Sebastian Vettel continued his dominant weekend at Monza as he stormed to pole position for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix. The German ace was peerless as he claimed the 40th pole position of his career and Red Bull’s 50th in Formula One. Mark Webber will line up alongside the triple world champion in second, but Nico Hulkenberg was the sensation of the session as he ended up 3rd for Sauber.
Monza was bathed in glorious sunshine as the threat of rain once again held off, as qualifying for round 12 of the 2013 Formula One got under way.
Esteban Gutierrez and Nico Rosberg broke the silence around the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza as they became the first men out in Q1. Gutierrez set an initial benchmark time of 1:26.293, some 1.2 seconds quicker than Rosberg who was on an 8 lap run as he attempted to make up for lost time in FP3.
Early in the session the Ferrari duo of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso practised a tactical game of slipstreaming, with Alonso tucked in behind Massa to maximise his speed on the long Monza straights. The tactic worked for the Spaniard as he topped the time sheets early on with a 1:24.938 with Massa some 4 tenths slower.
The Toro Rosso pair impressed in Q1, ending up 4th and 6th overall, their Ferrari engines clearly a benefit as they topped the speedtraps. Jean-Eric Vergne topped the timesheets for a good chunk of the session with Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso both failing to pip the Frenchman initially.
Sebastian Vettel seemed confident as he left it late before setting a time, but the German showed his hand with a 1:24.697 on his first timed lap. However, it was only good enough for 3rd behind Vergne and Alonso.
Hamilton topped the session with 5 minutes to go with a lap of 1:24.589, before Sebastian Vettel instantly snatched the topspot with a 1:24.319, two tenths up on Hamilton’s time.
With just a second covering the top 18 it was a tight battle to make it into Q2 and it was ultimately Esteban Gutierrez and Valteri Bottas who joined the usual suspects from Caterham and Marussia in the dropzone after a great final lap by Pastor Maldonado saved the Venezuelan at Gutierrez’s expense.
In what was mostly an incident free session Romain Grosjean was the only man who took a trip off track, running heavily over the speed bumps in the first chicane after out breaking himself.
Toro Rosso continued their impressive Saturday as Daniel Ricciardo topped the session early on with a 1:24.746. Both Ricciardo and Vergne would ultimately make it into Q3, a great turn-around following the team’s troubles on Friday afternoon.
Fernando Alonso took the topspot from Ricciardo with a 1:24.227 after a little help from Felipe Massa’s slipstream, a time that would not be beaten for most of the session and would ultimately leave the Spaniard 2nd fastest overall in Q2.
The Ferrari’s had to go through a huge dust cloud thrown up by Lewis Hamilton as they finished their laps, after the Brit had a big moment into Parabolica as his Mercedes dropped its left wheel into the dust, sucking him into the gravel. An impressive save by Hamilton, but he was straight back into the pits on the next lap, clearly uncomfortable with something in his W04
The 2008 world champion was under pressure with just minutes to go, and a scruffy lap left him 9th, a time that ultimately would not be good enough to get him into Q3 as others improved. It was a real shock for Hamilton, who missed out on Q3 for the first time since the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2010.
Nico Rosberg in the sister Mercedes was having no such problems as he split the Ferrari’s in 2nd with a 1:24.538, a time that saw the German safely into Q3.
The Red Bull’s left it very late to set a time again, going for just a single run with 5 minutes of Q2 remaining. Webber led Vettel out on track, the Australian setting a 1:24.263 to go 2nd behind Alonso. Vettel soon stamped his mark on the session with a 1:23.977 to go fastest of all, a time that would not be beaten.
It was a busy end to Q2 with 15 cars circulating out on track together, with many drivers improving, most notably Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg who went 4th and 5th very late on in the session. However, there was no such luck for the two Lotus’ and the Force India pair who joined Hamilton and Maldonado in the drop-zone and were eliminated from qualifying. Both Red Bull’s, the two Ferrari’s, the McLaren pair and the Toro Rosso’s of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo joined the sole remaining Mercedes and Sauber of Rosberg and Hulkenberg.
Vettel instantly stamped his dominance in the final session of qualifying, topping the time-sheets with a lap of 1:23.859, a tenth up on his best time from Q2. Webber joined his Red Bull team-mate on the provisional front row. However, the triple world champion went even better on his second run with a 1:23.755 as the Red Bull duo locked out the front row.
Daniel Ricciardo managed to go 4th with 2 minutes remaining, but it was a scruffy lap from the Australian who ran very wide through the Lesmo’s and would slip to 7th as the chequered flag fell. His team-mate had an almost carbon copy of Lewis Hamilton’s off at Parabolica which spoilt his lap and left him 10th.
Vergne, Hulkenberg and the two McLaren’s of Sergio Perez and Jenson Button opted for a single run in Q3, running late in the session. Perez out qualified the 2009 world champion. 8th and 9th for the McLaren pair as good as it gets as the team celebrate their 50th anniversary.
Ferrari once again played the team game, as Felipe Massa dutifully towed Fernando Alonso, but it did not go according to plan for the Scuderia as Felipe Massa out qualified Fernando Alonso with a 1:24.123, 1 hundredth of a second quicker than the Spaniard. The mistake provoked an angry response from Alonso who blamed the team for ruining his qualifying session.
However, the star of qualifying was certainly Nico Hulkenberg for Sauber, who wowed everyone with a stunning lap of 1:24.065 which put him a shock 3rd behind the Red Bull duo on the grid. The German described his lap as absolutely perfect.
Qualifying at Monza has left us with a fascinating grid for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, as Sebastian Vettel took Red Bull’s 50th pole position in Formula One. However, all eyes will be on Nico Hulkenberg come race day after the German’s stunning lap which means he will line up a seasons best 3rd on the grid. The Ferrari pair of Massa and Alonso will be on Hulkenberg’s tail and will be expected to impress in front of their home crowd. It is also impossible to discount Lewis Hamilton, who will surely play a key part in the race, despite only starting 12th on the grid.
Position Driver Team Time Gap
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m23.755s
2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m23.968s +0.213s
3. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m24.065s +0.310s
4. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m24.132s +0.377s
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m24.142s +0.387s
6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m24.192s +0.437s
7. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m24.209s +0.454s
8. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m24.502s +0.747s
9. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m24.515s +0.760s
10. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m28.050s +4.295s
11. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m24.610s +0.633s
12. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m24.803s +0.826s
13. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m24.848s +0.871s
14. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m24.932s +0.955s
15. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m25.011s +1.034s
16. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m25.077s +1.100s
17. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m25.226s +0.907s
18. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m25.291s +0.972s
19. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m26.406s +2.087s
20. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m26.563s +2.244s
21. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m27.085s +2.766s
22. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m27.480s +3.161s
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic