Button forces to the front row alongside Alonso

McLaren driver second on grid but team-mate Hamilton slides down to fifth

Monza, that cathedral of speed, offers many wonderful things. Not just the ghosts that have inhabited the place since 1922 nor even the relics of a glorious past, such as the redundant banking, that were almost made more famous in the 1966 movie
Grand Prix than in their heyday. Monza, historically, also offers challenges such as a choice of downforce level for the drivers.

That creates unpredictability, the lifeblood of any sport, and nothing highlighted this better than the fortunes of the two McLaren drivers in qualifying, as they opted for different configurations. On Friday morning they both ran the tried and trusted high-downforce package, though in Monza's lexicon "high downforce" is a relative term because even then there is much less than a driver needs at, say, Silverstone.

But McLaren had also brought a low-downforce package, which Lewis Hamilton preferred that afternoon and again yesterday morning. Such was the nature of this experimentation that his and Jenson Button's lap times were similar, but for different reasons.

Yet as Fernando Alonso snatched Ferrari's first pole in 30 races, it was Button who seemed to have got it right, as he lined up second with Hamilton only fifth. "I'd like to say a big thank you to the team, because we were not sure which approach to take regarding downforce," Button said. "I think our side of the garage definitely made the right decision to run the high-downforce level.

"In Q3 we just had to push a little bit more, but you can push too much and go that bit slower here; it's very, very tricky. I'm very happy with second, and this is my first front-row start this season. I'm very happy with the car's performance."

He was, he confessed, surprised at the difference between his time and Hamilton's, 1min 22.084sec compared with 1:22.623. Hamilton was surprised, too, and disappointed. "It would appear that we took the wrong route by running without the F-duct this weekend," he admitted. "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."

Button explained: "When you've got more downforce you can brake later and carry more speed through corners. But you have to push very hard to make time up in the corners. You've got to be aggressive and push the car. We were not sure it would work, but it did."

"I'll have good top speed," Hamilton said, "but the car is going to be sliding through the corners so I won't be able to follow closely enough through them to try and pass."

The feeling of surprise was not confined to the two Britons. Alonso was still pinching himself afterwards. "When I stopped in parc fermé they told me by radio that I was keeping first position. This year it has happened that at the end someone will arrive at the last moment when we were fastest and then we would be second or third. But today was different. It's a fantastic taste, this pole in Italy for Ferrari."

Timely, too; the Spaniard, like Button and Sebastian Vettel, only sixth fastest for Red Bull, needs to score well here to rein in Hamilton and Mark Webber, who overcame practice troubles to qualify a superb fourth.

"My first run was a good lap," Alonso said, "so on the second attempt we try to risk a little bit more. But sometimes here when you do a normal lap the time is better than when you try to risk; it's easy to overdrive a little bit."

With Felipe Massa moving into contention with a strong third in the second Ferrari, the first corner will be critical as the five contenders try to gain advantage without "doing a Vettel" and compromising themselves.

"At the minimum we need a podium," Alonso said. "There is not big pressure about winning the race or the next races, but we know that we cannot afford another DNF or a bad result, so we have to try to be consistent. If we can win it would be great, but for the championship we need that consistency, something we haven't had so far."

Final qualifying: 1 Fernando Alonso (Sp) Ferrari 1min 21.962sec. 2 Jenson Button (GB) McLaren 1:22.084. 3 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:22.293. 4 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault 1:22.433. 5 Lewis Hamilton (GB) McLaren 1:22.623. 6 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) RedBull-Renault 1:22.675. 7 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes 1:23.027. 8 Nico Hülkenberg (Ger) Williams-Cosworth 1:23.037. 9 Robert Kubica (Pol) Renault 1:23.039. 10 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Williams-Cosworth 1:23.328. 11 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India-Mercedes1:23.199. 12 Michael Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes 1:23.388. 13 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:23.659. 14 Sebastien Buemi (Swit) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:23.681. 15 Jaime Alguersuari (Sp) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:23.919. 16 Pedro de la Rosa (Sp) BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:24.044. 17 Jarno Trulli (It) Lotus-Cosworth 1:25.540. 18 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus-Cosworth 1:25.742. 19 Vitantonio Liuzzi (It) Force India-Mercedes 1:25.774. 20 Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Renault 1:23.819 (five place penalty for impeding).21 Lucas Di Grassi (Bra) Virgin-Cosworth 1:25.974. 22 Bruno Senna (Bra) HRT-Cosworth 1:26.847. 23 Sakon Yamamoto (Japan) HRT-Cosworth 1:27.020.24 Timo Glock (Ger) Virgin-Cosworth 1:25.934 (five place penalty for gearbox change)

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices