Alonso wins Italian GP pole at Monza
Fernando Alonso set the fastest time in this afternoon’s qualifying session to take pole position in just the right place, this being Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro’s home race at the Monza circuit.
And teammate Felipe Massa has given the tifosi who are already packing the grandstands real hope of a strong result in tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix as he lines up just behind Fernando, having set the third fastest time.
It was a just reward for all the hard work back at Maranello, following the disappointment of Spa a fortnight ago. It has been a long time coming, as not since Felipe took pole at his home race in Brazil in 2008 has a Prancing Horse car taken the top slot on the grid.
Pole at Monza, in front of grandstands full of the Ferrari faithful, waving their banners and caps and cheering in delight: what more could make the day complete? Perhaps the presence of the Scuderia’s biggest “fan,” Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo who, watching from the pit wall was literally jumping for joy when the checkered flag signaled the end of the session.
However, both he and Stefano Domenicali soon had their jumping feet firmly back on the ground, pointing out that the most important and toughest part of the weekend is yet to come. That is true at every race weekend of course, but here in Monza, the challenge is unique, as the high speed nature of the track puts a heavy strain on every component of the car: the driver’s concentration is stretched by the high speed, the long running time at full throttle is tough on the engine, while the tight chicanes require heavy braking and a tough car to deal with the pounding from the curbs.
The Ferrari duo have a real chance of bringing home some important championship points, but as ever they face stiff opposition: Fernando has reigning World Champion Jenson Button alongside him on the front row in the McLaren, while Felipe will find the Red Bull of Mark Webber alongside him. Row three is made up of championship leader Lewis Hamilton, fifth in the second McLaren and Sebastian Vettel sixth in the other Red Bull.
Lewis Hamilton had admitted that he is now lamenting the choice of not running a rear wing-stalling f-duct at Monza, with McLaren having split their strategies but Jenson Button managing second on the grid as opposed to Lewis' fifth place.
With Hamilton running a more conventional, low-downforce car setup but Button gambling on an unusual configuration, it was the latter who was able to reach the front row and just miss out on pole position to Fernando Alonso.
Renault's Vitaly Petrov was handed a five place penalty on the Italian Grand Prix starting grid for impeding Virgin Racing's Timo Glock in qualifying on Saturday. The Russian had qualified 15th.
German Glock, who qualified 21st, will also collect a five place penalty because a seal on his car's gearbox had to be broken after final practice.
Jenson Button (2nd, 1:22.084): "I've felt very happy all weekend running the higher of our two downforce packages. The car has felt very good and I've been comfortable with the stability of the rear. You know you'll be competitive when you keep finding small increments of time here and there. Over a single lap, the car is good, but its real benefit will be felt in the race tomorrow, when we should have stronger long-run pace. We're running more downforce than most people; that'll make it more tricky over the first couple of laps, but we should be more consistent in the race. I want to say a big thank you to the whole team for bringing a great package to this weekend's race. Our car is moving forwards all the time. It will be an incredible battle at the front tomorrow, but, starting from the front row, my aim must be for a victory. A win here would be very important; I've got the world championship trophy at home - and I want it to stay there!"
Lewis Hamilton (5th, 1:22.623): "I'm a little bit disappointed - it would appear that we took the wrong route by running without the F-duct this weekend. I just didn't have the downforce today, and the car was sliding in the corners - I couldn't push any harder because the car just wouldn't give me any more. For tomorrow's race, I'll have good top speed, but the car is going to be sliding through the corners, so I won't be able to follow closely enough through the corners to try and pass, so it'll be tough. But I have to congratulate Jenson on doing a great job. Today wasn't my best qualifying performance of the season, but we'll still push like crazy tomorrow and fight for some good points from the third row. It looks like it'll be a tough race."
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal: "Today we saw a really strong qualifying lap from Jenson. He missed bagging what would have been McLaren's 147th Formula 1 pole position by just a smidgen over a tenth of a second - and, when it's that close, you're inevitably just a little disappointed that you didn't get pole. But Jenson will start from the front row tomorrow and will therefore be supremely well placed to mount a combative yet disciplined challenge for victory. Clearly, having been quick all weekend, Lewis had hoped for better than fifth place in qualifying. With hindsight, I think we sent him out just a little too close to Mark [Webber]. It's always a tricky balancing act, because you want to send your drivers out so that they have a chance of getting a tow, but you don't want to let them get so close to the cars they're following that they encounter too much dirty air and therefore 'wash out' in the corners; I think that's perhaps what happened to Lewis in Parabolica, hence his slightly disappointing time in sector 3. Having said all that, Lewis is every bit as focused on scoring heavily tomorrow as is Jenson, and those who know him [Lewis] won't be surprised to hear me say that he'll be aiming to make up places as soon as the five red lights go out on the start-line gantry."
Nico Rosberg (7th, 1:23.027): "Seventh place is definitely the best performance that was possible for us today so both I and the team can be pleased with that. However we obviously want to be further up the grid so we shouldn't get too used to being happy with such results. In race trim, we are probably a little stronger than in qualifying, so I can hopefully gain a place or two tomorrow if something happens amongst the top six guys, and look to achieve some good points."
Michael Schumacher (12th, 1:23.388): "I am obviously not very happy with our qualifying today but my position is probably what my car was giving me. We did not have a perfect balance, especially in some corners where the car was a bit loose, but then we did not come here expecting to achieve a great performance. However the race will be long tomorrow and having been welcomed so nicely by all of my Italian fans, I obviously wish to at least grab some points for them."
Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "The team and drivers have done a good job so far this weekend to get the most out of the car. It was a particularly good effort from Nico today to achieve seventh position with a strong run in Q3. We have a good high fuel set-up so we have done the work required for the race and can hope to pick up a place or two with both cars. Whilst we are not pushing the guys right at the front, we are maintaining our position just behind, and with our focus on 2011, that is our aim for the rest of this year."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Nico extracted the performance that was possible from the car today and it was a good job from him and the team to put the car in seventh place behind the Ferrari, McLaren Mercedes and Red Bull cars. Michael was close to making Q3 and he will start from the sixth row and hopefully be in a position to make up places and finish in the points. It looks like it is going to be an interesting race as the top three qualifiers are not the three drivers currently leading the World Championship so I am sure there will be a big fight between the top six drivers and that may help Nico to gain position."
Mark Webber (4th, 1:22.433): "I was pretty happy with today's qualifying. It's tight round here and trying to get it all together is not the easiest; when you're pushing hard on the chicanes it's easy to over cook them. The guys did a good job. We were up and down with the wing levels, but everyone's in the same position trying to get the car set up in the best way for Monza. It didn't help that we got the car back quite late after we stopped out on track in P3, but we stayed cool. I didn't get many laps on the option tire, but the engineers were able to look at what Sebastian found out on them and the team worked closely to give me some information, which helped me. The Ferraris are flying today; it should be a good race."
Sebastian Vettel (6th, 1:22.675): "I'm a bit disappointed. We were very quick yesterday and had decent pace this morning too. I don't know where the speed went this afternoon. I was around 3-4kph quicker yesterday than I was this afternoon with less fuel. There are a lot of straights in Monza, so it was quite costly. But we have a good race car, so let's see what tomorrow brings. With high fuel it will be different around here and we're seeing different approaches, for example McLaren is running one driver on lower wing and the other on higher wing, so we'll see how it works on high fuel. It might be quite slippery at the beginning of the race. We're not the fastest here, we know that, but we'll see what we can do."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "It was a fantastic last lap from Mark to get himself onto the second row ahead of Lewis. Unfortunately for Sebastian his second run in Q3 wasn't quick enough to improve his position. But, at a circuit that we knew coming here was our worst of the Championship on paper, to be ahead of the Championship leader is a solid team performance. The one thing we all know about Monza is that it tends to produce exciting races, so we're set for a fascinating race tomorrow."
