Italian GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
Alonso snatches Italian GP pole
Fernando Alonso (1:21.962) secured Ferrari's first pole position since the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix with a sensational first Q3 run to keep his slim championship chances alive in front of the Italian team's fans.
"It was a nice surprise when I stopped in parc ferme and they told me I'd kept pole but I knew Jenson was on a good lap and I always felt that someone might do a strong last lap and we'd be second or third by a hundredth. But today was different and it's a great feeling to get pole in Italy for Ferrari," Alonso said.
Explaining why his first run was stronger, he added: "On the second lap I risked a bit more and in the fast corners here with the low downforce it's easy to overdrive and it was simply that the first, calmer lap was the better one."
Button (1:22.084) did improve on that final Q3 run and managed to split the Ferraris on the grid with Felipe Massa qualifying third fastest (1:22.293).
"I want to say a big thank-you to the team," the reigning champion said. "We weren't sure which approach to take in terms of downforce level but our side of the garage made the right decision to run the higher level with the F-duct. In Q3 you just have to push that bit more but it's tricky around here -- you hit a kerb too hard and you go slower. I hit one a bit hard in Ascari on my final run but I'm delighted to be second and it's the first time I've been on the front row this year.
"When you have more downforce you can brake later, I did miles in the simulator with it, and you can carry more speed in the corners. I had to be aggressive and push the car and it worked in qualifying, which I wasn't sure if it would, but in terms of a race car I think we're looking good."
For the first time since last year's Italian Grand Prix therefore, there will not be a Red Bull on the front row of the grid. Despite that, Mark Webber (1:22.433) did a fine job to put himself fourth with his last run, pipping championship leader Lewis Hamilton despite missing out on his option tyre laps in both FP2 and FP3. The Australian's morning problem was identified as an airbox issue and did not affect his qualifying effort.
Hamilton (1:22.623), having looked a likely contender for the pole, outbraked himself into the first chicane on his last lap of the session and had to be content with fifth place.
Sebastian Vettel (1:22.625) looks like he could have a tough task to get his championship challenge back on track starting from sixth on the grid with the second Red Bull.
Behind the top three teams Nico Rosberg (1:23.027) starts seventh for Mercedes while team mate Michael Schumacher could not get out of Q2 and lines up 12th. Nico Hulkenberg (1:23.037) put the first of the two Williams-Cosworths eighth, just a tenth behind Rosberg and two thousands clear of Robert Kubica's Renault (1:23.039). Rubens Barrichello completed the top 10 with the second Williams.
Looking ahead to tomorrow's race, Alonso said: "I think we need a podium minimum to remain in the championship fight. There is not a big stress to win the race but we know we cannot afford another DNF or bad result. What we need is the consistency we haven't so far had, for the rest of the championship."