Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull team mate Mark Webber swept to the front row in Monza this afternoon as their rivals self-destructed around them in an action-packed qualifying session for the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Q1 saw the usual suspects drop out after their heroics in Belgium were unrepeatable in normal conditions, while Vettel headed up the order once again. Force India were left squabbling with Sauber and Williams to avoid the drop zone, and it was the rookie duo of Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutierrez who suffered as they failed to make the cut; the margin was a fine one as the top eighteen cars were all within a second of one another.
Q2 started with a frightening off-track excursion for Lewis Hamilton, the Briton seemingly falling asleep at the Parabolica and drifting off into the gravel trap to end his lap in a cloud of dust. Thankfully for Mercedes, he avoided hitting any walls or armco to struggle back to the pits. Things didn’t impove as he crashed out of contention with his final run not quick enough to get through to the top ten; Nico Hulkenberg caused a major upset as he managed to get his Sauber through to Q3 for the third time this year. Lotus lost both men, while Force India unsurprisingly also failed to make the cut.
The German made even bigger waves in Q3 as he set the timing screens alight to place his erstwhile-underperforming Sauber in 3rd, just behind the flawless duo of Webber and Vettel who rose above the carnage to claim the expected Red Bull one-two – a result that sees Vettel take his 40th career pole position.
Jean Eric Vergne repeated Hamilton’s error at the end of Q3, sending an impromptu smokescreen across the track that scuppered runs from Sergio Perez, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, who qualified behind team mate Felipe Massa in 4th. Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top seven.
“We didn’t expect to be so strong here, with both cars on the front row. It’s due to hard work from everyone in the team working long hours; we’ve had years where we’ve had a good car, but not a car that’s competitive in low down force trim, so in that regard we did our homework. This circuit has been a bit up and down for us, but this year it’s surely been more up so far! The car feels great, but let’s see what we can do tomorrow; we don’t get any points from today.” Sebastian Vettel, DEU, Red Bull Renault
“I just didn’t get a lap together in Q2 today and it’s hugely disappointing, not just for me, but also for the team and I can only apologise to them as we had a quick car today. Qualifying has always been a real strong point for me but it really didn’t come together this afternoon. Q1 was fine but I didn’t do a good enough job in Q2. I came off at Parabolica on my first run which damaged the car and it was a downward spiral from there really.” Lewis Hamilton, GBR, Mercedes
“I didn’t really expect more from the car this afternoon, to be honest, and we showed just what it could do, Checo and I setting very similar times to each other. It’s a little bit of a pity, though, because, if we hadn’t run at all in Q3, our options would have been a little more open for tomorrow’s race. However, sitting out the final session isn’t really what any of us are here to do. Anyway, it is what it is, and we’ll do our best tomorrow. I don’t know exactly where we stand in terms of race pace – it’ll be interesting to find out – but the good thing is that I’m on the clean side of the grid, which might be an advantage as it’s usually a bit chaotic down into the first corner here.” Jenson Button, GBR, McLaren Mercedes
“It’s been a mixed day with the brake disc failure this morning, which cost us some track time and meant we headed into qualifying with a car set-up that was far from optimised. The guys did a fantastic job to get the car ready in time, but ultimately we didn’t have the performance to do any better than P16. It’s fair to say that we have struggled more with our one-lap pace here, so hopefully we can be more competitive in race conditions. There’s also talk of changeable weather so maybe we can do something with the strategy to move forward in the race.” Paul Di Resta, GBR, Force India Mercedes
“After such a positive start yesterday, I was hoping for a better result today, so it’s a little disappointing and frustrating to have fallen back a bit. I do take some comfort though in the fact that much of that can be attributed to a fuelling issue, which we only discovered at the end of qualifying. 19.5kgs will have made all the difference today and it is easy to do the maths and gauge the impact that has had relative to the cars directly ahead on the grid tomorrow. So I will take some encouragement from that and the fact that our race pace yesterday did look slightly more promising.” Max Chilton, GBR, Marussia Cosworth
“I am happy. This was a nice surprise for all of us. I didn’t expect that after a very difficult Friday. Yesterday we struggled a lot with the car and the guys have done a fantastic job turning it around to give me such a competitive car today. It is a highlight for the whole team. Such a result will lift our spirits. During qualifying the car just got better and better and the track improved as well. We made the right decision to go for one timed lap in Q3 and then this happened. I hope the long run pace is good tomorrow.” Nico Hulkenberg, DEU, Sauber Ferrari
“Today went well compared to qualifying at recent races, with the car being competitive, allowing us to fight with the best. Of course, we weren’t at the same level as Red Bull, who yet again here have gone well all weekend, but the race is tomorrow and we start from what is all the same a good position. Here at Monza the slipstreaming strategy is often used: having a car three to four seconds ahead of you allows you to gain a few tenths and for that I must thank Felipe, especially in Q3 when I came up behind Vergne’s Toro Rosso and he waited for me. The radio messages have been misunderstood, as is often the case when you don’t experience something first hand: the word ‘genius’ refers to the fact that we could have got out before Rosberg had gone by on his quick lap, but this should not raise any doubts about the impeccable job from the whole team.” Fernando Alonso, ESP, Ferrari
CLASSIFICATION – QUALIFYING – ITALIAN GRAND PRIX
|16||Di Resta||Force India||1:25:077|
|19||Van Der Garde||Caterham||1:26:406|