Lewis Hamilton continued McLaren's strong form at Monza on Saturday as he claimed his fourth pole position of the campaign ahead of Jenson Button.
Hamilton put in a 1:24.010 to set the pace while Button was one of the last to cross the line, just 0.123s behind his team-mate. Felipe Massa managed P3 for Ferrari while red hot favourite for pole, Fernando Alonso, suffered a suspected anti-roll bar failure and could manage just 10th place. That after he had set a 1:24.175 on the slower tyre in Q1!
The session started with Monza bathed in sunshine and an ambient of 27C with the track at 39C. Sebastian Vettel was thankful that his alternator failure had come ten minutes before the end of Free Practice 3 and not in the first minutes of Qualifying.
Daniel Ricciardo set the first P1 time at 1:26.760, this was razored by Paul DiResta with a 1:25.384. Force India were having mixed fortunes because while Paul was setting the P1 time, team-mate Nico Hulkenberg stopped on track before even setting a time with what were either electrical or gear selection problems.
That meant that the front runners and mid-grid could breath easily in Q1 as they wouldn't come under pressure from the new teams. Fernando Alonso re-set P1 at 1:24.540 and then lowered that to a superb 1:24.175 (which would have been good enough for P3 on the final grid).
The Mclarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were faster than the Ferrari in the first two sectors of the lap, but lost time in the final sector around the daunting Parabolica curve.
Even though it was supposed to be easy getting into Q2 without Nico Hulknberg, Belgian driver Jerome D'Ambrosio, standing in for the banned Romain Grosjean at Lotus, was still behind a Caterham going into the final five minutes. The positions were: 16.Vergne, 17.Kovalainen, 18.D'Ambrosio, 19.Petrov, 20.Glock, 21.Karthikeyan, 22.de la Rosa, 23.Pic, 24.Hulkenberg.
D'Ambrosio, who Lotus team boss Eric Boullier expected to be about 0.6 behind Kimi Raikkonen, finally put a lap together for P17 - it was 0.6 ahead of P.18 man Kovalainen and 0.7 behind Raikkonen. As an undramatic session ended, the places were: 18.Kovalainen, 19.Petrov, 20.Glock, 21.Pic, 22.Karthikeyan, 23.de la Rosa, 24.Hulkenberg (no time)Qualifying 2
Paul DiResta set a very good early benchmark in Q2 with a 1:24.668 for 'Captain Gloomy' (as he's been dubbed by Offonf1.com). He would have to take a 5-place grid deduction for a change of gearbox on Saturday morning, but he already knew he would be starting in front of his team-mate.
Felipe Massa overdid it into the first chicane and lost small aero pieces off his Ferrari going over the kerbs, while Michael Schumacher also misjudged his braking there and had to traverse the sleeping policemen.
Fernando Alonso then took over in P1 after Nico Rosberg had briefly held the top spot. The Ferrari's time a 1:24.242. Jenson Button slotted into P2 behind. Hamilton could only manage P3 and radioed back: "I got held up".
Sergio Perez kicked up the dust at Parabolica in his attempt to make it into Q3 while Michael Schumacher was determined to make what could be his last Italian GP memorable by pushing his Mercedes to the very edge of the track on his way to P7.
Running into the final five minutes the positions were: 6.DiResta, 7.Schumacher, 8.Raikkonen, 9.Vettel, 10.Maldonado, 11.Senna, 12.Perez, 13.Webber, 14.Kobayashi, 15.D'Ambrosio, 16.Ricciardo, 17.Vergne
Out the cars came for one final try and although for a time it looked as though the Top 5 would stay in the garage, Paul DiResta came out towards the very end of the session to take P3.
Perez jumped to P10, Maldonado improved to P9 pushing Sebastian Vettel into P10 which became P11 seconds later when Kobayashi took P8. Mark Webber was now down in P14.
Vettel improved to a tenuous P9, Kimi Raikkonen grabbed P10, but Mark Webber could only manage P11 on his final lap and was out: 11.Webber, 12.Maldonado, 13.Perez, 14.Senna, 15.Ricciardo, 16.D'Ambrosio, 17.Vergne.
It was the third race in succession that one of the Red Bulls had failed to get into Q3, last time out it had been Vettel.
In morning practice the Ferrari team had practiced giving each other slipstreaming tows to improve time and now they headed out on track to see if they could make it work when it really counted. Massa was the beneficiary first time round putting in a 1:24.436 for provisional pole, less than a tenth quicker than his Q2 time.
When it was Alonso's turn the following lap something went wrong, as he could only manage a 1:30.976 and headed back for the pits instead of continuing for another lap.
Jenson Button slotted into P2 behind Massa and then Lewis Hamilton took provisional pole with a 1:24.010. Vettel managed P4. These five cars would have two attempts at grabbing pole while Rosberg, Schumacher, Kobayashi, DiResta and Raikkonen would try once.
Rosberg came out for his lap and took P4 off Vettel and then team-mate Michael Schumacher showed that there is life in the old dog yet taking P4 off his team-mate.
Paul DiResta, fired up by his five-place grid penalty set the fastest Sector 1 time so far before slotting his Force India into a superb P2 - then it was McLaren time. DiResta's fastest first sector had been 27.2, both McLarens came through in 27.0.
The Ferraris were out again but although Massa was going quicker (without the tow this time) Alonso was well down on pace. Massa grabbed P2 off DiResta but his team leader could only manage P10. Hamilton failed to improve, but Button came through just a tenth off Hamilton to make it an all-McLaren front row.
Investigations later showed that it was a suspected broken anti-roll bar that cost Alonso time and although it can be fixed before the race, starting P10 is disastrous in a GP which has been won by the polesitter nine times out of the last ten.
Though Hamilton and Button will be pleased with their performance it is a long run down to the first corner and the fast-starting Felipe Massa (P3) still has every chance of leading the opening lap of the Italian Grand Prix. However qualifying performance of the day came from Paul DiResta who would have been starting from P4 had it not been for a precautionary gearbox change from the team. With a lot of speed in the first sector, the Scot can make up places in the race tomorrow.
Vettel recovered to P6 and will start P5 after DiResta's move backwards , and Kimi Raikkonen will start from P7 with DiResta moving back to P9 ahead of Alonso. Thus providing us with a lot of championship action in the top 10 places.
01. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m24.010
02. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m24.133 + 0.123
03. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m24.247 + 0.237
04. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m24.304 + 0.294
05. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m24.540 + 0.530
06. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m24.802 + 0.792
07. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m24.833 + 0.823
08. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m24.855 + 0.845
09. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m25.109 + 1.099
10. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m25.678 + 1.668
11. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m24.809 + 0.567
12. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m24.820 + 0.578
13. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m24.901 + 0.659
14. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m25.042 + 0.800
15. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m25.312 + 1.070
16. Jerome d'Ambrosio Lotus-Renault 1m25.408 + 1.166
17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m25.441 + 1.199
18. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m26.382 + 2.207
19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m26.887 + 2.712
20. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m27.039 + 2.864
21. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m27.073 + 2.898
22. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m27.441 + 3.266
23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m27.629 + 3.454
24. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes