McLarens sitting pretty in Monza

Despite doubts hanging over Lewis Hamilton's future, the Brit was business as usual for Italian Grand Prix qualifying.

    McLarens sitting pretty in Monza
    Team rivalry: Pole topper Lewis Hamilton (R) of McLaren alongside McLaren teammate Jenson Button [EPA]

    McLaren once again asserted their authority over the field at qualifying claiming a 1-2 on the grid for the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday. 

    Last Saturday in Belgium, it was Jenson Button on pole, but this time around it was the turn of Lewis Hamilton who recorded the fastest lap of the day.

    The Brit managed to put the media interest over his future to one side to pip teammate and rival Button to the number one spot. The line between number one and number two driver is as thin as ever at McLaren...

    It was McLaren's third successive pole, and 23rd of Hamilton's career, and left the two Britons perfectly placed for a third win in a row after their third one-two in qualifying this season.

    "The last few races have really shown our strength"

    McLaren driver Jenson Button

    "I think practice was a lot better for me," said Hamilton, who was fastest in the morning's final practice, of what he called a 'half-decent' lap at the end of the session.

    "I didn't think that lap was anywhere near good enough," said the 2008 world champion, whose Formula One future has been the major talking point of the weekend with speculation raging that Hamilton could move to Mercedes.

    Button has finished runner-up at Monza for the past three years in a row but knows only too well that the driver on pole has also ended up the winner in six of the last 10 races there.

    "The last few races have really shown our strength," said Button.

    "Qualifying both of us on the front row is great...but even being on the front row it's not going to be an easy race."

    Split Ferrari fortunes

    Ferrari's Brazilian Felipe Massa qualified third but teammate and championship leader Fernando Alonso, who has a 24-point lead over Red Bull's champion Sebastian Vettel, could manage only 10th place on the grid for his team's home race.

    "I think he had a problem," said Massa, whose future at Ferrari looks shakier than ever after he scored just 35 points in 12 races.

    "He had a problem on Q3 (the third phase) and was not able to complete his lap."

    Britain's Paul Di Resta qualified fourth fastest but has a five-place grid penalty due to an unscheduled gearbox change.

    That meant Michael Schumacher, still adored by the Ferrari fans for his golden past with the team, will start on the second row instead for Mercedes.

    Vettel will share the third row with the Mercedes of compatriot Nico Rosberg with former Ferrari champion Kimi Raikkonen seventh for Lotus and alongside Japan's Kamui Kobayashi for Sauber.

    Force India's Nico Hulkenberg will start last after he failed to set a time in qualifying after slowing and stopping on the escape road next to the first chicane.

    His problems allowed Belgian Jerome D'Ambrosio, replacing the banned Romain Grosjean at Lotus for one race, to go through to the second phase.

    He will start 15th because Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, wearing a new helmet with "Less Trouble, More Speed' written on it, has a 10-place grid penalty for jumping the start at the last race in Belgium and causing a collision.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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