Hamilton will start 12th at Monza, having failed to make it into the top-ten shoot-out for the first time in 67 races, stretching back to the 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix, so ending his run of four consecutive poles.
During the second session, Hamilton made a mistake at the Ascari chicane, running over a kerb and breaking the floor of his Mercedes, which was unknown to either him and the team at the time. That resulted in Hamilton running wide at the sweeping right-hander of the Parabolica that soon followed, exacerbating the problem.
Come his second run, and with the clock ticking, Hamilton was impeded by Adrian Sutil in his Force India, earning his former friend a three-place grid penalty following a stewards’ investigation.
In the immediate aftermath, and with championship leader Sebastian Vettel comfortably spearheading an all-Red Bull front row with his 40th career pole, an angry Hamilton said: “I drove like an idiot. That’s the worst I’ve driven for a long, long time.”
He later added: “I did have damage to my car, and the engineers said I lost quite a lot of downforce, but that was due to the mistake I made earlier in the session. Sometimes when you have those moments you just feel like you’ve let people down.”
Team principal Ross Brawn believes Hamilton was being too hard on himself, but applauded him for his attitude. “It’s quite endearing for a driver of Lewis’ level to make that sort of statement,” he said, adding that the team can also look at itself for pitching Hamilton back into traffic as he missed out on a top-ten place by two tenths of a second, potentially lost behind Sutil. “We didn’t get the best traffic, the clearest track, so we have to look at how we can operate as a team more effectively, and Lewis is part of that team,” added Brawn.
On what was a woeful day for Mercedes, Nico Rosberg will start sixth after a hydraulic issue restricted him to just five laps in final practice. Behind the Red Bulls in a shock third place on the grid is Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg, the fastest Ferrari-powered driver as Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso line up fourth and fifth, with Alonso in the spotlight for apparently saying “You’re really idiots” over the team radio after Ferrari’s strategy failed to pay off.
With Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen starting 11th, it means Vettel’s three title rivals are comfortably behind the German on the grid.
Jenson Button starts ninth in his McLaren, with Paul Di Resta now 15th given Force India team-mate Sutil’s penalty, with Marussia’s Max Chilton 22nd and last for the third time this year.
Di Resta was hampered after a shunt in the morning’s final practice session. The Bathgate driver plunged nose first into a tyre wall at Parabolica. While attempting to turn into the fast right-hander half an hour into the session, Di Resta instead ran straight on across a gravel trap before his momentum was halted by the barrier. Afterwards, Di Resta radioed back to the team suggesting a fault with the car as he said: “Something broke there!”
He later tweeted: “Difficult qualy today after a brake failure in practice. Boys did a great job to get the car back out to take part in qualy.”