However, Verstappen will serve a five-place grid penalty, promoting Mercedes driver George Russell to the front row.
Ferrari dominated Q3 in the hour-long session, with Carlos Sainz taking provisional top-qualifier spot after the first runs. The Spaniard couldn’t keep pace with Leclerc and Verstappen the second time around, however, and slipped to third in the order.
Halfway through the final laps Verstappen looked set to cause an upset on Ferrari turf with a purple middle sector, but Leclerc’s lap pulled pole out of the bag despite not being fastest in any split, taking pole position by 0.145 seconds.
His pole was received rapturously by the sell-out partisan crowd, and Leclerc invoked the memory of his hard-fought pole and victory in Monza in 2019 in anticipation of Sunday’s race.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “It wasn’t an easy qualifying session. I knew that there was quite a bit of potential in the car.
“I just took much more risks. It was the last lap, I knew I had to find quite a lot of performance.
“I knew in the last laps in Q3 I had to put everything together, and I managed to do it.
“It’s been a great weekend until now. The feeling in the car is amazing, and I hope we can do just like 2019 tomorrow.”
Verstappen was second quickest but will be demoted five places on the grid for changing his internal combustion engine. However, with nine drivers set to be penalised for Sunday’s race for similar reasons, his starting position is unclear ‒ though he was confident of a good result regardless of his grid slot.
“It was close, but we chose to go for a little more downforce around here,” he said. “I think over one lap maybe it’s not the best, but for tomorrow it can be quite strong, knowing we have to start a little bit back.
“I think it will be an interesting battle.”
The Dutchman could start as high as fourth or as low as seventh. The FIA had not confirmed the grid at the time or writing.
Sainz was third quickest but will be sent to 18th as the best-placed of three drivers all with back-of-grid penalties.
The Spaniard said he enjoyed qualifying despite knowing he couldn’t improve his result.
“It was honestly a very good quali session,” he said. “I was feeling very well and pushing flat out
“The only issue is that I didn’t have a tow, and that probably cost me two or three tenths for pole position ‒ but anyway I’m starting last for tomorrow, so it’s not like it’s changing my life.”
Sergio Perez qualified fourth but will be penalised 10 places on the grid.
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell followed, but Hamilton will drop to 19th thanks to a wholesale power unit change, while Russell will be promoted to the front row alongside Leclerc.
Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo were seventh and eighth for McLaren but stand to benefit from other penalties. Norris will start third, while Ricciardo could start as high as fourth.
Pierre Gasly had a scrappy Q3 to finish the session ninth ahead of only Fernando Alonso, who didn’t set a time, but both will start behind Ricciardo on the grid.
Esteban Ocon was 11th but will drop five places on the grid. Valtteri Bottas was a close match for the Frenchman but will lose 15 places, dropping him to 17th.
Williams substitute Nyck de Vries was knocked out a commendable 13th. The Dutchman was called up to replace Thai driver Alex Albon, who has appendicitis, on Saturday morning but still comfortably beat teammate Nicholas Latifi. He also beat Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu; both will be promoted after penalties.
Yuki Tsunoda was knocked out of Q2 without a time but will start last thanks to an engine penalty and for accruing too many sporting reprimands this season.
Nicholas Latifi was shown up by temporary teammate De Vries, with the Canadian butchering his final flying lap by overshooting the first chicane.
He was quick enough to keep himself ahead of both Aston Martin drivers, with a disappointed Sebastian Vettel beating teammate Lance Stroll.
Kevin Magnussen beat Haas teammate Mick Schumacher, with the German coming into qualifying with precious few laps due to a string of technical problems during practice.