Hamilton on pole at Monza with Alonso 10th
MONZA, Italy |
MONZA, Italy (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton swept to pole position for the Italian Formula One Grand Prix on Saturday with McLaren team mate Jenson Button alongside while Ferrari's championship leader Fernando Alonso qualified 10th.
It was McLaren's third successive pole, and 23rd of Hamilton's career, and left the two Britons perfectly placed for a third win in a row after their third one-two in qualifying this season.
Despite the show of force on a sunny afternoon in Ferrari's evocative backyard, with McLaren celebrating a record 62nd front row lockout, Hamilton still found fault with his performance.
"I think practice was a lot better for me," said the 2008 champion, who was fastest in the morning's final session before qualifying, of what he called a 'half-decent' lap.
"I didn't think that lap was anywhere near good enough," added the 27-year-old, whose Formula One future has been the major talking point of the weekend with speculation raging that he could move to Mercedes.
If he was unhappy, it was nothing compared to the long faces at Ferrari after Alonso went fastest in the first two parts of qualifying and then suffered a mechanical failure with pole seemingly his for the taking.
Ferrari said the part that had failed cost one euro ($1.28) to make.
"Today was maybe one of the easiest situations in my career, which started in 1973, to get a pole position in Monza. Alonso was absolutely the quickest," Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo told reporters.
"The car is extremely competitive...to start from 10th instead of first, we have to be disappointed. Especially after what happened in Spa."
Alonso, who has a 24-point lead over Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel with eight races remaining, was caught in a first corner pile-up at last weekend's Belgian Grand Prix that ended his run of 23 races in the points.
Button has finished runner-up at Monza for the past three years in a row but knows only too well that the driver on pole has also ended up the winner in six of the last 10 races there and that Hamilton will be hard to beat.
"The last few races have really shown our strength," said Button. "Qualifying both of us on the front row is great...but even being on the front row it's not going to be an easy race."
Ferrari's Brazilian Felipe Massa, whose future at Ferrari looks shakier than ever after he scored just 35 points in 12 races, qualified third.
Britain's Paul Di Resta qualified fourth fastest but has a five-place grid penalty due to an unscheduled gearbox change. That meant Michael Schumacher, still adored by the Ferrari fans for his golden past with the team, will start on the second row instead for Mercedes.
Vettel will share the third row with the Mercedes of compatriot Nico Rosberg with former Ferrari champion Kimi Raikkonen seventh for Lotus and alongside Japan's Kamui Kobayashi for Sauber.
"I'm pretty happy with the result," said Vettel. "If you look from us to the front, the gaps are too big. All weekend we were not quick enough so P6 is a very good place to be...I think the pace tomorrow should be better."
Force India's Nico Hulkenberg will start last after he failed to set a time in qualifying after slowing and stopping on the escape road next to the first Rettifilio chicane due to a fuel pressure problem.
His problems allowed Belgian Jerome D'Ambrosio, replacing Romain Grosjean at Lotus for one race after the Frenchman was banned for triggering the Spa pile-up, to go through to the second phase.
He will start 15th because Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, wearing a new helmet with "Less Trouble, More Speed' written on it, has a 10-place grid penalty for jumping the start at the last race in Belgium and causing a collision.
For the first time since 1969, Sunday's race will have no Italian drivers in it - although the grim economic climate was a more likely explanation for the unusually large numbers of empty seats in the main grandstand which made qualifying look more like Friday's practice.
D'Ambrosio, Massa, Toro Rosso's Australian Daniel Ricciardo and Di Resta all have Italian ancestry, however.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Martyn Herman and Toby Davis)
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