Sebastian Vettel has continued Red Bull Racing’s clean sweep of pole positions in 2011 after claiming the 25th pole of his career with another supreme performance at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza.
After cruising through the first two phases of qualifying (including a session-topping effort in Q2), the German thumped his rivals in the top-ten shoot-out for pole, enjoying a margin of almost half a second over the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, who completed the top-three, despite aborting their final hot laps.
But Vettel didn’t look like he was going to have it his way. After their first qualifying runs, the McLarens were just a fraction off what was then Vettel’s best effort, forcing the championship leader to bolt on another set of tyres to protect his provisional pole.
And he did so easily, taking a further three-tenths of a second of his quickest time, while Hamilton and Button peeling into the pits after each made a mistake at the final attempt to wrest pole from Vettel.
Fernando Alonso ended the session fourth-fastest after lowering his best time on his final run, while Mark Webber could only manage a disappointing fifth on the grid, electing to have a single shot at posting his qualifying attempt. He finished one-tenth of a second better than sixth-placed Felipe Massa.
Seventh place went to Vitaly Petrov in the Renault, who was hotly pursued by the two Mercedes GP entries of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, while Bruno Senna rounded out the top-ten, electing not to set a time in Q3 after using all of his available tyre sets simply trying to make the final session.
The Renaults of Senna and Petrov had managed to sneak into the final session in the closing seconds of Q2, bumping the Force Indias of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil into 11th and 12th places on the grid.
Next up was the Williams pairing of Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado, with Maldonado being particularly fortunate to make it into Q2 after he had a spin into the barriers lining the inside of the Parabolica corner in the first phase of qualifying. The Vanazuelan was lucky to escape with minor damage to his front wing, and limped back to the pits for a new nose before setting off again.
Having made the Q2 cut, the two Saubers and Toro Rosso’s Sébastien Buemi did little more than make up the numbers in the session, while the sister Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari was the leading Q1 casualty, joining the Lotus, Virgin and HRT entries, who not surprisingly failed to threaten the midfield in the first phase of qualifying.
2011 Italian Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault||1:24.002||1:22.914||1:22.275|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes||1:23.976||1:23.172||1:22.725|
|3.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes||1:24.013||1:23.031||1:22.777|
|5.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault||1:24.148||1:23.387||1:22.972|
|8.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP||1:25.108||1:23.671||1:23.777|
|9.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP||1:24.550||1:23.335||1:24.477|
|10.||Bruno Senna||Renault||1:24.914||1:24.157||no time|
|11.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes||1:24.574||1:24.163|
|12.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes||1:24.595||1:24.209|
|13.||Rubens Barrichello||Williams Cosworth||1:24.975||1:24.648|
|14.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Cosworth||1:24.798||1:24.726|
|15.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari||1:25.113||1:24.845|
|16.||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:25.164||1:24.932|
|17.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari||1:24.879||1:25.065|
|18.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:25.334|
|19.||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus Renault||1:26.647|
|20.||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus Renault||1:27.184|
|21.||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing Cosworth||1:27.591|
|22.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Virgin Racing Cosworth||1:27.609|
|23.||Daniel Ricciardo||HRT F1 Cosworth||1:28.054|
|24.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT F1 Cosworth||1:28.231|
[Image via Formula1.com]