By Alan Baldwin
Lewis Hamilton set himself up as favourite for Sunday’s Italian Formula One Grand Prix after beating championship-leading team mate and title rival Nico Rosberg to pole position on an all-Mercedes front row.
Mercedes-powered cars filled the top six slots after Saturday qualifying, with Williams drivers Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa together on the second row and McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button fifth and sixth.
The pole, on a sunny afternoon at the historic Monza circuit near Milan, was 2008 world champion Hamilton’s fifth of the season and 36th of his career.
“We’ve done this as a team and it’s great to have another one-two for the team,” said Hamilton, who is 29 points adrift of Rosberg in the championship after they collided in Belgium two weeks ago.
That incident has been the talk of Formula One, with Rosberg taking the blame for a coming together that led to Hamilton’s retirement at Spa.
Mercedes bosses have told both drivers that such a collision, which robbed the team of a likely one-two finish, must not happen again but neither driver said much had changed really.
“It’s not changed. Already when we started the season the message was clear so there’s no real change,” said Rosberg when asked whether he would have the bosses’ words ringing in his ears as he entered the first chicane.
“It’s the same as always.”
“They won’t be ringing in my ears,” said Hamilton firmly, the aggrieved party in Spa relieved to have a clean qualifying at last after being plagued by problems since his previous pole in Spain in May eight races ago.
Dominant Mercedes have taken pole in all but one of the 13 races so far this year, and Saturday marked the team’s seventh front row sweep of 2014.
“It’s so great, even at a track like Monza which is such a different track to all the others, that we’re still so dominant,” said Rosberg, who was quicker than Hamilton’s best through the first sector on his final run but then lost the advantage.
“It was an OK lap, and from that point of view second place is still a good position for tomorrow,” he said. “It’s a long race and everything can happen.”
Ferrari’s long-suffering fans, without a win to celebrate for more than a year, saw Fernando Alonso qualify seventh and Kimi Raikkonen 12th.
The Finn will move up to 11th, however, because Toro Rosso’s Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat has a 10-place grid penalty for exceeding his season’s engine allocation.
“In the end, I’m happy. I have a huge support here, the people are crazy about Ferrari. They hope a Ferrari will win,” said Alonso.
“They will see me qualify seventh, but it doesn’t matter. Tomorrow they think that you will win. That motivates me a lot. Hopefully we can give them something in return.”
Champions Red Bull also had a tough afternoon as they had expected, with quadruple champion and last year’s winner Sebastian Vettel only eighth on the grid while Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo qualified ninth.
Ricciardo has won the previous two races, and three of the last six, and is an outside contender for the title.
“I’m a bit disappointed, ninth isn’t something to get excited about,” said Ricciardo. “As a team, we would have loved to have been closer to the top five. Fingers crossed we have better race pace tomorrow.”