Italian GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
All McLaren front row at Monza
Lewis Hamilton (1:24.010) and Jenson Button (1:24.133) locked out the front row of the Italian Grand Prix grid and put McLaren in a strong position to achieve a hat-trick of victories after it became the first team to achieve back-to-back 2012 wins at Spa.
Hamilton's championship chances -- he is currently 47 points behind series leader Alonso -- would be greatly helped by a second win in three races after his first lap elimination at Spa last weekend, but his ehtusiasm for his pole position lap was well under control.
"Practice was much better, I had much better laps," he claimed, "but I can't complain. I didn't actually think that the lap was anywhere near good enough. To have us both up here on the front row is great. Monza is an incredible circuit: you have to respect the high speeds but the more and more you drive it, the more you appreciate it."
Button, just 0.12s slower, and chasing his second successive win in a bid to get back into the title battle, seemed happier.
"I tried a couple of things on Friday afternoon that didn't really work and today the car has beena lot better. This place reminds me of karting because it's all about keeping the speed up in places like Ascari and Parabolica."
Low downforce Monza, the fastest circuit on the calendar, is a track where slipstreaming used to be key, until the track was broken up by a series of chicane. Today, the technique is still valid, if less so.
"In Q3 I got a reasonable tow from Vettel which made a huge difference. I personally feel it's hard to plan inter-team towing. It's very tricky, so we did it by finding traffic on the circuit."
One team which did try to make slipstreaming an intrisic part of its strategy was Ferrari, with Fernando Alonso assisting team mate Felipe Massa on the first Q3 run and Massa scheduled to repay the compliment on the second run. Unfortunately for the championship leader, while Massa (1:24.909) qualified third (from his second, unassisted run incidentally), Alonso faces a diffiuclt Sunday afternoon in front of the Ferrari faithful when a suspected detached anti-rollbar limited him to 10th.
Paul Di Resta (1:24.304) did a superb job to set fourth quickest time for Force India but a five place grid penalty for gearbox change drops him to ninth. Team mate Nico Hulkenberg suffered a worse fate when he was elinated in Q1 when his car suddenly lost drive.
Michael Schumacher, who drove a controversially defensive race to keep Hamilton behind him in the early stages of last year's Italian GP, will start fourth on tomorrow's grid after a strong 1:24.540 in the first Mercedes, with team mate Nico Rosberg (1:24.833) three tenths and two slots further back.
The Mercedes twins sandwich Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull (1:24.802), which will start fifth after Di Resta's penalty is applied.
The Red Bulls have struggled slightly for one lap pace since the weekend began and the defending champion, first ot the Renault-engined cars, cannot be too disappointed after a session that saw team mate Mark Webber eliminated in Q2. The Australian starts 11th.
Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus (1:24.855), Kamui Kobayashi's Sauber (1:25.109) and Alonso completed the top 10 qualifiers.
Jerome D'Ambrosio, faced with the difficult task of a one-off race at low downforce race at Monza without experince of the Lotus E20, lapped 0.66 from team mate Raikkonen in Q2 and starts the race 16th.