Jack Evans, F1 Correspondent
Lewis Hamilton led a McLaren 1-2 in qualifying for the 2012 FIA Formula One Italian Grand Prix, relegating the fastest hometown Ferrari of Felipe Massa to 3rd and track favorite Fernando Alonso to a lowly 10th.
"I managed to get a half-decent lap at the beginning of Q3, so I'm very happy and it's great for the team to have me and Jenson (Button) up front," Hamilton said in an unusually subdued press conference. He celebrated little after soundly claiming pole at the historic Monza Autodromo, as speculations about his career at McLaren abound.
Button followed his teammate by just over a tenth, and led Massa by an equal amount. Still, it was a stellar performance by the Brazilian to impress the fanatical Tifosi fans as their hero Alonso languished at the bottom of the Q3 charts.
" I was always worrying about the tow," Massa explained. "But then on my last lap I was completely out of the tow and it was better for me."
The two Ferraris had worked together throughout the weekend to slipstream down Monza's four long straights, usually with Massa providing the draft for Alonso. Eventually, though, the Spaniard ruined his flying lap with a mistake on the exit of the tight first chicane and ended up a full 1.6 seconds off Hamilton’s time of 1:24.010. The team later reported a possible broken anti-sway bar on his F2012 car, and will certainly be working on that throughout the night.
Paul di Resta of Sahara Force India did well to follow the top three, and Michael Schumacher proved that the Mercedes engines tipped to succeed at the high-speed Monza Autodromo may, in fact, have an advantage. His car is the last of four with Mercedes power to make the top five.
Di Resta, however, will be serving a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, leaving Schumacher to 4th and Sebastian Vettel to 5th. His penalty will help all in the top ten except Alonso, still at the back of row five on the grid.
Championship contender Mark Webber in the other Red Bull struggled to 11th, but was fairly resigned about the performance.
“There’s no massive surprise," he told reporters as Q3 commenced without him. "That’s about where we thought we’d be.”
Nico Rosberg timed in 7th with Mercedes engine and chassis, and will start 6th courtesy of di Resta's gearbox.
Kimi Raikkonen will line his Lotus-Renault up 7th, and can thank Sahara Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg for dropping out of Q1 with gearbox issues, thereby leaving an extra spot in Q3 that the Finn just made it into. Jerome D'Ambrosio (standing in for a penalized Romain Grosjean) drove an identical Lotus car to 16th spot on his first Formula One weekend since the 2011 season with Marussia-Virgin.
Kamui Kobayashi took his Ferrari-engined Sauber to ninth ahead of Alonso.
Though he lead the Q2 session and was expected to challenge the clearly-fast McLarens for pole, Alonso's Q3 lap mistake visibly slowed him, causing Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemolo and most of Italy to throw their hands up in disgust. The stage is set, then, for Alonso's fight back from tenth and whatever defense McLaren can mount from the front, and perhaps even a good race from Massa, troubled the past few seasons by lack of pace and team pressure.