Sebastian Vettel led a Red Bull one-two in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix as his three closest title rivals all endured frustrating afternoons at Monza. Vettel backed up his dominating pace in Friday’s practice by beating teammate Mark Webber to claim his 40th pole position, with Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg a surprise third in his Sauber.
Felipe Massa will start fourth, ahead of his Ferrari teammate Fernando Alosno, who was caught lamenting his team. Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, was quick to lambast himself after his run of four straight pole positions ended when he failed to make it into Q3. The same fate befell Kimi Raikkonen, as well as his Lotus teammate Romain Grosjean.
Alonso appeared to sarcastically brand his team “geniuses,” after a plan to get Massa to provide an aerodynamic tow for the Spaniard failed with the man second in the world championship heard saying that “Felipe is too far ahead.” Alonso, though, tried to pay down the even afterward.
“The radio messages have been misunderstood, as is often the case when you don’t experience something first hand,” he said, according to the official Formula One website. “The word ‘genius’ refers to the fact that we could have got out before [Nico] Rosberg had gone by on his quick lap, but this should not raise any doubts about the impeccable job from the whole team.”
Hamilton was impeded on his final run in Q2 by Force India’s Adrian Sutil to an extent that the German was given a three-place grid penalty. However, the Mercedes driver, who will start from 12th, shouldered the blame for his failure to make the final part of qualifying for the first time in 67 races.
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“I drove like an idiot," Hamilton said, according to BBC Sport. "It's the worst I've driven for a long, long time. I'm just sorry for the team."
In contrast, Vettel enjoyed a serene session as he looks to extend his 46 point lead atop the drivers’ standings. The performance so far this weekend has been even more impressive given that Red Bull’s aerodynamic advantage is in theory minimized at the Monza circuit with the need for a low-downforce configuration.
“We didn’t expect to be so strong here, with both cars on the front row,” Vettel explained. “It’s due to hard work from everyone in the team working long hours; we’ve had years where we’ve had a good car, but not a car that’s competitive in low down force trim, so in that regard we did our homework.”
Vettel’s future teammate Daniel Ricciardo will start seventh in the Toro Rosso, a place behind Mercedes’s Nico Rosberg. McLaren’s Sebastian Perez and Jenson Button will begin from eighth and ninth, respectively, ahead of the second Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne.
Where to watch: The Formula One Italian Grand Prix will begin at 8 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBCSN, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.