MONZA, September 11 – Two-time champion Fernando Alonso delighted Ferrari's home fans on Saturday when he claimed pole position for Sunday's Italian Grand Prix with a dazzling last-gasp lap.
The 29-year-old Spaniard, making his first competitive appearance for Ferrari on the team’s home soil in front of the tifosi, revelled in the moment as he delivered a best lap of one minute 21.962 seconds at the famous old Autodromo Nazionale di Monza.
Alonso was the only driver to break the 1:22 barrier in a relatively predictable qualifying session that saw the trio of leading teams battling for supremacy with Ferrari edging out McLaren ahead of the Red Bulls.
It was Alonso’s maiden pole for Ferrari, the team’s first pole this season and the 19th of Alonso’s career. It was the scarlet scuderia’s first pole in 30 races since 2008.
Defending champion Jenson Button was second fastest for McLaren in 1:22.084 ahead of Alonso’s Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa.
Then came Australian Mark Webber of Red Bull, Briton Lewis Hamilton in the second McLaren and sixth-placed German Sebastian Vettel in the second Red Bull.
Germans Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg were seventh and eighth for Mercedes and Williams respectively with Pole Robert Kubica ninth for Renault and Brazilian Rubens Barrichello 10th in the second Williams.
On another beautiful day in northern Italy, with the track temperature at 39 degrees Celsius and the air on 26 degrees, the Ferrari garage was the centre of the photographers’ attention before qualifying began as the film star Hugh Grant joined Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo in the team’s garage.
The first mini-session was predictable enough with the usual suspects topping the times – the two Ferraris and the two McLarens – and the usual suspects at the other end of the pit-lane falling out of contention.
Those eliminated were the two Lotus men Italian Jarno Trulli and Finn Heikki Kovalainen, followed by Force India’s Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi, German Timo Glock and his Virgin team-mate Brazilkian Lucas di Grassi and the two Hispania drivers Brazilian Bruno Senna and Japanese Sakon Yamamoto.
The Q1 was notable, too, for an incident in which Russian Vitaly Petrov drove out of the pit lane and directly into the path of Glock, a mistake which was the subject of a stewards’ inquiry.
In Q2, it was much more of the same with, sadly, but interestingly, the sight of the seven-times champion and Ferrari legend Michael Schumacher being knocked out in 12th spot and failing to make the top ten shootout for Mercedes.
Schumacher, 41, was truly put in the shade by the speed of the dominant Ferrari of Alonso who was more than a second quicker at the front of the field ahead of Button and Hamilton with Massa fourth.
The two Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber were fifth and sixth and the men who failed to make the cut alongside the former red baron were Adrian Sutil of Force India, Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber, Sebastien Buemi of Toro Rosso, Petrov of Renault and Jaime Alguersuari of Toro Rosso and Pedro de la Rosa of Sauber.