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Hamilton heads McLaren front row lock out as Alonso slips
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 Sep 2012   |  4:55 pm GMT  |  181 comments

Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position today in Monza to head an all McLaren front row ahead of Jenson Button with Felipe Massa taking third. The Brazilian and his Ferrari team mate were working together as a team throughout practice and qualifying to give each other a slipstream worth around 3/10ths of a second. It worked for Massa, giving him his best qualifying position of the season. Unfortunately for Alonso his rear anti-roll bar broke and he could only manage only tenth.

Nevertheless this is the most competitive Ferrari has been this season and Alonso’s progress through the field will be interesting to watch.

The Ferrari’s potency here can be shown by its performance in Q1, where Alonso set a time on the 4th lap of a set of hard tyres which would have been good enough for 3rd place on the grid.

On this power circuit, it was interesting to note five Mercedes powered cars in the top seven positions.

Hamilton has been in the spotlight over his suggested move to Mercedes but showed no signs of it distracting him from his objectives on track; he edged out Button for a McLaren front-row lock out, securing his 23rd career pole, the fourth of 2012, and putting himself in the optimum position to gain ground on his championship rivals. It was McLaren’s third front row lock out of the season, showing that they are back to the form with which they started the season, before they lost their way on development trying to solve tyre temperature imbalances.

After dominating Free Practice the McLaren pairing seemed to be chasing the tail of Alonso as the Championship leader headed both Q1 and Q2, for the first time this season.

But it was Hamilton who let his driving do the talking as he needed just one lap to take pole position by 1/10th of a second in a very tight session. His benchmark could not be matched by those behind and with his Championship rivals all much further down the grid tomorrow could be his chance to make up for last weekend’s no score.

McLaren has had the car to beat in the last three Grands Prix, their work on exhaust blowing into the diffuser and other detailed aerodynamic work has certainly helped their competitiveness, while Red Bull has slipped back, as has Lotus, in qualifying pace.

Alonso had a golden opportunity to put some cars between himself and his nearest title challengers, the Red Bulls. Once again the Red Bulls lacked qualifying pace.

Part of this is the Renault engine, Vettel is the best placed Renault in 6th, Raikkonen behind him. They have struggled to match the straight line speed of the Ferrari and Mercedes’ engines and they both looked set to exit qualifying in Q2. This was the case for Webber, who could only manage 11th, but Vettel was able to push the car to its limits and will start the race from 5th place.

Monza is the third consecutive race in which Red Bull have failed to get more than one car in to the pole position shoot out. It has been no secret in recent years that the Renault Sport F1 engine is not as quick through the speed traps relative to the Ferrari, and in particular, Mercedes engines. And with the characteristics of Monza demanding a lot of top end speed the team will once again be looking at a savvy strategy on Sunday to grab as many points as possible.

Paul Di Resta had the most competitive Formula One qualifying session of his career as he claimed 4th position. Although a five-place gearbox penalty will push him down to 9th. But the Force India squad will have mixed emotions over what could have been as Nico Hulkenberg did not complete a lap in qualifying due to a mechanical issue and will begin the race in 24th position. The Silverstone based team have had a car particularly suited to low downforce circuits in recent years with strong showings in both Spa and Monza in 2009 and a strong fourth place finish in Spa last weekend.

Mercedes could not put their “double-DRS” to use to threaten for pole position but a 4th and 6th place start for Schumacher and Rosberg respectively is much better than recent races. And with a relatively low tyre wear factor at Monza they will need to maximise their points tomorrow.

The Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen and the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi fill the space between Alonso and Rosberg as they both got the better of their team mates. Jerome D’Ambrosio, replacing Romain Grosjean in the sister Lotus could only take 16th on the grid after surviving a scare in Q1, which saw him sneak through at the expense of Heikki Kovalainen.

