Monza, Italy – Sebastian Vettel ended Lewis Hamilton's run of four straight pole positions on Saturday when he secured the prime starting spot for Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.
Vettel's Red Bull team swept the front row in qualifying, with the 26-year-old German in awesome form and teammate Mark Webber just behind in second.
Hamilton slid off the circuit during Q2 and failed to make the cut to the top 10 shoot-out, eventually qualifying in 12th.
It was Vettel's fourth pole this year and the 40th of his career, setting him up to extend his 46-point lead ahead of Fernando Alonso in the drivers championship.
Seeking his third win at the Autodromo Nazionale, the series leader and defending triple world champion Vettel clocked a best lap time of one minute and 23.755 seconds ahead of Webber, who recorded a best of 1:23.968.
They were the only two drivers to go below 1:24.
Vettel, who secured his maiden victory in a rain-swept race at Monza for Toro Rosso in 2008, said: “This is a special track for me and it is always nice to come back here. My memories of 2008 are great.
“I had another win in 2011, but your first win is always special. This weekend, the car was fantastic. We had a really strong pace yesterday and we were able to take that into qualifying today.
“In the end, it's a bit of a surprise to have both cars on the front row at a place, historically where we've had bad years.”
Webber said: “I said to the boys I was looking for a qualifying PB -- it's a nice step towards a good race tomorrow. I got there in the end when it mattered.
“Seb did a really good lap. It was a bit of a mixed up session and it's usually difficult at Monza.”
German Nico Huelkenberg delivered a stunning late lap to snatch third place for Sauber ahead of the Ferraris of Brazilian Felipe Massa and Spaniard Fernando Alonso, who were a disappointing fourth and fifth in front of watching Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo.
Hulkenberg's Sauber team's previous best was his ninth on the grid in Canada in June and, asked where his phenomenal lap came from, he said: “I don't know either! A really nice surprise, I didn't expect it especially after a very difficult Friday. The guys have done a fantastic job to turn the car around.”
German Nico Rosberg was sixth for Mercedes while his teammate Hamilton qualified only 12th after running off the circuit during Q2.
Daniel Ricciardo, the young Australian who will succeed compatriot Webber at Red Bull next season, was seventh ahead of the two McLarens of Mexican Sergio Perez and Briton Jenson Button, with Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne completing the top 10 for Toro Rosso.
In balmy conditions, Alonso showed he and Ferrari were in shape in Q2 when he clocked 1:24.227 to go top before Vettel responded with 1:23.977 in a busy session that saw Hamilton run off the track at the Parabolica and miss the cut for the top 10 shootout.
He ran wide at the corner and bounced through the gravel at high speed, but managed to retain control and avoid hitting the barriers.
It was enough to wreck his bid for a fifth straight pole, and though he recovered, he could not improve on 12th after finding himself trapped behind Adrian Sutil's Force India car.
It was the first time in 67 races, excluding penalties, that Hamilton had failed to make the cut to Q3.
“I just drove like an idiot,” said Hamilton. “That's the worst I've driven for a long, long time and I'm sorry, for the team. Yes, I was impeded, but there's nothing you can do about it.”
Out with the 2008 champion went the 2007 title winner, Finn Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus, who was 11th, Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Lotus, Sutil, Maldonado and Briton Paul Di Resta in the second Force India. – AFP