The battle for pole position for the Italian Grand Prix went to the wire once as expected with Adrian Sutil holding the provisional spot before Lewis Hamilton flashed across the line to claim pole for McLaren Mercedes by two-tenths of a second.
Sutil has been flying all weekend
in his VJM02 and looked set to follow in the footsteps of his former team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella
to make it two straight poles for the Mercedes-powered Force India team. However, a small error in the first Lesmo right-hander saw the back end of the car step out and time was lost.
While Hamilton and McLaren celebrate the pole, Sutil and Force India will be delighted with their front-row start. However, we do not know the fuel levels run in the final round of qualifying with several top ten runners opting to run a one stop strategy for Sunday’s 53-lap race.
Ferrari traditionally shine at its home race and once again all hopes were pinned on Kimi Raikkonen
’s shoulders as Fisichella struggled to 14th in the sister machine. This left the 2007 champion to carry the hopes of the Tifosi and once again he put in another solid performance to start in third position ahead of the second McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen. Rubens Barrichello
and Jenson Button
start fifth and sixth for Brawn Mercedes and it is claimed that they are both running a one strop strategy. Should this be confirmed, they are looking very strong for race day from the third row of the grid.
Tonio Liuzzi’s first qualifying session since the end of the 2007 season was a dramatic affair as the Italian looked set to be eliminated in the second round of qualifying. Liuzzi pushed hard on his final lap to vault fifth fastest and into Q3. He then went on to qualify an impressive seventh in the second Force India. Fernando Alonso
starts eighth in the second Renault as the double world champion looks to try and make the best of the recently re-fitted KERS on his R29.
Like the Brawn duo, he will probably be pitting just once for fuel on race day.
Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber round out the top ten for Red Bull Renault, despite a troubled build-up to qualifying. In terms of the championship, they have both Button and Barrichello ahead however. Jarno Trulli
leads the Toyota challenge for Toyota in 11th ahead of Romain Grosjean in the second Renault. However there was drama for the BMW Sauber duo as first Nick Heidfeld
and then Robert Kubica were forced to pull of track in the second round of qualifying with engine problems. Kubica starts 13th ahead of Fisichella and Nick Heidfeld
with the Hinwil-based team now seriously close to the eight engines per driver limit for the season.
Timo Glock starts 16th in the second Toyota ahead of the Williams Toyota duo of Kazuki Nakajima and Nico Rosberg. The Grove-based team has struggled all weekend but it is still a surprise to see Nakajima out-qualify Rosberg, despite an error at the first chicane on his final lap.
As expected, Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari were slowest for Toro Rosso. The former had his session compromised by Lewis Hamilton exiting the pits and blocking him into the first turn while the latter was always going to start at the back following a gearbox change after the morning practice session.
With strategy likely to vary between one and two stops, the grid order may not necessarily reflect the final result on Sunday afternoon. Add the three KERS-equipped teams to that equation and it is still looking pretty open.