Italian GP: All McLaren front row as Hamilton takes Monza pole, Button second
By Berthold Bouman
Lewis Hamilton took pole position for McLaren during qualifying for round 12 of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. His team colleague Jenson Button took second place making it an all McLaren front row, while Felipe Massa had a good day in his Ferrari and crossed the finish line in third position.
“I had much better laps in practice, but generally I can’t complain. I didn’t think that lap was anywhere near good enough,” said Hamilton to the BBC. “I had Kimi and the two Ferraris in front and I wasn’t able to better it. I’m happy for the team because they have been doing a fantastic job. To have us both up here is what they deserve!”
A warm summer day in Italy with an ambient temperature of 28 degrees Celsius and plenty of Tifosi present at the famous Monza track to cheer on their favourite team: Scuderia Ferrari.
Drivers started the first qualifying session on the hard Pirellis, Paul di Resta in the Force India set the early benchmark with a lap of 1m25.384s, while his team colleague Nico Hulkenberg missed the first chicane, the Variante Rettifilo, due to gearbox problems and later had to park his car somewhere on the circuit, unfortunately, it was game over for the young German.
Fernando Alonso soon took over first place for Ferrari with a time of 1m24.540s, with ten minutes to go, Nico Rosberg was second and was followed by di Resta, Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher was sixth. Both McLarens soon emerged from the pit lane and had no problem finding the right pace, Lewis Hamilton took third, and Jenson Button took ninth place.
Jerome d’Ambrosio was a bit disappointing in the Lotus, with only five minutes left he was in 18th place, and it was therefore time for a run on the medium compound tyres, he was half-a-second faster and took P17, demoting Angry Bird Heikki Kovalainen in the Caterham to 18th spot. Both Kovalainen and d’Ambrosio kept fighting for 17th place and a ticket to the second qualifying session until the last second, but it was d’Ambrosio in the Lotus who ultimately won the battle.
Thus Kovalainen, Vitaly Petrov, Timo Glock, Charles Pic, Narain Karthikeyan, Pedro de la Rosa and the very unfortunate Hulkenberg did not make it into Q2.
Di Resta and d’Ambrosio were first out in Q2, the rest played the familiar waiting game to save tyres for Q3 and the race on Sunday. The first chicane again proved to be a difficult one, as many drivers, including Massa, Rosberg and Schumacher missed their braking point and had to use the escape road.
All drivers were on the medium tyres now, Alonso was with ten minutes to go fastest with a lap of 1m24.242s. Button was also fast and was second, just 0.013 seconds behind the Ferrari. Both Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were again off the pace, even on the medium tyres, Vettel was ninth and Webber 13th with just five minutes left on the clock.
Again several drivers stayed in the garage as they were certain of a place in Q3, but Raikkonen, Vettel and Pastor Maldonado, the last three in the top-ten, went out to try to secure their position. Both Vettel and Webber were in the drop-out zone, Vettel did improve his time, but Webber finished in 11th place, and was out of Q3, as were Maldonado, Sergio Perez, Bruno Senna, Daniel Ricciardo, d’Ambrosio and Jean-Eric Vergne.
While Webber was already doing his mandatory interviews with the media in the paddock, Ferrari were this time the first to make an early run as Alonso and Massa emerged from the pit lane while the rest elected to stay in. Both drivers gave an in-team slip-stream demonstration and Massa got the best tow and set a time of 1m24.436s.
But it was Hamilton who was fastest after one run with a time of 1m24.010s, while Button took third place. It was then time for a fresh set of tyres or a last adjustment, and with just three minutes to go all drivers came out again for their last and deciding run of the day.
It was expected Ferrari would play the slip-stream game again but now to give Alonso a good tow, but much to everyone’s surprise they didn’t and Alonso on top of that made a mistake at the first chicane and finished in tenth place, but Hamilton drove a flawless lap and took pole, Button and Massa took second and third place.
“The last few races have really shown our strength. Qualifying both of us on the front row is great,” said Button, but he warned, “even being on the front row it’s not going to be an easy race.”
Massa was of course happy with his third place, and asked about the slip-streaming he answered, “For me it was no different because I made my best lap without the tow. Fernando helped me on the first try on Q3 but he was supposed to do his lap on the second time, I was supposed to help him on the second lap.”
Paul di Resta took a surprising fourth place, but has a five-place grid penalty for changing the gearbox of his Force India and will start from ninth position on the grid tomorrow.
Schumacher was fifth, and he was followed by his compatriot Vettel who took a disappointing sixth place as his Red Bull clearly lacked straight-line speed at the ultra-fast Monza circuit. Another German finished in seventh place, Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes, Raikkonen was eighth for Lotus and Kamui Kobayashi was ninth. Places five to nine will move up one place due to di Resta’s penalty, but Alonso stays tenth on tomorrow’s start grid.
Alonso later revealed he had a mechanical failure, the rear anti-roll bar had broken, a very rare failure. “The car felt impossible to drive and we just completed one lap; we knew we had no time to repair the car so we just tried to complete one lap and maybe overtake one or two cars that maybe were not going out to save tyres,” he said.
He actually reckoned he could have grabbed pole easily, “We knew that we always had three or four tenths in the pocket so I think maybe today was let’s say an easy pole position. It’s never easy but today was a good chance, the car was performing well. But we start tenth so we need to take this potential of the car in to tomorrow’s race and hopefully recover some positions.”
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