Ferrari fans rejoiced on home soil, where Fernando Alonso finally ended a troublesome qualifying drought that had plagued the team, by clinching his first pole position since last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix and the outfit’s first pole position since 2008.
Felipe Massa wasn’t able to make it a Ferrari redwash on the front row – he will start from third place – but with Jenson Button occupying the outside of the front row, this will be the first grid without a Red Bull on the front row since last year’s Italian Grand Prix.
It was the outfit’s worst qualifying session of the season, with Mark Webber somehow managing to out-pace his team-mate Sebastian Vettel despite a range of technical issues costing him valuable practice time. Webber will start from fourth, and Vettel two places further back, sandwiching Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren.
McLaren continued with their split set-up strategy into qualifying, with Lewis Hamilton running without the ‘F-duct’ pioneered by the team and posting among the quickest speed trap times as a result of this. However, Jenson Button ran with the device and considerably more wing, and despite the loss of straight-line speed, he still out-paced his team-mate who sits 20 points ahead of him in the championship standings.
The Ferrari drivers (Massa in Q1; Alonso in Q2) had headed the timesheets at the end of each qualifying stage, and Alonso made his intentions immediately clear at the beginning of Q3 with a blistering lap time of 1:21.962, that took him below the 1:22 barrier and clear of his rivals by almost three-tenths of a second.
The time proved good enough, and he aborted his next attempt at a flying lap. His efforts were rewarded with pole position, despite Button improving to a 1:22.084 to cement second place on the grid.
Outside of the top-six, Nico Rosberg wound up seventh-quickest for Mercedes GP, with the young German comfortably out-pacing his team-mate Michael Schumacher, who was again eliminated in Q2 and will start from 12th place.
Williams managed to get both cars into the final stage of qualifying, with Nico Hülkenberg heading Rubens Barrichello as the pair sandwiched Robert Kubica’s Renault.
Force India have not proven to be the revelation of the Grand Prix as many had expected (or indeed hoped), and there will be no repeat of their stellar 2009 form that saw both cars qualifying inside the top six. This time, Adrian Sutil could do no better than 11th, while team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi was yet again eliminated in Q1, although this time the Italian could blame an engine issue for the reason behind his lack of pace.
Despite looking particularly slippery along the straights, both Saubers and Toro Rossos could feel a little unfortunate not to be represented in Q3, with Kamui Kobayashi the best of the quartet in 13th place.
The man in the middle of that group was Vitaly Petrov, who is listed as 15th on the grid. But his starting place may come under threat with a particularly dreadful failure to use his mirrors during Q1 that saw him badly hold up Timo Glock on a flying lap.
That Glock may have posted a quick time is fairly academic, however, for the Virgin Racing driver will be starting from the back of the grid anyway after taking a five-place grid penalty for his mechanics having to break the FIA seal on his gearbox to inspect his differential after this morning’s practice session.
Out of the rookie teams, the two Lotus drivers of Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen proved quickest of the bunch with some impressive late laps in Q1. The HRT pairing of Bruno Senna and Sakon Yamamoto wound up slowest of all.
2010 Italian GP Qualifying Times:
|4.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing||1:23.431||1:22.706||1:22.433|
|6.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing||1:23.235||1:22.701||1:22.675|
|7.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP||1:23.529||1:23.055||1:23.027|
|11.||Adrian Sutil||Force India||1:23.493||1:23.199|
|12.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP||1:23.840||1:23.388|
|14.||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso||1:23.744||1:23.681|
|16.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso||1:24.083||1:23.919|
|17.||Pedro de la Rosa||Sauber||1:24.442||1:24.044|
|20.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Force India||1:25.774|
|21.||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing||1:25.934|
|22.||Lucas di Grassi||Virgin Racing||1:25.974|
[Original image via LAT]