Hamilton on pole in Monza as Sutil shines for Force India
Lewis Hamilton charged to pole position for the Italian Grand Prix edging out a superb Adrian Sutil who put Force India on the front row of the grid for the second race in a row.
Hamilton laid down the gauntlet in Q3 with a 1.24.605, smashing Kimi Raikkonen’s benchmark time, but it was Adrian Sutil in the KERS-less Force India who emerged as the Briton’s closest threat after he shaved three tenths off his time to go quickest, despite a mistake at the first Lesmos.
Hamilton had time for one final assault on the high-speed Monza circuit which he delivered to devastating effect, dethroning Sutil from the top spot by a mere tenth of a second to claim his second pole position of the season and the fifteenth of his career.
Sutil’s pace was legitimate though, as post-qualifying fuel weights confirmed that Hamilton was carrying slightly less fuel than the Force India.
“The car felt very good, and I was able to really put the lap together,” reflected Hamilton. “I had a single shot at pole and that s the most exhilarating and exciting feeling you can have as a racing driver.
“We didn t anticipate being this quick before the weekend, but I m now in the best position to make the most of the start and to get out of the first corner cleanly.
“It s fantastic to have Adrian (Sutil) starting alongside me tomorrow and we both want a clean start and to enjoy the Grand Prix.â€
Kimi Raikkonen gave the tifosi something to smile about with third place ahead of Heikki Kovalainen in the sister McLaren, but across the garage debutant and stand-in Giancarlo Fisichella struggled to get to grips with the Ferrari F60 and wound up fourteenth.
“I was a bit tense before the session, as I knew I didn t yet have enough confidence in the car. Unfortunately, in Q2, I never managed to put together a perfect lap and so I couldn t make it through to Q3. It s a shame, as the potential was there, but tomorrow there is still time to have a good race nevertheless. Maybe, I can try and immediately make up some places at the start thanks to the KERS.â€
Fisichella’s replacement at Force India, third driver Vitantonio Liuzzi meanwhile underlined the raw pace of the VJM09 by pacing seventh quickest ahead of Renault’s Fernando Alonso, much to the delight of his home crowd.
“Two weeks ago I didn t expect to be on the grid so this is a fantastic result better than we expected,” said the Italian. “The team made a great effort and gave me a lot of support to reach this target. They never gave up and we had a great Friday and Saturday.”
“The race will be difficult physically and mentally but I like the fight, the team are fighters and we will give the maximum in tomorrow s race. I m definitely looking forward to racing in front of my home crowd.â€
With the exception of Sutil, Brawn GP were the best of the non-KERS cars as the rejuvenated Rubens Barrichello took fifth spot, beating teammate Jenson Button for the third time in a row.
Button certainly seemed to be happier behind the wheel of his BGP001 in Monza but he will be eager to get the measure of his teammate in the race.
The championship leader commented: “Rubens and I have been so close on lap times all weekend and he s ended up just fifteen-hundredths ahead of me which is the difference between getting your head down on the straights. I obviously didn t do it enough!”
“We got the best out of the car today and it felt good on the heavy fuel load which is important because it s not just about qualifying, you have to consider your race. It s been a positive day and I m confident that we can have a good race.â€
From a title perspective, he will also be pleased to see the Red Bull drivers struggling at the high-speed arena; Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber wound up ninth and tenth.
It wasn’t the fairy tale result that Giancarlo Fisichella and his home fans were expecting either as the Roman made his debut with Ferrari.
The Italian veteran struggled to get to grips with the nuances of the quick but ill-behaving Ferrari F60 and the best he could muster in Q2 was fourteenth fastest.
With his former Force India teammates Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi running so strongly for the second race in a row, the Roman driver will be wondering whether he made the right move to switch to Ferrari after wowing F1 with his second place in Belgium.
Fisichella’s fellow countryman and former teammate Jarno Trulli also just missed the top ten shoot after pacing eleventh quickest ahead of Renault’s Sebastian Grosjean.
It was a disastrous qualifying hour for the beleaguered BMW Sauber team as both Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld pulled out of Q2 with an engine problem.
The result will be particularly disappointing for team boss Mario Theissen and co-owner Peter Sauber who are desperately trying to attract a buyer for the team after BMW announced they will pull out of Formula One at the end of the season.
“It is a real shame having an engine problem after it all looked so promising,” said Heidfeld. “It is very strange that Robert and I both had problems with two new engines within a few minutes. We will find out what the reason was. Qualifying 15th will make it difficult, but I will not give up and make the most of it.â€
The team will take heart from the fact that both Kubica and Heidfeld progressed to Q2 as the performance of the F1.09 continues to improve. The pair ended up thirteenth and fifteenth fastest, sandwiching Giancarlo Fisichella’s Ferrari.
Williams were another team with glum faces after the session. The Grove-based outfit endured its worst qualifying performance of the season as both Kazuki Nakajima and Nico Rosberg were knocked out of Q1. The FW31 is clearly not suited to the high-speed characteristics of Monza and that will be a further blow to the team’s hopes of holding on to Rosberg next season.
“I didn t manage to put the ideal lap together as the car has not been at its best all weekend,” said Rosberg. “Although we had a tough time with the car last race and we will struggle a lot here this weekend, I am convinced things will improve for Singapore and we will be back where we were in Valencia.”
The pair will start the race from seventeeth and eighteenth respectively ahead of Toro Rosso rookies Sebastian Buemi and Jaimie Alguersuari who bring up the rear of the grid.
Buemi’s hopes of progressing to Q2 were over before they had started after the Swiss driver was held up by Lewis Hamilton at the Rettifilo chicane on his final flying lap. Both drivers were called to the stewards room after today s qualifying session, but after much deliberation it has been decided that Hamilton will not be penalised.
Toyota’s Timo Glock was the other causality of the opening session. He starts sixteenth ahead of the Williams and Toro Rosso drivers.
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:24.066 2 Adrian Sutil Force India 0:00.459 3 Kimi RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen Ferrari 0:00.912 4 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren 0:01.234 5 Rubens Barrichello Brawn 0:01.404 6 Jenson Button Brawn 0:01.419 7 Vitantanio Liuzzi Force India 0:01.432 8 Fernando Alonso Renault 0:01.461 9 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 0:01.569 10 Mark Webber Red Bull 0:01.703 11 Jarno Trulli Toyota 0:00.000 12 Romain Grosjean Renault 0:00.117 13 Robert Kubica BMW 0:00.255 14 Giancarlo Fisichella Ferrari 0:00.290 15 Nick Heidfeld BMW 0:00.664 16 Timo Glock Toyota 0:00.425 17 Kazuki Nakajima Williams 0:00.463 18 Nico Rosberg Williams 0:00.510 19 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 0:00.609 20 Alguersuari Jaime Toro Rosso 0:01.340