Lewis Hamilton will start tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix from pole position thanks to a lap full of fastest sectors giving him a time of 1:24.010 early in Q3.
Jenson Button gave a further demonstration of the superior McLaren pace at this Monza track by completing front-row lock-out for the team.
Bizarrely, Fernando Alonso came out of the pits early in Q3, gave team-mate Felipe Massa a slipstream for his flying lap, and then came back in to the pits without setting a competitive time of his own.
On his second attempt at a flying lap, Alonso was way off the pace, and the driver who was fastest in Q1 and Q2 qualified only tenth. Ferrari suspect that a mechanical failure of the rear anti-roll bar was responsible for the slow time.
Whatever the problem was, it meant that Alonso was out-qualified by Massa for the first time this season. The Brazilian secured his best qualifying position of the season with third place. Paul di Resta qualified in an excellent fourth, but has a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, and will start ninth.
The penalty will promote Michael Schumacher up onto the second row of the Monza grid. The seven-time world champion will start ahead of compatriots Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg, who will share the third row. Kimi Raikkonen and Kamui Kobayashi will start seventh and eighth.
Earlier in the qualifying session, Mark Webber was the biggest casualty of Q2, missing out on the top-ten shoot-out by half-a-tenth. Pastor Maldonado qualified twelfth, but has a ten place grid penalty for his misdemeanours last weekend in Belgium and will start from P22, assuming there are no other penalties issued.
Sergio Perez qualified thirteenth, just ahead of Bruno Senna. Jerome D’Ambrosio, who is standing in for the banned Romain Grosjean at Lotus this weekend, split the two Toro Rosso drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, in P16.
Nico Hulkenberg had a terminal gearbox problem before he could complete a flying lap in Q1, and was the first candidate for elimination in Q1. He was joined in the bottom seven by the usual suspects.
Heikki Kovalainen was, as usual, the fastest driver of the three slower teams, with Vitaly Petrov a further half-a-second behind.
Timo Glock out-qualified Marussia team-mate Charles Pic and, remarkably, Narain Karthikeyan out-qualified Pedro de la Rosa for the first time down at HRT. The Indian driver will start in P21, ahead of Maldonado, thanks to the grid penalty for the Venezuelan, his team-mate, and Hulkenberg.