Fabrice Lom, Renault: "We knew Monza would be a difficult race for us. Unfortunately we cost Mark some running time yesterday and today, so we apologize to him for that. Even so, Mark did an excellent job in qualifying. It's a good result on this track which does not suit the strength of our car. Sebastian struggled more than Mark and was sixth. I think overall it's not so bad, even though we didn't get pole position at this race we're confident we can do a good race tomorrow. With Hamilton not at the front, it could be an interesting result."
Fernando Alonso (1st, 1:21.962): "Pole position at last! And it's come at the best possible place, here in front of all the Ferrari fans! We managed to save two sets of new soft tires for Q3 and so we were able to post a time immediately, before giving it absolutely everything on the second run. In fact, the time on the first run was good enough. The team and I have been without a pole for too long and two Ferraris in the top three is a fantastic result. At this track, the car really gets a hard time so we must try and keep all the parameters under control. We must make the most of this opportunity to bring home a lot of points: we will try and get a good start and tackle the first chicane as cleanly as possible, which is always difficult on the first lap. We needed this result: coming off the back of a weekend like Spa, which had raised some doubts about the car, but here it has improved a lot day after day. It would be nice to get a one-two tomorrow in front of our fantastic fans: I feel at home here, just like in Spain."
Felipe Massa (3rd, 1:22.293): "Today I could have taken pole, but maybe in Q3, we did not adopt the best strategy. In Q2, my time on the soft tires came on the third lap, so for the next part, we opted to do a series of three laps, but things did not go as we had wanted. Then on my second run, I did not manage to improve enough to take pole. All the same, it was a good qualifying and I am pleased with the performance of the car, which improved yet again today. We changed various things compared to yesterday morning which saw us become more competitive. I have never been very lucky at Monza, but tomorrow I will be starting from a good grid position. It is very motivating, especially when you see how happy are our fans, and it gives you a little bit extra. It would be nice to reward them for it..."
Luca di Montezemolo: "I am very happy about this result, which I found so exciting that I was jumping for joy on the pit wall. Having both our cars on the front two rows in front of all our fans is very nice. It goes without saying, this track has always delivered strong emotions for me. The team did a great job and never gave up trying. Now we must concentrate fully because the hardest part is still to come tomorrow."
Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal: "A really great and important result. Fernando and Felipe did a fantastic job and the team delivered them a very competitive car. It's nice to have that feeling again which comes from having a car on pole, after such a long time, but we must not forget that what really counts is the race, because that is when the points are given out. Therefore we must all remain totally focused on preparing for tomorrow's race, bearing in mind how tough the Monza circuit can be in terms of reliability, which is still the crucial element in all races. It is very pleasing that this long-awaited pole has come at Monza and on a day when our President Luca di Montezemolo and his opposite number at Fiat, John Elkann were both here to witness it. Tomorrow we hope to be able to give them and all our fans something special."
Chris Dyer: "A fantastic result, for the team, the drivers and for our championship chances. Both Felipe and Fernando were pleased with the handling of their car and we had no problems of any sort today. Both of them did a great job, setting a time at the right moment and being first and third is a just reward. It has been such a long wait to see one of our cars on pole and there could be no better place to do it than here at our home race. We know that usually, one of the F10's strongest attributes is its race pace, therefore tomorrow we must try and consolidate today's achievement. From what we have seen yesterday and today, there are no particular problems in terms of tire life: maybe the hards struggle a bit more to get up to temperature, but we don't expect to see anything different to usual in terms of strategy."