[Additional reporting: Matt Meadows]

1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m24.010s
2. Jenson Button McLaren 1m24.133s + 0.123s
3. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m24.247s + 0.237s
4. Paul di Resta Force India 1m24.304s + 0.294s*
5. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m24.540s + 0.530s
6. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m24.802s + 0.792s
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m24.833s + 0.823s
8. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m24.855s + 0.845s
9. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m25.109s + 1.099s
10. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m25.678s + 1.668s

11. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m24.809s + 0.567s
12. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m24.820s + 0.578s**
13. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m24.901s + 0.659s
14. Bruno Senna Williams 1m25.042s + 0.800s
15. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m25.312s + 1.070s
16. Jerome d’Ambrosio Lotus 1m25.408s + 1.166s
17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m25.441s + 1.199s

18. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m26.382s + 2.207s
19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m26.887s + 2.712s
20. Timo Glock Marussia 1m27.039s + 2.864s
21. Charles Pic Marussia 1m27.073s + 2.898s
22. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m27.441s + 3.266s
23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m27.629s + 3.454s
24. Nico Hulkenberg Force India STOPPED

* 5 place gearbox penalty to be applied
** 10 place grid penalty to be applied

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That was a very predictable Quali for me. After Spa where Mclaren showed its pace. You cannot hide from the fact that Mercedes engine is a beast and on a straight horsepower circuit it’s advantage is highlighted. Although the Ferrari is right there. What will be interesting is the tyre deg- this will decide the race and very marginal for teams to go one or 2 stop!

I really took to Felipe when he said its a shame Fernando had the problem as he would be here for sure ! . Conversely Fernando saying he would have taken pole easily is a bit poor in my opinion given he was matched by Hamilton previously and the fact that this was Felipes best all year! (no Massa fan)

I dont know why Fernando fans are panicking he is in a gun seat- team with 33? Points advantage and a team mate supporting him 100%. Raikkonen on the other hand has had a Rookie as a team mate in a team that went nowhere last year with a engine that has not been reliable and look at what he’s achieved. I will argue with anyone :- if there is a Quicker more Intelligent, Consistent driver in the field. I just hope he can make up a few places in the race but this Hamiltons race.


I am expecting Massa to do something completly silly at the start. The pressures on so put your bets on a collision with Hamilton?


If anyone I think Alonso would want Hamilton to win this. Have someone put a gap between him and Vettel would be ideal.


Right so. In Alonso’s words, ‘It was a perfect Sunday!


The slipstreaming didn’t really help too much I guess but was interesting watching the Ferrari pair applying this technique.

Just hoping there will be no major incidents in the first turn and none of the major contenders being taken out (no Grosjeaning and Maldonadoing should be safe). Will be fascinating to watch how Alonso move as close to the front.

Can Felipe hold his position?. Considering two DRS zone, overtaking should not be a hinderance. Looks like a one stop strategy in the race for most.

Good weather and a closed fought race at the front is what we need. I’d like the championship to be a one point win! at the end of the day.


James, would it not be more fair to a driver who qualifies well ( or any driver) who has a gear box penalty for a change, rather than a 5 place grid penalty for the driver they have a 25 point loss of constructors championship points?


No, that’s too severe


I think any penalty for a driver is too servere. I think there should be no penalties until your allocation for the season has been used. Then the team should be hit with a financial penalty.


Too bad Grosjean isn’t racing tomorrow. Alonso could use some “Grosjean luck” at the start of the race. Maybe take out the Schumacher, Vittel, Di Resta, and Kimi at the first corner.

Maldonado is racing, right?


Button will win this one


Had Alonso not had problems it would have been very close indeed, and I think it very conjectural as to who would have taken pole. Anyway we have to deal with reality, but there’s no doubt the Alonso will make up ground in the quick starting Ferrari, and of course Vettel is close. I hope the McLaren boys can hold on to the lead and second place for a 1-2.


How did team slipstreaming “give” Massa his result? Were we watching the same? He did not get a tow from Alonso on his fastest Q3 lap.


Hi James,

I noticed several cars during qualifying (notably Schumacher and Maldonado) leaving the track, with all four wheels over the line, at Ascari.

Are the stewards not policing this ?


They have been doing that for years. They used to do thisthrough the 2 Lesmo’s too.


Brundle and co mentioned this as well and it seems to have become acceptable. Another example of inconsistent rule application


That’s nothing new. Happened over the years.

As long as you don’t overtake cars with all 4 wheels off the track, nor are you straightlining the track then it’s fine.


History has shown that there are always ups and downs in any championship year, hopefully Alonso and Ferrari have had the bad luck now and got it out of the way. Forza Ferrari!!!


Has anyone noticed a pale strip of tarmac at the pitlane exit? what’s that for?

I wonder if it was a patch up job by that irish plasterer/decorator who works for Eddie Jordan, the one that broke the news about Schumacher going to Merc


Anyone else think the atmosphere between Lewis and Jenson was a lot less jovial and muted than before. Obviously they are not the best of friends away from the track but there was always a fairly relaxed rapport between them. Didn’t sense that today though. Has the events of the last week, the twitter incidents and then Lewis manoeuvring himself for next season affected the pair’s relationship?


