Hamilton takes Monza pole


Ahead of today's qualifying session, the air temperature is 21 degrees C, while the track temperature is 34 degrees. This morning's damp conditions - the result of heavy overnight rain - have given way to bright sunshine.

With 13 wins from pole over the last twenty years, started from the usually coveted position is fairly important here... but not vital.

That said, facing hefty grid demotions as a result of various engine and component changes, the Red Bull and Toro Rosso drivers will be focussed purely on tomorrow's race, while the McLaren duo continue to put a brave face on things.

Though Sebastian Vettel offered the tifosi a glimmer of hope this morning, it is unlikely that Mercedes will be troubled this weekend, the, already dominant, team enjoying the extra luxury of an upgraded power unit that is not available to its customers.

Therefore, barring the intervention of the weather gods, the mother of all shocks or a brown envelope from Bernie, we can expect Mercedes to take its tenth front row lock-out of the season today.

Whilst we expect Ferrari to be 'up there', the Italian team given a power upgrade courtesy of the tifosi, the Mercedes customer teams will be strong despite not having the new engine.

Lotus, Williams and Force India should provide some genuine thrill this afternoon and tomorrow, whilst Sauber and Manor might benefit from the problems facing the Renault teams.

"Un-diagnosed engine problem for Nico in FP3 means we're reverting back to the Spa race power unit," reveals Mercedes just 15 minutes before the start of Q1. "As this engine is already in the race pool, he will not receive a penalty for taking the engine change. While the crew work hard to turn the car around in the garage, the engineers will be evaluating data to find the cause."

This means that only Hamilton has the new super-duper engine, Rosberg has the same unit as the Mercedes customers.

In the moments before the session, work is still underway on Verstappen's car and Ricciardo's, the Australian having changed his engine since FP3.

Stevens is first out as the lights go green, followed by teammate Merhi. Surprisingly, Hamilton is another early riser.

As more drivers take to the track, all bar the Manors are on primes.

Stevens posts 28.254 and Merhi 28.586, though shortly after Hulkenberg posts a far more sensible 26.130.

"Massive problems with the Sauber," complains Hulkenberg after tripping up over Ericsson, "what's he doing?"

Hamilton posts 24.649 to go quickest, just ahead of Grosjean (25.307). Already, Hamilton is asking what the cut-off time is.

The stewards are investigating the Ericsson/Hulkenberg incident.

A sad indictment of its current situation, McLaren sends out both drivers, like Manor, on the option rubber. Sainz is also on the yellow banded rubber.

Vettel goes third (25.141), behind Hamilton (24.251) and Bottas. Massa is fourth, ahead of Raikkonen and Grosjean.

On his first flying lap, Rosberg posts 24.820 to go second, business as usual for the Mercedes duo.

With less than 8 minutes remaining it's looking unlikely that either Ricciardo or Verstappen are going to get out.

On the softer rubber, Sainz goes eighth (25.848).

With the bottom five virtually decided there is no real need for the big guns to improve.

The stewards are now investigating a second incident involving Ericsson and Hulkenberg, the first at the Parabolica, the second in the second chicane.

Alonso goes fifteenth (26.763) despite a worrying wobble in the Parabolica.

Grosjean, now on options, improves to seventh with a 25.307.

As the clock counts down to under four minutes, Ricciardo and Verstappen appear to be getting into their cars.

Indeed, as teammate Kvyat posts 25.742 to go eighth, Ricciardo heads down the pitlane.

Sainz, currently fourteenth, posts a PB in S1 as Verstappen finally leaves his garage. Sainz crosses the line at 25.410 to go twelfth, while Ricciardo goes fourteenth.

In its eagerness to get him out, Toro Rosso has clearly got it wrong, his engine cover has not been properly screwed in to place and 'explodes' in the Curva Grande. "I lost bodywork," shouts the youngster.

We lose Button, Alonso, Stevens, Merhi and Verstappen.

Hamilton was quickest, ahead of Rosberg, Raikkonen, Perez, Hulkenberg, Bottas, Vettel, Nasr, Ericsson and Grosjean.

The Ferrari and Mercedes duos were the only drivers that didn't resort to the softer rubber.

The lights go green for Q2, but there's nobody waiting at the end of the pitlane. After a minute or so, Rosberg splits the silence, followed by his Silver Arrows teammate.

As Rosberg begins his flying lap there are nine other drivers on track.

The German posts 24.128, with Bottas posting 24.489 moments later. However, a 23.383 sees the Briton eclipse his teammate by a mighty 0.745s.

Massa goes third (24.367) but is almost a second off Hamilton's pace.

Both Ferraris are on track, Vettel goes second (23.925), 0.542s off the pace, whilst Raikkonen stops the clock at 23.757, just 0.374s shy of the world champion. The crowd goes wild.

At the other end of the timesheets, Nasr, Grosjean, Sainz, Ricciardo and Kvyat comprise the drop zone. The Red Bull duo and Sainz might well opt not to run.

"I have something hanging from my car," complains Raikkonen.

With under three minutes remaining, Bottas heads out for a second run. He is followed by Massa and Hulkenberg. The Finn is told that his teammate will attempt to get a tow.

Bottas goes fifth but is demoted when his teammate goes fourth (23.983).

Hamilton and Raikkonen have opted not to run.

Ericsson improves to ninth, thereby putting Hulkenberg in danger.

Sainz fails to improve and remains thirteenth.

We lose Maldonado, the only Mercedes-powered car not to make the cut, Nasr, Sainz, Kvyat and Ricciardo, the Australian having opted not to run.

Hamilton is quickest, ahead of Vettel, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Massa, Bottas, Perez, Grosjean, Ericsson and Hulkenberg.

"Track seems to be getting faster and faster," says Pirelli. "Expect the pole time to come in the closing seconds of Q3."

The lights go green, signalling that start of Q3. Over a minute later Hulkenberg heads down the pitlane to get proceedings underway. Rosberg and Hamilton follow.

Hulkenberg posts 25.317 but behind, Massa appears to be the quickest, certainly in S1, benefitting from a tow from his teammate.

Rosberg goes quickest in S2, crossing the line at 23.942. However, Massa eclipse it with a 23.705 only to lose out to Hamilton (23.397).

Vettel goes second (23.705) and Raikkonen third (23.712) much to the delight of the partisan crowd.

"I have no power," says Hulkenberg as he grinds to a halt as he enters the pitlane.

Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Massa and Rosberg is the order after the first assault. Round two coming up.

Perez and Ericsson have yet to post times, whilst Hulkenberg's car is pushed back to his garage.

Raikkonen complains that he is still suffering understeer. You wouldn't know it by that last lap, he was just 0.007s slower than his teammate.

As the drivers head out for the final assault, one imagines the atmosphere must be similar to that of the Circus Maximus.

In the Force India garage, Hulkenberg climbs from his car, his day's work done.

Vettel posts a PB in S1, as does Bottas and Rosberg.

Masa posts a PB in S2 whilst Hamilton goes quickest.

Raikkonen improves to 23.631 whilst Hamilton, having gone quickest in S3 also, posts 23.397, thereby taking his seventh successive pole.

Rosberg improves (23.703), but can only manage fourth, the two Ferraris having taken second and third.

Hamilton therefore takes pole, ahead of Raikkonen, Vettel, Rosberg, Massa, Bottas, Perez, Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Ericsson.

Maldonado is eleventh, ahead of Nasr, Sainz, Kvyat, Ricciardo, Button, Alonso, Stevens, Merhi and Verstappen.

Check out our Saturday gallery, here.

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Published: 05/09/2015
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