Nico Hulkenberg (8th, 1:23.037): "It was a very, very positive qualifying and I really enjoyed driving here today - the car feels good, I really enjoy the track, so you might call it harmony! This gave me a lot of confidence and meant I was able to put in a mega lap in Q3, even though I could have been quicker in sector 1. Overall I am really pleased and I must thank the factory who developed a great aero package that works well on the straights for top speed, but is also perfectly balanced under cornering. This afternoon's performance means I am now really looking forward to the prospect of the race tomorrow."
Rubens Barrichello (10th, 1:23.328): "It's been quite difficult for me to find an ideal set-up here despite the fact that at I am at home on this track as I won here last year. I think we hoped for better, around P7, which should have been possible, but we have not quite optimized our potential so far. However, the race still provides plenty of opportunity tomorrow and I am sure we have the possibility of a good result."
Sam Michael, Technical Director: "Nico has done an excellent job throughout all the practice and qualifying sessions this weekend. He's starting the race in a good position to score points tomorrow. Rubens couldn't get the same lap together as Nico this afternoon, so we're looking through that now, but we expect both to be solid in the race tomorrow. We had no mechanical problems today."
Robert Kubica (9th, 1:23.039): "We knew that the best we could hope for today in a normal qualifying session was P7 on the grid, but the battle was very tight with Mercedes and Williams. I managed to set a good time in Q2 and get through with just one run, so I saved a set of option tires for the final session. On my first run, I was two tenths up on my best when I took the decision to pit, so that I would have time to do two timed laps on my final run and hopefully improve even more. But unfortunately, I wasn't able to repeat my time - and I ended up two hundredths away from seventh. It's not ideal, because the cars around us are very competitive on top speeds, but we know that it will be a long afternoon for everybody, so I hope we can make the most of any opportunities that come our way."
Vitaly Petrov (15th, 1:23.819): "It was a tough qualifying session this afternoon with very small gaps between the cars around the top ten. Our car is not as competitive as at the last race, and I have been learning how to find the right rhythm, and get the most from the tires, with this low level of downforce. As for the incident with Timo, I can only apologize to him if I held him up. I didn't see him coming up behind me and didn't see any blue flags as I came out of the pits. My grid penalty will make things even harder in the race but, as we saw in Spa, tomorrow is another day and a lot can still happen."
Eric Boullier, Team Principal: "Following on from a strong weekend in Spa, it's clearly a bit of a disappointment to find ourselves ninth and 20th on the grid in Monza. We knew this circuit wouldn't suit us as well as the last one, but we also clearly had the potential to do better in Q3 with Robert. Unfortunately, there is a big gap between our two cars, and both are behind each Mercedes, so it's clearly not the most promising of positions to start from. But we are still looking forward to a good race, with strong, aggressive first laps and the right strategy, to at least finish in front of Mercedes."
Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer: "It was another solid qualifying performance from Robert to once again make it into Q3 - something he has achieved at every race this season. If he had managed to repeat his time from Q2, he would have started seventh, but we know how tricky and inconsistent the cars can be to drive here. I am confident he can still have a strong race. As for Vitaly, he lost running time both yesterday and this morning with brake problems, which also recurred in a different form during qualifying. This has made it even more difficult for him to get to grips with the car in low downforce trim. He obviously has a difficult afternoon ahead of him tomorrow, compounded by his five-place grid penalty, and we will try and get him as close to the points as possible."
Adrian Sutil (11th, 1:23.199): "The times have been so close today that we knew qualifying would be tight as well. All the same we were very, very near to getting into Q3 - just a couple of hundredths of a second - so we can be happy with the performance. Starting P11 means we will get to start on a new set of tires and the clean side of the grid, which can be an advantage. I think we're still looking good for a points' finish tomorrow."
Vitantonio Liuzzi (20th, 1:25.774): "We had a problem in the morning's session where the car seemed to lose drive and did just a few laps. We did some analysis between the sessions and tried to solve the problem but then in qualifying a similar issue occurred. On the first lap we lost power and then we had to stop completely once I got it back to the garage so I couldn't get a real flying lap in. It's a shame but tomorrow's the most important - we've got a good car here and you never know what can happen so we won't give up until the end."
