Before Saturday, no one had driven a faster lap in F1 history than Juan Pablo Montoya. Back in 2004, during the first part of qualifying in Italy, the Colombian had hustled his BMW-powered Williams around Monza’s historic Temple of Speed at an average of 262.242 km/h (162.9 mph).
It was a monumental, jaw-dropping effort – but records are made to be broken. And on Saturday in a breathless qualifying session at the very same circuit, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen did just that…
As the chequered flag came out, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Raikkonen’s team mate Sebastian Vettel had, in quick succession, both staked a claim for pole. But then the Finn flashed across the line in their slipstream to stop the clocks at 1m 19.119s. Pole position was his – and with it a new benchmark for F1 speed.
Raikkonen, who at 38 will become the oldest pole sitter since Nigel Mansell in 1994, lapped Monza’s iconic 5.7 kilometres at an average of 263.587 km/h (163.785 mph), demonstrating not only his prowess behind the wheel, but the incredible performance levels of the current era of F1 machinery.
When Montoya clocked his lap, his car was fitted with a 3-litre, normally aspirated V10 engine. In the back of Raikkonen’s SF17H? A 1.6-litre turbo power unit, boosted by electrical energy harvested from waste heat and braking energy.
Will the Iceman’s benchmark last as long as Montoya’s, or indeed as long as Keke Rosberg’s, whose extraordinary qualifying lap of Silverstone in 1985 was once the standard setter? That remains to be seen, but you get the sense that the Tifosi, who cheered Raikkonen around every corner, won’t care, for this day will live long in the memory.