Sebastian Vettel claimed pole position for the Italian Grand Prix as all his Formula 1 championship rivals made a mess of their qualifying sessions.
Fernando Alonso could only qualify fifth amid failed attempts at slipstreaming tactics by Ferrari, while neither Lewis Hamilton nor Kimi Raikkonen made it into the top 10. Mark Webber, meanwhile, made it a Red Bull 1-2, while an astounding effort from Nico Hulkenberg gave the struggling Sauber team a shock third place on the grid.
Ferrari had experimented with its drivers giving each other slipstreams in final practice, but its efforts to orchestrate the same strategy in Q3 fell apart. The cars were never close enough to make the tactic work and appeared to end up spoiling each other’s laps. Felipe Massa eventually found himself fourth ahead of Alonso.
Webber looked to have a shot at pipping Vettel right at the end, but was first on the scene as Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso plowed through the Parabolica gravel. That left Vettel clearly on pole with a 1m23.755s lap, 0.2 second quicker than his teammate.
Although Adrian Sutil is being investigated for impeding Hamilton’s Mercedes at the Parabolica at the end of Q2, the Briton blamed poor driving on his part for the qualifying result.
Lotus appeared to be simply short of pace, with Raikkonen and teammate Romain Grosjean only 11th and 13th.
While they all underperformed, Hulkenberg starred with a Q3 lap just 0.037sec off Webber’s Red Bull and ahead of the Ferraris and Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes.
Toro Rosso got two cars in Q3, with Daniel Ricciardo seventh but Vergne’s mistake leaving him 10th. The two McLarens start behind them, Sergio Perez outqualifying Jenson Button.
Sutil is currently 14th, pending any penalty. Force India looked in jeopardy of a Q1 exit until late improvements for both drivers, but there was little progress in Q2. Paul di Resta ended up 16th, just behind fellow late Q1 escapee Pastor Maldonado.
Rookies Esteban Gutierrez and Valtteri Bottas were ultimately the drivers who joined the Caterhams and Marussias at the back.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m23.755s 2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m23.968s +0.213s 3. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 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-Ferrari 1m24.209s +0.454s 8. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m24.502s +0.747s 9. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m24.515s +0.760s10. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m28.050s +4.295sQ2 cut-off time: 1m24.776s Gap **11. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m24.610s +0.633s12. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m24.803s +0.826s13. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m24.848s +0.871s14. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m24.932s +0.955s15. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m25.011s +1.034s16. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m25.077s +1.100sQ1 cut-off time: 1m25.030s Gap *17. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m25.226s +0.907s18. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m25.291s +0.972s19. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m26.406s +2.087s20. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m26.563s +2.244s21. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m27.085s +2.766s22. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m27.480s +3.161s107% time: 1m30.221s
* Gap to quickest in Q1
** Gap to quickest in Q2