to Alpine Elf Matmut #36.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 did the same mistake again on the next flying lap.
Team WRT #31 took P1 in the LMP2 category, closely followed by Racing Team Nederland #29.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 overtook first place, but Alpine Elf Matmut #36 was very close, on their next flying lap.
JOTA chose to change the tires on both their cars.
But a red flag came when Stoffel Vandoorne in JOTA #28 lost control of the car at the exit of Lesmo 2, on his flying lap.
Just before the red flag came out, Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 managed to take P1 in Hypercar.
The qualifying got restarted with two minutes and forty-seven seconds left, which should be enough for one flying lap.
The stewards were currently investigating United Autosports USA #22, Inter Europol Competition #34, JOTA #38, ARC Bratislava #44, and Glickenhaus Racing #708 for potentially breaking the rules under the red flag by touching the car, such as changing tires.
Toyota Gazoo Racing were the only two cars staying in the pits, while everyone else – minus JOTA #28 – were out on the track.
Glickenhaus #709, however, pitted again right away.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 with Jose Maria Lopez (as well as Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway) took Pole Position amongst the Hypercars, ahead of their sister car #8 with Brendon Hartley (and Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima), and with Alpine Elf Matmut #36 with Nicolas Lapierre (as well as Andre Negrao and Matthieu Vaxiviere) in P3. Glickenhaus Racing was close with their #708, who was only 0,787 second away from Pole Position.
Team WRT #31 kept their hold in the LMP2 Pole with Charles Milesi (as well as Robin Frijns and Ferdinand Habsburg), followed by United Autosports USA #22 with Filipe Albuquerque (plus Phil Hanson and Fabio Scherer), while DragonSpeed USA #21 with Ben Hanley (plus Juan Pablo Montoya and Henrik Hedman) not only took P3 in LMP2 but was also the fastest in LMP2 Pro/Am. It wasn’t just the first Pole Position for Team WRT in FIA WEC, but also the very first Pole for twenty-year-old Milesi.
Now the stewards have to figure out if any of the teams will be penalised for potentially breaking the rules under the red flag. Otherwise, the teams are going to start their preparation for the six-hour race tomorrow, which will start at 12 o’clock. The race can be streamed at FIAWEC.com.
The investigation of the five LMP cars turned out that the drivers hadn’t braked quickly enough when the red flag came out. All of them got away with just a reprimand, as well as two penalty points on the licence, which potentially can result in a penalty later in the season.
However, AF Corse Ferrari #83 got disqualified from the qualifying because the car’s ground clearance was less than 50mm, as the rules state. This means that Alessio Rovera will have to start the race from last in GTE Am, since he was the fastest driver in the car in free practice. It could potentially give the team a big problem, since you traditionally start with the bronze-rated driver, so that the professionals can drive the remaining part of the race. On the other hand, there’s a huge chance for #83 to lead the GTE Am category already after a few laps.
It means Cetilar Racing #47 moves up to the second position, followed by Team Project 1 Porsche #56 in P3.