Monza, Italy – Lewis Hamilton swept to pole position for the Italian Formula One Grand Prix on Saturday in an all-McLaren front row with teammate Jenson Button lining up alongside him.
It was McLaren's third successive pole, and 23rd of Hamilton's career, and left the two Britons perfectly placed for a third win in a row after their third one-two in qualifying this season.
“I think practice was a lot better for me,” said Hamilton, who was fastest in the morning's final practice, of what he called a 'half-decent' lap at the end of the session.
“I didn't think that lap was anywhere near good enough,” added the 2008 world champion, whose Formula One future has been the major talking point of the weekend with speculation raging that Hamilton could move to Mercedes.
Button has finished runner-up at Monza for the past three years in a row but knows only too well that the driver on pole has also ended up the winner in six of the last 10 races there.
“The last few races have really shown our strength,” said Button. “Qualifying both of us on the front row is great...but even being on the front row it's not going to be an easy race.”
Ferrari's Brazilian Felipe Massa qualified third but team mate and championship leader Fernando Alonso, who has a 24-point lead over Red Bull's champion Sebastian Vettel, could manage only 10th place on the grid for his team's home race.
“I think he had a problem,” said Massa, whose future at Ferrari looks shakier than ever after he scored just 35 points in 12 races. “He had a problem on Q3 (the third phase) and was not able to complete his lap.”
Britain's Paul Di Resta qualified fourth fastest but has a five-place grid penalty due to an unscheduled gearbox change. That meant Michael Schumacher, still adored by the Ferrari fans for his golden past with the team, will start on the second row instead for Mercedes.
Vettel will share the third row with the Mercedes of compatriot Nico Rosberg with former Ferrari champion Kimi Raikkonen seventh for Lotus and alongside Japan's Kamui Kobayashi for Sauber.
Force India's Nico Hulkenberg will start last after he failed to set a time in qualifying after slowing and stopping on the escape road next to the first chicane.
His problems allowed Belgian Jerome D'Ambrosio, replacing the banned Romain Grosjean at Lotus for one race, to go through to the second phase.
He will start 15th because Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, wearing a new helmet with “Less Trouble, More Speed' written on it, has a 10-place grid penalty for jumping the start at the last race in Belgium and causing a collision.
Frenchman Grosjean was handed his ban at Spa for causing a pile-up that dumped Alonso and Hamilton out at the first corner.
For the first time since 1969, Sunday's race will have no Italian drivers in it - although the grim economic climate was a more likely explanation for the unusually large numbers of empty seats in the main grandstand.
D'Ambrosio, Massa, Toro Rosso's Australian Daniel Ricciardo and Di Resta all have Italian ancestry, however. – Reuters