Alonso on pole for Ferrari’s home Grand Prix

Fernando Alonso secured Ferrari’s first pole since 2008, as the Spaniard recorded a strong performance infront of the Scuderia’s home fans.

The 29-year-old was on top form through the three segments of qualifying, as the two Ferrari’s secured first and third on the grid.

Jenson Button kept his title hopes alive by securing second on the grid, while team-mate Lewis Hamilton struggled in fifth.

Meanwhile, Red Bull endured its worst qualifying performance of the season with Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel fourth and sixth respectively.

Q1

Qualifying opened to baking sunshine as thousands of adoring Italian fans flocked round the famous Monza circuit many looking for their beloved scarlet cars to deliver on home soil.

Meanwhile all eyes would be on McLaren, running its two cars on different set ups, and also Mark Webber, who completed minimum running after being plagued by mechanical issues in two of the three practice sessions.

There was controversy from the onset when Virgin’s Timo Glock, the first to attempt to set a time, was blocked at the first chicane by the Renault of Vitaly Petrov.

Time will tell if the Russian will face disciplinary action from the race stewards; either way his clumsiness left the German enraged.

McLaren once again attempted to stamp its authority over the opening segment, with Jenson Button topping the times early on whilst running on the harder compound.

Williams also continued its good form in Q1, with Barrichello and Hulkenberg moving into second and third respectively with around twelve minutes to go.
However, the Grove-based outfit soon found itself relegated with first Fernando Alonso and then Lewis Hamilton moving to the top of the standings.

Meanwhile the Red Bull duo struggled in the open segment, with both Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber down in eighth and ninth respectively.

Back at the top of the standings and it was Alonso who grabbed the bull by the horns and set the fastest time. The Spaniard set a rocketing 1:22.646 demoting Hamilton to second by just over a tenth of a second.

Ferrari’s pace was quickly underlined when Alonso’s time was beaten by his team-mate by more than two tenths of a second. Despite his erratic behaviour in practice, Massa looked mighty around the 3.6 mile circuit, as the Scuderia took the fight to rivals McLaren.

Elsewhere, Tonio Liuzzi would prove to be the first major casualty in Q1, after his Force India suffered mechanical issues.

The Italian found himself relegated to twentieth after his time was beaten by the Lotus cars of Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen.

Drivers eliminated in Q1:

18. Trulli     Lotus
19. Kovalainen Lotus
20. Liuzzi     Force India
21. Glock      Virgin
22. di Grassi  Virgin
23. Senna      HRT
24. Yamamoto   HRT

Q2

Following his relegation from qualifying, news soon filtered through that Timo Glock would be given a five-place grid penalty for opting to change his gearbox.

While the majority of the field took to the circuit on the harder compound, Lewis Hamilton opted for the softer option and immediately set the fastest time – 1:22.497.

However, Fernando Alonso would not lie down to the challenge and immediately lowered the bar by around a tenth of a second.

Red Bull continued to struggle to match the pace of McLaren or Ferrari, with Vettel around five tenths off the top of the times on his first run.

With around two minutes to go Jenson Button popped up to fourth although three tenths off his team-mate.

Despite this, the British driver improved on his second run to finish the second segment in second place.

Lewis Hamilton decided against completing another lap, as did Robert Kubica who gambled on his time being good enough to see him through into the Q3.

Kubica would be joined in the top ten shoot out by the Williams duo of Hulkenberg and Barrichello, as well as the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.

Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher continued to struggle, with his Mercedes languishing in twelfth place. Subsequently the German found himself relegated from qualifying, alongside Adrian Sutil (Force India), the two Saubers and the two Toro Rosso drivers.

Drivers eliminated in Q2:

11. Sutil       Force India
12. Schumacher  Mercedes
13. Kobayashi   Sauber
14. Buemi       Toro Rosso
15. Petrov      Renault
16. Alguersuari Toro Rosso
17. de la Rosa  Sauber

Q3

Ferrari meant business from the start, with Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso towards the sharp end of the queue which filtered out of the pit lane for the start of the final segment.

The final ten minutes would prove to be as dramatic as ever, as McLaren and Ferrari locked horns to decide pole position.

Initially it was Felipe Massa who would take provisional pole, only to be demoted by his team-mate and Jenson Button.

Alonso’s time would send the loyal Tifosi into raptures; over half a second faster than his team-mates time and more than two tenths quicker than Button’s McLaren.

As the session drew to a close Lewis Hamilton attempts to respond were foiled as he failed to match Alonso’s time.

In fact Hamilton would find himself relegated further down the grid, as Mark Webber set a blistering time to pip him to fourth.

Sebastian Vettel was never in contention for pole position and had to settle for a comfortable sixth, nearly half a second ahead of Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes.

Nico Hulkenberg, Robert Kubica and Rubens Barrichello rounded off the top ten.

So heading in to tomorrow’s race and Alonso and Button will be hoping that to translate their front row grid positions into credible race finishes to reignite their championship challenges.

Pos Driver         Team                    Q1        Q3        Q3
1.  Alonso         Ferrari                 1:22.646  1:22.297  1:21.962
2.  Button         McLaren-Mercedes        1:23.085  1:22.354  1:22.084
3.  Massa          Ferrari                 1:22.421  1:22.610  1:22.293
4.  Webber         Red Bull-Renault        1:23.431  1:22.706  1:22.433
5.  Hamilton       McLaren-Mercedes        1:22.830  1:22.394  1:22.623
6.  Vettel         Red Bull-Renault        1:23.235  1:22.701  1:22.675
7.  Rosberg        Mercedes                1:23.529  1:23.055  1:23.027
8.  Hulkenberg     Williams-Cosworth       1:23.516  1:22.989  1:23.037
9.  Kubica         Renault                 1:23.234  1:22.880  1:23.039
10. Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth       1:23.695  1:23.142  1:23.328
11. Sutil          Force India-Mercedes    1:23.493  1:23.199
12. Schumacher     Mercedes                1:23.840  1:23.388
13. Kobayashi      Sauber-Ferrari          1:24.273  1:23.659
14. Buemi          Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1:23.744  1:23.681
15. Petrov         Renault                 1:24.086  1:23.819
16. Alguersuari    Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1:24.083  1:23.919
17. de la Rosa     Sauber-Ferrari          1:24.442  1:24.044
18. Trulli         Lotus-Cosworth          1:25.540
19. Kovalainen     Lotus-Cosworth          1:25.742
20. Liuzzi         Force India-Mercedes    1:25.774
21. Glock          Virgin-Cosworth         1:25.934
22. di Grassi      Virgin-Cosworth         1:25.974
23. Senna          HRT-Cosworth            1:26.847
24. Yamamoto       HRT-Cosworth            1:27.020