Lewis Hamilton is on pole for the Italian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton will start from pole position for tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix. The McLaren driver beat team-mate Jenson Button by just over one-tenth of a second to claim his fourth pole position of the 2012 season.

The result marked the 63rd time that the McLaren team had claimed a front-row lockout, breaking the all-time record previously held by the Williams team.

Having been the quickest driver in two of the preceding three practice sessions this weekend, Hamilton controlled qualifying throughout, with his first flying run in Q3 proving good enough to ensure McLaren would win its third pole position on the trot.

Button needed his second run in the final phase of qualifying to claim the all-McLaren front row, edging out Felipe Massa for the honour after the Brazilian had put in a sensational qualifying performance to beat team-mate Fernando Alonso in qualifying for the first time this season.

By contrast, Alonso’s qualifying session was a disaster. Having made it into the top-ten phase, the Spaniard encountered a handling issue – believed to be in the rear anti-roll bar – that meant he was unable to do any better than the tenth-fastest time.

Hülkenberg had an early bath with an apparent gearbox problem in his Force IndiaFourth-quickest in the session was Paul di Resta, who put in a scintillating qualifying effort, despite the knowledge that he will take a five-place grid penalty for the gearbox change his team had to perform overnight.

His speed will give the Silverstone outfit plenty of confidence heading into this race, with both di Resta and team-mate Nico Hülkenberg having plenty of work to do to get a serious points haul tomorrow – Hülkenberg was eliminated in the first phase of qualifying with an apparent gearbox problem.

Despite the dramas they too had experienced in the lead-up to qualifying, the two Mercedes drivers qualified well, with Michael Schumacher (fifth) and Nico Rosberg (seventh) sandwiching Sebastian Vettel on the grid.

Neither Red Bull entry of Vettel or team-mate Mark Webber has shown much in the way of speed this weekend, and Vettel’s sixth place – which becomes fifth with di Resta’s penalty – is a better than expected result, particularly given the dramas suffered by his nearest championship rival, Alonso, who currently lies 24 points ahead of the German in the standings.

Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber had another tough run in qualifying, with the Australian unable to make it into Q3, missing the cut by less than seven-hundredths of a second, while the likes of Kimi Räikkönen (8th) Kamui Kobayashi (9th) made the grade.

In his first outing since his last race for Virgin Racing last year, Jérôme d’Ambrosio qualified 16th-fastest in his one-off race outing for Lotus while he stands in for the suspended Romain Grosjean this weekend. The Belgian narrowly avoided having an early bath in Q1, and had to resort to a run on the softer-compound Pirelli tyres to try and get into the second stage of the session.

There will also be plenty of celebrating in one half of the HRTF1 garage, with Narain Karthikeyan finally breaking his qualifying duck by team-mate Pedro de la Rosa, who has been quicker than his Indian counterpart in every qualifying session this season.

2012 Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:

Driver Team Time Gap
1. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:24.010  
2. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:24.133 + 0.123
3. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:24.247 + 0.237
4. Paul di Resta* GBR Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:24.304 + 0.294
5. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:24.540 + 0.530
6. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:24.802 + 0.792
7. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:24.833 + 0.823
8. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:24.855 + 0.845
9. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C31 1:25.109 + 1.099
10. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:25.678 + 1.668
  Q2 Cut-Off – 1:24.742   Time Gap
11. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:24.809 + 0.067
12. Pastor Maldonado** VEN Williams Renault FW34 1:24.820 + 0.078
13. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C31 1:24.901 + 0.159
14. Bruno Senna BRA Williams Renault FW34 1:25.042 + 0.300
15. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:25.312 + 0.570
16. Jérôme d’Ambrosio BEL Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:25.408 + 0.666
17. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:25.441 + 0.699
  Q1 Cut-Off – 1:25.834   Time Gap
18. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Caterham Renault CT01 1:26.382 + 0.548
19. Vitaly Petrov RUS Caterham Renault CT01 1:26.887 + 1.053
20. Timo Glock DEU Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:27.039 + 1.205
21. Charles Pic FRA Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:27.073 + 1.239
22. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:27.441 + 1.607
23. Pedro de la Rosa ESP HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:27.629 + 1.795
  107% Cut-Off – 1:30.076   Time Gap
DNQ. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Force India Mercedes VJM05 no time  

* Denotes five-place grid penalty imposed for unscheduled gearbox change.
** Denotes two separate five-place grid penalties imposed for driving misdemeanours at the Belgian GP

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.