Dr. Vijay Mallya, Team Principal: "It's been such a close day of action today that I think we can be pretty pleased to be P11 with Adrian, less than a tenth of a second from Q3. From that position anything's possible as we've seen so many times this season. Tonio had a more difficult day with problems in FP3 and then qualifying, which is obviously frustrating on his home track. However he's a fighter and more motivated than ever to move up the field. Given the pace yesterday I think that is very possible."
Sebastien Buemi (14th, 1:23.681): "I am reasonably happy with my performance, because I think I got almost the maximum out of the car and I am quite confident that we can have a strong race tomorrow. The important thing is that generally this weekend, we seem to be a bit more competitive than we were at Spa and in previous races, which is a positive step. It proves the updates we brought here are having an effect and that the team is doing a good job. It's a bit disappointing to be only three hundredths behind Kobayashi, as maybe I could have been thirteenth, but overall it's not bad."
Jaime Alguersuari (16th, 1:23.919): "I am quite satisfied with the way things went this afternoon, after having some problems yesterday. Today, we also made a few changes to the car and I think we ended up pretty much where we expected to be. I am not sure what we can do in the race, as yesterday I did not manage to do a long run on high fuel to see what the tire degradation will be like. So, it will be a new experience, but I'm looking forward to it anyway."
Giorgio Ascanelli, Technical Director: "With everyone so evenly matched in terms of lap time, it was very tight in Q2 this afternoon. We looked a bit better this morning and that was also the case up until our final run in qualifying. However, when the difference is down to just a couple of tenths, there is not much more to say. Maybe we could have done better, but not by a significant amount. As for the new developments we introduced here and have run through the weekend, I hope they perform reliably during the race."
Jarno Trulli (18th, 1:25.540): "It was a great qualifying session for the whole team today because both cars are in front of a Force India and it's looking good for tomorrow. The mechanics sorted out a little problem on the car just before the session, and they've been working really well all weekend so it's good to repay that with the result. It's always good to be able to perform like this at your home race and being best of the new guys means it's been a good day."
Heikki Kovalainen (19th, 1:25.742): "I'm very happy with the performance today. It's been a really good qualifying for both me and Jarno and we're both in a good position for the race tomorrow. I had a great long run in yesterday's practice and I'm looking forward to the race, perhaps more than most of the races this season. We've had a few races this season where we haven't got the most out of the Friday sessions, but we did so yesterday, and that, combined with the promise of a dry race tomorrow and a very good race car, means I think we'll put in a strong performance."
Tony Fernandes, Team Principal: "What an awesome qualifying session! I'm so happy today - what a great way to bring up our first year anniversary! I always felt this would be Jarno's day, but that's taking nothing away from Heikki who also did an immense job out there. We are 1.1 seconds off Pedro's Sauber, and on a power track like Monza that is incredible. I'm so proud of the whole team - they have worked brilliantly all weekend, and it has paid off today with a great performance from everyone. Tomorrow is going to be special, but the goal remains the same - get both cars home and make sure we stay ahead of the other new teams."
Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director: "It was an excellent qualifying session. I think we managed to get the most out of both cars today so well done to both drivers and the whole team. Overall I'm happy that we have the right level of wing for the race and after a trouble free session today we're now looking forward to a solid two car finish tomorrow, ahead of our closest rivals."
Bruno Senna (23rd, 1:26.847): "I am happy that the problem we had yesterday has been fixed and I want to thank the team for the good job they did. In the third practice session, I had traffic on all of my best laps. That's why I couldn't manage to be further up. The qualifying was okay and we did the best we could. My teammate and I are close together and we hope to have a good race tomorrow."
