MONZA, Italy (Reuters) - Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel chalked up Red Bull’s 13th pole position in 13 races this season with a blistering lap in Italian Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, nearly half a second slower than the German in the final session, will line up alongside the championship leader on the front row, with team mate Jenson Button in third place.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, last year’s winner from pole position at the fastest track on the calendar, qualified in fourth place in his team’s home race.
It was Vettel’s 10th pole of the season, four shy of Briton Nigel Mansell’s 1992 record of 14, and the 25th of his 75-race career.
Red Bull have now been on pole for the past 14 races, with Vettel also quickest at last year’s Abu Dhabi season-ender.
“We thought it would be much closer than that,” said Vettel, who won from pole at Monza with Red Bull’s Italian-based sister team Toro Rosso in 2008, after taking the top slot with a lap of one minute 22.275 seconds.
“This year I have to say the car is so good here. The balance is perfect.”
Red Bull Racing have yet to get one of their drivers on the podium at Monza but Vettel, 92 points clear of Australian team mate Mark Webber with seven races remaining, should end that on Sunday.
“I remember the last time and hopefully I am back on the podium tomorrow,” he said, smiling.
“I didn’t have another half a second in the bag...Sebastian was mega-quick today,” said Hamilton, who lapped in 1:22.725, of the demoralising gap between him and the 24-year-old Vettel.
“Clearly we are very competitive here so that’s a great step,” added the Briton, who will be hoping to get the jump on Vettel at the start. “But today in the last lap that (time) was untouchable for me.”
Button, who has been runner-up at Monza for the past two seasons, could only agree.
“Even if we had got a little bit more out of the car, we were never going to challenge Seb,” he said.
“The strange thing is that these guys don’t look like they were carrying a lot of wing but they are half a second quicker than us in the last sector which is the high speed corner, so difficult to understand.”
Webber, who has yet to win this season, lines up fifth after his mechanics worked late into the night on his car to fix a problem. He did only one run in the final session.
He will have Ferrari’s Felipe Massa alongside and ahead of Renault’s Vitaly Petrov and former Ferrari ace Michael Schumacher, now with Mercedes.
Brazilian Bruno Senna, in his second race with Renault, will again start in the top 10 and next to Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.
Ferrari’s performance will not have helped sell more seats in the grandstand on the main straight, with plenty of empty space throughout the session where once there would have been red-shirted hordes.
“Fighting for the win? I think it will be very difficult, even if this year’s races have often thrown up surprises,” said Alonso.
“I will try to make up some places at the start which could make the race even more interesting.”
Editing by Stephen Wood