Sebastian Vettel has admitted that he was surprised to score his tenth pole position of the season in Monza this afternoon and was instead expecting that his Red Bull team would not be competitive enough to beat McLaren to the front of the grid.
As it was, Vettel’s best Q3 qualifying lap was over half a second faster than that of Lewis Hamilton, who will start alongside the German in tomorrow’s race.
”We are surprised how competitive we are here and thought it would be much closer,” said the reigning world champion. “We weren't sure if the tyres were best for the first or second lap, but I made a bit of a mistake on the second. For the second run, I knew I had a bit more time in the car as I did the first lap on my own. For the second, I had one or two cars in front, which always helps here.
“That said, we would never have thought we could have got pole here, on this track which didn't suit our car for the last two years. This year, the car is very good and I'm very happy. Apart from the wing level, the most important thing to have here is balance and we're good on that this year. I felt very comfortable going into qualifying and throughout the session I could feel the track getting quicker. I simply went with the track and that is the secret, if there is any.”
Team-mate Mark Webber was not quite so fortunate in qualifying. He will start the Italian Grand Prix from fifth place, behind both McLaren drivers and Fernando Alonso.
“I think I made it a little bit difficult for the team today in terms of my run plan, I wasn’t completely clear, so it wasn’t the best Q3,” said Webber. “The tyres were certainly strong enough for the first lap, so two runs was the way forward I think, but ultimately I didn’t get enough out of the car on the tyres on one run only. We were managing the KERS too, as we had some issues on the last lap, which is never ideal but in the end we got fifth position.
“We know it can be an interesting first lap here, so I'm going to push as hard as I can. I have a good car for the race; so we’ll see how we go.”
Christian Horner was obviously delighted that Red Bull have finally qualified on the front row here at Monza and congratulated the team for their efforts so far this weekend.
“To achieve pole position in Monza is unbelievable and completely unexpected,” he said. “It was a phenomenal last lap from Sebastian to achieve pole with an almost staggering margin.
“Mark elected to adopt a different strategy for Q3 and maybe, with 20/20 hindsight, two runs would have been preferable. However, he retains a new set of tyres for the race tomorrow and we hope to have a very good race day. It's testimony to all the hard work that's gone into this Monza package at a track that's been notoriously tough for us and it's a perfect start to the weekend.”