Sakon Yamamoto (24th, 1:27.020): "Yesterday, we couldn't get enough mileage due to a mechanical problem. In the third practice this morning, we had a problem on the drive shaft and I had to stop before the end of the session. Because of this, I couldn't use the option tires in a session before qualifying. I want to thank the team, who managed to get the car ready and prepared it well. We will try to do our best tomorrow and are looking forward to the race."
Colin Kolles, Team Principal: "It was a positive day for us. We could fix the problems we had on both cars yesterday and therefore I want to thank the team for their great job. Bruno Senna showed a good development during practice three and was close to the other new teams in between. This is a good effort as he couldn't do many laps yesterday. On Sakon Yamamoto's car, a drive shaft boot was broken, which forced him to stop prematurely. In qualifying, both of our drivers performed well and are starting the race from positions 22 and 23. We have a good car balance and we found the right set-up for the race tomorrow."
Kamui Kobayashi (13th, 1:23.659): "I had no problems in qualifying and I think with regards to my lap time and position this is what was possible today. Michael (Schumacher) is ahead of me in 12th, but he is three tenths of a second faster, which is quite a big gap. Compared to the first free practice session here, the car's balance is better, the grip level has increased and I feel more confident. Of course I will try to score points in tomorrow's race."
Pedro de la Rosa (17th, 1:24.044): "It was a tough qualifying for me. Since this morning I haven't felt comfortable in the car, and it just didn't feel like it did yesterday. We put on more downforce, but we never managed to get a good compromise between rear end stability and top end speed. However, I think the car will perform better in the race and I will see what I can do."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "We expected the characteristics of this high speed track wouldn't best suit our car, so under the circumstances Kamui's 13th position is really good. Pedro struggled today, so we have to analyze everything to understand why."
James Key, Technical Director: "We worked hard overnight looking at the problems we had on Friday. We found one on Kamui's car with some aerodynamic components, which didn't help, and also the brake system was a bit problematic for him. So we made the respective modifications on his car and some minor changes on Pedro's. This morning Kamui was happy with the car and had more confidence. Pedro struggled a little bit with a lack of consistency, so we had to work on this before qualifying. In Q1 a Force India went out, so it was just a matter of putting in a decent lap time to make it to Q2 and save some tires. In Q2 P13 for Kamui was okay, as the best we expected was P12, and he lost a couple of tenths on his last run. The race speed of the car and its top speed are competitive, so given his strong race performances we can look forward to a good day for him tomorrow. Pedro continued to struggle with his car. We added some downforce before qualifying, but things were looking a bit tricky, particularly under braking. We have to look into it to understand why it was more of an issue for him today than yesterday."
Timo Glock (21st, 1:25.934): "I'm a little disappointed to end qualifying the way we did because we had good pace early on in the session. On the very first run my lap was penalized by Vitaly Petrov, who came out of the pits and pulled out on to the racing line into turn one. On the second run I had good pace and we were ahead of Lotus, but on the third set of tires there was no grip on the rear. Everyone was able to improve but we didn't. We have incurred a grid penalty for tomorrow as a result of taking the decision to change our differential, but it was the right thing to do. In general I am happy with the car so we will see what the race brings tomorrow."
Lucas di Grassi (22nd, 1:25.974): "A good Saturday overall. I'm satisfied with my lap time in qualifying and I extracted the maximum from the car today as our set-up is a compromise for the long race tomorrow. So far the whole team and car has run really smoothly this weekend so I can see a lot of progress in this area and I hope it continues for tomorrow."
Mark Herd, Head of Performance and Race Engineering: "Today has been another relatively smooth day. The cars went in a slightly different direction in terms of aero setup. We weren't happy with the differential on Timo's car and chose to change it before qualifying, thus incurring a five-place grid penalty. Timo was unlucky to be blocked on his first run and then seemed to have an unexpected loss of grip on his final set. Lucas had some small gear-shift issues. It was disappointing that were unable to displace Lotus but the gap to them is small and we look forward to a very close race with them tomorrow."
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