Are the Renault cars still more economical than the Ferrari’s and Mercs as years previous, or has this gulf been filled now? Less has been made of their ability to carry less fuel at the start this year than before. in fact, I dont think I can remember Sky or the BBC mentioning it at all?


How many/much issues/bad luck can you have for one single event? Fernando going for a record at Monza? Engine, gearbox, brakes and rollbar failures and the race has not started yet… The rollbar failure happens at the most crucial moment in Q3. And why on earth are Ferrari letting Massa have the first go with the slipstream strategy in Q3? They already knew about the failure at ALOs car? And why are clowns allowed in the pitlane? I had only seen them at the circus, until I saw Motezemolo in the Ferrari garage today making one of his “tricks” at the end of Q3!

Let us hope we at least get a clean race and a very possible 5/6th place finish with VET and RAI behind.


So funny how all the Alonso fans are whining how much bad luck he’s had in the last week, without considering how much good luck he’s had over the past 2-3 months!


I have been puzzeld for so long now over this very impressive showing… outscoring everyone but (the exhaust blown) Vettel for last three seasons, while using a Ferrari-camel. Oh, yeah not to forget beating SCH and RAI ages ago and becoming youngest dbl WC in the process… Thanks for disclosing the secret behind the success – Strange I never thought of “Luck”.

When do you think HAMs’ 3 year long UNluck will end? When he starts getting uncompetitive packages like ALO, maybe?


it was because a little girl he wanted to cuddle pushed him away, a bit like Kimi used to do when Luca tried to get close to him…


See James, I never understand this talk of Red Bull’s being slow being due to their Renault Engine.

The 2 lotuses were the 2 fastest cars through the speed trap in qualifying with Renault engines?

It’s to do with how they set their gear ratios and also because they have lots of downforce, but also Lotus do too. So I really think it is mainly how they set their gear ratios. Look at Spa, they were ultra quick in the race, but were on the limiter for half the straight. As Button said on the BBC highlights show, this is slower in qualifying but quicker in the race, so long as you are in free air.


I say it’s more to do with RBR’s aero than engine. They’ve always known to be a cornery type of car with lots of downforce. On a track like Monza, that don’t really help and turn into drag. So I don’t buy into that Renault engines are slower than Mercs BS.


James, did Alonso’s ARB break before his initial run in Q3 or during/after?


A shame for Alonso. Hes done SO well to build that 40pt lead and its starting to erode. Damage limitation will be the game for him tomorrow. The Ferrari’s race pace should help.

As for Massa, he is one of those guys… give him a good car and he will pull out the results. He’s been very quick off the line this year, so I wont be surprised if he leads into turn 1! His long run pace on Friday looked handy too.

Lewis’ starts started off bad but he/team seems to have got over the issue and he pulls away well. However, Button has been inconsistent off the line… cant always get a good bite. So I expect him to lose a position/s.

Lets wait ‘n see 🙂


Hi James, after Ferrari realised they had the roll bar failure, did Alonso save a set of options for the race by going out on used options for the last run? In case he did, do you think he might 2 stop?


Why would he have run used options on the last run? That was his best lap, so he’d have to use those tires tomorrow. Had to be new options, and I’m sure that was the case.

The options are not faster than the primes enough to make a two-stopper work.




Alonso said he felt something was wrong with the car after the first run in Q3 and the team could see it on the data…..So I am thinking if they knew they wouldn’t improve on the times why waste a set of options? Alonso also said they were running just to start in front of those who didn’t run in Q3 but that didn’t happen.

I know the options are only marginally faster than the primes, but the strategy calculator says 2 stopper is faster with a new set of options


Well, Alonso has managed to find something positive in this situation:

Year 2006, we arrived at Monza leaders, broken car in q3, penalties, start 10th, stop in the 1st chicane, engine problem, a marshal take me into the paddock on the bike. We won championship … 😉

Year 2012, we arrived at Monza leaders, q3 car broken , start 10th , engine problem on Friday at the 1st chicane, same marshal brings me to the paddock in the bike. Hopefully it will be a good year at the end .. ;)))!


2006’s win for him also required Schumacher’s engine blowing up at the penultimate race. Schumi had closed down Alonso’s lead to zero, was leading in Japan, would’ve gone into Brazil ahead by 2 pts, but then his engine blew up, Alonso inherited the win, and a 10 pt lead, meaning Schumi needed to win and Alonso DNF in the last race.

