Sebastian Vettel has continued his momentum of a perfect weekend in Monza by taking a pole position for the Italian Grand Prix, by almost two tenths of a second ahead of Red Bull Racing team-mate, Mark Webber.
It is Vettel’s fourth pole of 2013, and the 40th of his career.
Vettel has shown great pace all weekend and after topping both Q1 and Q2, the German went on to set two laps quick enough for pole position. It will feel all the more sweeter for Red Bull, who also saw Webber take a career best starting position at Monza, as their closest Championship rivals were unable to touch the Milton Keynes squad.
The shock result was Lewis Hamilton in 12th. He made a mistake, running wide at Parabolica and had to abort his first lap in Q2 and then when it really mattered he was held up at Parabolica by Adrian Sutil. After coming under investigation from the race-stewards, Sutil has been given a three place grid-penalty for tomorrow’s race.
Hamilton took the blame for a poor qualifying session, saying that he ‘drove like an idiot’. He is eluding to a mistake in Q2 where he ran wide at the Parabolica and ruined a set of medium tyres. After returning to the pits for new tyres he was unable to improve and make his way in to the final phase of qualifying.
Hamilton will begin the race in between the Lotus pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, with the Finn taking eleventh place. It was a very disappointing result for the team, after a strong showing in practice. Meanwhile, the second Mercedes of Nico Rosberg could only manage sixth place, behind the Ferrari pair – headed by Felipe Massa.
But today there were two Germans that will grab the headlines for exceptional performances.
Nico Hulkenberg showed strong pace throughout the hour-long session and a spot in the top ten shoot-out illustrated why he is being linked with a seat further up the grid from Sauber.
Although, his performance hit new heights when he clinched third position on the grid with an excellent final lap late in the session. The young German has impressed at many points during his Formula One career, namely a 2010 pole position at a drying Brazilian GP and leading the race at Interlagos in 2012.
Today’s showing in neutral conditions will bode well for him given this point in the season and the fact that he has out-qualified both Ferraris at their home race; Hulkenberg’s name has come back strongly into the frame for Massa’s Ferrari seat this week and today’s performance – in front of president Luca di Montezemolo – may be what swings it for him.
“This was a nice surprise for all of us,” said Hulkenberg. “I didn’t expect that after a very difficult Friday. Yesterday we struggled a lot with the car and the guys have done a fantastic job turning it around to give me such a competitive car today.”
The Ferrari pair had a positive session relative to the Lotus and Mercedes pairings. Once again they attempted a slip-streaming tactic, but they were unable to threaten Red Bull – with Alonso complaining that Massa was ‘going too fast’, and therefore he could not get a adequate tow.
Massa ended the day 1/100th of a second faster than Alonso, and did himself no harm in impressing his employers.
There was also impressive displays from Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez, who took seventh and eighth places for Toro Rosso and McLaren respectively. Ricciardo and team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne both made it in to Q3 after sitting in the top six during the previous sessions. Vergne eventually qualified in tenth after an excursion through the gravel trap at the the exit of the Parabolica.
Perez got the better of his more experienced team-mate by a small margin, with Button taking ninth place alongside Vergne.
ITALIAN GRAND PRIX, Monza, Qualifying
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m23.755s
2. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m23.968s +0.213s
3. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1m24.065s +0.310s
4. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m24.132s +0.377s
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m24.142s +0.387s
6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m24.192s +0.437s
7. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m24.209s +0.454s
8. Sergio Perez McLaren 1m24.502s +0.747s
9. Jenson Button McLaren 1m24.515s +0.760s
10. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m28.050s +4.295s
11. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m24.610s +0.633s
12. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m24.803s +0.826s
13. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m24.848s +0.871s
14. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m24.932s +0.955s
15. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m25.011s +1.034s
16. Paul di Resta Force India 1m25.077s +1.100s
17. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m25.226s +0.907s
18. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m25.291s +0.972s
19. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1m26.406s +2.087s
20. Charles Pic Caterham 1m26.563s +2.244s
21. Jules Bianchi Marussia- 1m27.085s +2.766s
22. Max Chilton Marussia 1m27.480s +3.161s