Lewis Hamilton has taken pole position for the Italian GP after the world champion and his Mercedes team maintained their dominance over the field in qualifying.
Hamilton, who topped every session at the ‘Temple of Speed’ last year, is a Monza specialist and has been in fine form all weekend as he seeks to extend his nine-point lead of the world championship.
The Englishman’s advantage over Nico Rosberg in qualifying was a fraction shy of half a second – an unusually large margin of superiority between team-mates at a circuit where most of the lap is run at full throttle.
“I was just not quick enough,” conceded Rosberg. “The problem was that he had the best qualifying l think he’s had in a long time.”
With Mercedes annihilating the rest of the field, only Rosberg appears capable of staying in the same race as Hamilton tomorrow.
Sebastian Vettel was third quickest for Ferrari but hardly quick when measured against Hamilton. Vettel’s best lap was 0.8 seconds off pole position but still one tenth up on Kimi Raikkonen as the Finn secured an all-Ferrari second row to offer the Tifosi a crumb of comfort at the Scuderia’s home race. “It looks like they are in a world of their own,” acknowledged Vettel. “We are further behind than we were last year.”
One glimmer of hope for Rosberg is that Hamilton will have to start the race on a set of soft tyres he flat-spotted during Q2 although Mercedes are likely to seek dispensation from the stewards to use an undamaged set of similar maturity.
“It could be a problem,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. But Hamilton calmed fears by assuring: “The flat-spot is minimal and I don’t think it will be a problem.”
If Hamilton were to require an early stop on race day he would have to bolt on medium tyres, a compound he hasn’t used at all this weekend, to stay on a one-stop strategy.
Mercedes loanee Pascal Wehrlein produced one of the laps of the day in his under-developed Manor car to claim 14th and split the two McLaren cars of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. As speculation continues about the Englishman’s future in the sport, Button lost out to Alonso by two tenths.
Monza has brutally exposed the weakness of Renault’s power unit and the team suffered the ignominy of propping up the field on Saturday afternoon. In such circumstances, all a driver can do is out-qualify his team-mate, an achievement Jolyon Palmer has recorded over Kevin Magnussen in four successive events.
Italian GP qualifying
1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:21.135
2. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:21.613
3. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:21.972
4. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:22.065
5. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:22.388
6. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:22.389
7. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:22.411
8. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:22.814
9. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:22.836
10. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, 1:23.184
11. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:22.967
12. Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:23.092
13. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:23.273
14. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, 1:23.315
15. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:23.399
16. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:23.496
17. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:23.825
18. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1:23.956
19. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:24.087
20. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:24.230
21. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, 1:24.436
22. Esteban Ocon, Manor, No time