Lewis Hamilton claimed his 49th career pole position for today’s Italian Grand Prix – and then paid tribute to the Ferrari team who pushed him all the way.
The world champion, who has topped every session so far this weekend, will be joined on the front row by Kimi Raikkonen, with his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel in third.
Hamilton’s title rival Nico Rosberg will start only fourth in Monza after his qualifying session was plagued by an engine problem.
Hamilton, whose pole in Monza was his seventh in a row, praised the Ferrari pair. “These guys did a great job and they were very close, so it is nice to see them put up a good fight,” he said. “The car has been feeling good all weekend so many thanks to the guys back at the factory – they made improvements to the engine and they have brought that here.”
Raikkonen added: “We probably surprised ourselves. We expected a strong weekend, but it is nice to be here – especially a home race for us and our best qualifying this year as a team.
“We want a good result not just for ourselves, but for our fans and Ferrari people behind us.”
Vettel, a two-time winner this season, said: “It is a fantastic result, second and third and very close to Lewis. That is the main positive of the day.”
Rosberg, already 28 points adrift of Hamilton in the championship, needs luck to be on his side if he stands any chance of catching his Mercedes team-mate in the eight remaining races.
But fortune was firmly against the German after he was forced to take on a replacement engine after yesterday’s final practice session.
Mercedes have brought a new-specification power unit with them to Monza, but Rosberg took to the ‘Temple of Speed’ for qualifying in an older, less powerful version. He needed a miracle and it never came.
Instead it was Hamilton, who romped to another pole position – his 11th from 12 races this term and the 23rd on the spin for Mercedes. The Silver Arrows are now just one short of Williams’ all-time record.
Hamilton’s best lap of one minute 23.397 secs was only a quarter-of-a-second faster than Raikkonen, who pipped team-mate Vettel, competing in his first Italian Grand Prix since his move from Red Bull to Ferrari.
Ferrari’s best qualifying session of the season came at the perfect time – in front of their home fans and under the gaze of Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Ferrari parent company Fiat Chrysler, and Piero Ferrari, the Italian manufacturer’s vice chairman.
Raikkonen and Vettel linked arms before waving to the adoring Tifosi, who waved their red flags and sounded their air horns in response.
For McLaren it was yet another day to forget in their miserable campaign after Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso were eliminated from the first phase of qualifying.
As has become a sorry theme for the British team, only the Manor pair of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi were slower.