Vettel takes pole, Hulkenberg takes a shock third for Italian GP

Sebastian Vettel; Mark Webber; Nico Hulkenberg (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)As the final European race weekend of the season got underway, all eyes were on F1’s most famous team: Ferrari.


With the Italian tifosi out in force for the Scuderia’s home grand prix, the pressure was on for them to get a good qualifying result – but both the team and the fans were to leave the track disappointed as the final qualifying session came to an end.

In previous years, Ferrari has had a nifty little trick to help them out in quali in the form of slipstreaming. By running in close succession on the track, the car behind can get a tow down the straight – then they swap places, so the other car can get the benefit of gaining time in the tow.

After getting both cars into Q3, it looked as though Ferrari were set to use this tactic to their advantage. But at some point during the process, something went wrong…

Mark Webber(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)Daniel Ricciardo (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) It’s not clear whether the team messed up, or whether Massa refused to play the game. But whatever happened, Alosno wasn’t close enough to his team mate to make the most of the slipstream – resulting in Massa starting fourth, and Alosno fifth.

After the race, Alonso painted on a smile, insisting that the plan went well and the team got the result they were expecting. But inside information from the team told another story.

There was a message broadcast over the radio in Italian, in which Alosno reportedly said something along the lines of: “You are stupid. You are all stupid. You ruined my qualifying.”

With rumours already circulating that Alonso is unhappy at Ferrari and weighing up his options for next year, today’s qualifying result just added fuel to the fire that the Scuderia could be looking for a new lead driver for 2014.

But Ferrari weren’t the only ones commiserating over a terrible Saturday at the track. It was an awful afternoon for Lewis Hamilton, too.
After being on pole for the past four races in a row, the Mercedes driver suffered his worst qualifying result in 67 races after he failed to make it through to Q3.

Felipe Massa (photo by Ferrari)Force India (photo by Moy)Jenson Button (photo by Vodafone Mclaren) On the surface, it looked as though his session had been hampered by Sutil impeding him on his final hot lap in Q2, after the Force India driver blocked him. And the stewards announced they would be looking into the incident after the race.

But Lewis himself seemed resigned to the fact that the poor performance was his own fault, admitting that it had been his worst drive of the entire season.
Meanwhile, Lotus lost both of their drivers in Q2 as well, with Raikkonen starting from 11th, and Grosjean from 13th – and the team admitting that this was not what they had hoped for.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though. Red Bull had a typically speedy afternoon, with Vettel on pole once again and Webber second – his best ever qualifying result at Monza.

It was also a great afternoon for Sauber and Nico Hulkenberg. After a dismal season so far for the team, even they were surprised when the young German raced his way to a shock third place on the grid.

And it couldn’t have come at a better time for Hulkenberg. With Sergey Sirotkin all but confirmed for a seat at Sauber next year, it means they’ll be losing at least one of their current drivers in 2014.

There’s no doubt that Hulkenberg shows far more promise than his team mate Gutierrez. But it’s also no secret that the team are having financial troubles, and if push comes to shove they’re going to keep the driver who brings with them the biggest amount of cash – in this case, Gutierrez.

But Hulkenberg’s drive today will certainly get him noticed, even more so if he can convert it into a good race result tomorrow.

With Ferrari possibly looking for a new driver next year, and Sauber’s links with the team (they run Ferrari engines in their car), a good performance this weekend could put Hulkenberg at the top of the Scuderia’s wish list for 2014.

It was a promising day for Toro Rosso, too. Both cars were running high in all three sessions, with Ricciardo keen to prove himself now he’s been confirmed as a Red Bull driver for next year.

He finished the session an impressive seventh, while an unfortunate spin left Vergne in 10th place – had it not been for that, he could have ended up even higher than his team mate.

McLaren were happy to have both cars in the top 10 during the weekend they celebrate their 50th birthday. It was clear that Button was hoping to qualify higher than ninth place, especially as his team mate Perez just pipped him to the post for eighth.

But with rain thunderstorms predicted for the start of the race tomorrow, there could be a chance for drivers such as Button and Hamilton to take a chance on their strategies and prove their talent for driving in tough conditions.

Further down the grid, it was yet another disappointing day for Williams, with Bottas failing to make it out of Q1. And Paul Di Resta was deflated over his 16th place grid slot after a shunt in FP3 this morning left mechanics with little time to rebuild his car for qualifying.

Both Caterhams out-qualified the Marussias, leaving Van De Garde in particular happy with his Q1 performance. By Sarah Ellis

Provisional qualifying results:

1. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault
2. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault
3. Nico Hulkenberg Germany Sauber-Ferrari
4. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari
5. Fernando Alonso Spain Ferrari-Ferrari
6. Nico Rosberg Germany Mercedes-Mercedes
7. Daniel Ricciardo Australia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
8. Sergio Perez Mexico McLaren-Mercedes
9. Jenson Button Britain McLaren-Mercedes
10. Jean-Eric Vergne France Toro Rosso-Ferrari
11. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Lotus-Renault
12. Lewis Hamilton Britain Mercedes-Mercedes
13. Romain Grosjean France Lotus-Renault
14. Adrian Sutil Germany Force India-Mercedes
15. Pastor Maldonado Venezuela Williams-Renault
16. Paul di Resta Britain Force India-Mercedes
17. Esteban Gutierrez Mexico Sauber-Ferrari
18. Valtteri Bottas Finland Williams-Renault
19. Charles Pic France Caterham-Renault
20. Giedo van der Garde Holland Caterham-Renault
21. Jules Bianchi France Marussia-Cosworth
22. Max Chilton Britain Marussia-Cosworth

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