That was a quick and crazy turnaround.

I doubt Alonso would want to pin his DWC hopes on such an occurrence happening again!


FIA had forced Renault to remove the mass dampers from German Grand Prix onwards, even though stewards at the German Grand Prix (and FIA itself back in 2005) had agreed that the system was legal. The R26, was initially designed with the system in mind and what made bad worse was that the banning came during the summer testing ban, making it impossible for Renault to test alternative parts. At the Hockenheimring, after being very competitive in prev races, Renault drivers struggled home fifth and sixth while Ferrari romped to a one-two.

At the time reports hinted that many in the paddock suggested the governing body were trying to engineer a final championship victory for the then retiring Michael Schumacher. Renault went from regulary fighting for wins to struggling for podiums.

“quick and crazy turnaround” – are we talking about FIA inconsistent rulings potentially affecting championship outcome?


Well done Quattro. Keep it up. Why do some Schumi fans keep forgeting Alonso’s DNF’S and penalties in 2006? Im making it my mission to print the whole truth whenever a schumacher fan sumarises the 2006 season as ‘alonso won because Michaels engine blew in suzuka”. I will mention the mass damper banning, DNF in hungary while leading, the laughable Monza qualifying penalty and his blown engine in that race, while in 3rd. Remember Schumi fans, Its Alonso who deservedly took the title in 2006. No shame there. Its not like Jenson or Damon Hill won and denied him an 8th crown!!!


Schumachers comeback also required the FIA to ban the Renault mass damper, that was legal for 18 months…Alonso was leading by 28 points at that stage….about 65 points in todays currency. Also do you remember the penalty Alonso recieved at monza? Impeding Massa while never being closer than 103 meters from him. How bout Alonso retiring from the lead in Hungary. How many points does that add up too. But yes you only remember suzuka and lucky Fernando.

Say the whole story or dont bother


Well lots of crazy stuff happened since that.

2007, with a huge points defiect, Raikkonen took the driver’s crown by 1pt.

2008, no one expected a Toyota helped Hamilton steal Massa’s WDC.

2009 Button managed to pull off the WDC even the 2nd half of the year he wasn’t performing.

2010 Vettel took an unlikely win at Ahu Dhabi for his first WDC.


Hi James,

Should we read anything from the speed trap readings? Looks like Mclaren and lotus are at the top of the sheet.

Are Mclaren going to run away at the front with Lotus doing of lots overtaking?



Did Massa not set his fastest lap when he didn’t slipstream with Alonso??

He gave that impression in the interview afterward which I presume to be correct.


James, what will Ferrari do with Massa after he wins tomorrow, assuming they’ve already signed another driver for next year?


James I watched the qualifying on Speed and they noted, as did I, how subdued all 3 drivers seemed afterwards. You were there; why was it?

I know Jenson has mentioned not enjoying Monza so much because the crowds are so pro-Ferrari that they boo any opposition such as McLaren, which must be disappointing, could that be it? Yet even Massa seemed less than elated!…


Maybe the new set up where they sit on stools, maybe it was my questions!


Hmm, did not know you were the one asking the questions after qualy. Sorry for my prev post! >.< I know you are very professional from articles here and your superb BBC commentary.


I don’t like the stools at all; and I like the podium interviews even less.

The body language and reaction to your questions was fascinating.

I thought your first question to Felipe was interesting. I think it says a lot about the perception of him within the paddock that the first question you put to him after a great qualifying session was about Alonso. They said as much on OneHD in Australia. Such is the life of a Ferrari No.2!

Lewis seemed defensive about your observation about distractions this weekend. He must have been weathering a lot of those.

JB always makes sure to agree with Lewis whenever he compliments the team, and this time he made certain to give greater compliments. He is very clever at that kind of positioning.

Very interesting press conference.


The stools did look awkward, all three of them looked like they might fall off at any minute!


One would think Massa would be elated to start in the top three after such a long time and that too in Monza. Has LdM already made a decision? He did mention something along the lines of ‘looking to the future’ earlier this week.


Well it wasn’t just in the interview; even when they got out the cars and went to weighing, the usual exuberance seemed missing from all of them. I wondered if someone had died……….. 😉


I did wonder the same as azac21, As this is the 4th mechanical issue this weekend surely it can’t all be bad luck..James is Alonso using the same chassis as Spa?

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