Could tomorrow's Italian Grand Prix be the most exciting race of the season? Don't know. But lick the top of your finger and stick it in the air - there's a chance. It's very well set with the Brawns back on the third row and Hamilton, Kovalainen, Raikkonen - Kers cars - sat with Sutil in front of them. Delicately balanced. Hats off to Force India new boy Tonio Liuzzi, who qualified seventh. See you tomorrow at 1130 BST. The now non-bearded bard Sam Lyon plays host.
Anthony Davidson on BBC Radio 5 Live:
"That was a brilliant session with the battle between the two best mates right at the end - Adrian Sutil and Lewis Hamilton are good friends and they will be at the front of the grid tomorrow. Great stuff."
Pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton
doesn't look too miserable. "I don't think we anticipated to be as quick this weekend, so its a bonus for everyone in the team. It's so great to be able to put a lap together."
is beaming like a million watt flashlight. "Sixth is a good position. We're heavy. The car felt good and that's what's important. It's warm here but I think we've solved our tyre issues. All the Kers cars are in front of us too and that, too, is a good thing."
Sutil could have taken pole there but for a slight error through the first Lesmo. Hamilton looks happy but is he lightly fuelled? Ross Brawn bullishly declares that having Barrichello and Button in fifth and sixth is the "perfect position". That's because they are definitely on a one-stop strategy for tomorrow's race. And it's unlikely the four cars in front of them aren't on a two-stopper, though we cannot be sure. We know Lewis will stop twice. What a race it's going to be.
1403: But Lewis Hamilton flies through late on to steal pole position from Adrian Sutil!
Raikkonen is third on the grid. Then Kovalainen, Barrichello fifth, with Button in sixth.
Ten minutes have elapsed but few cars still out and on a charge... we could have a shock pole being celebrated hard in Mumbai and Delhi.
Behind Hamilton, Webber, Alonso, Sutil and then Raikkonen trade places for Q2. Sutil now fastest through the middle sector. Remains third. Button late on brakes, but he's down in sixth. Replaced by Barrichello. Vettel fourth now...
F1 pundit Anthony Davidson on BBC Radio 5 Live:
"Monza is notoriously tough in qualifying especially now that the race fuel is in, the cars feel very different now and it's hard to resist the temptation to put your foot down and drive the way you might have been in Q2."
Renault flexing their newly-reintroduced Kers as Alonso goes quickest through the first sector. Raikkonen best overall time though. The Spaniard stops to change onto harder tyres. Hamilton quickest now. Both open and competitive at beautiful Monza. Formula 1 does get it right sometimes, you know.
All-important Q3 under way. Ten minutes of pressure-cooker driving. Here we go...
TMG on 606:
"After all the talk after free practice about how all the KERS cars were going to dominate, it doesn't seem to be working out that way so far! And while I'm sure Fisichella is as Proud as a Very Proud thing to be an Italian, in a Ferarri, at Monza, he must be looking at those Force Indias and feeling a bit gutted..."
Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi tells BBC Sport:
"For sure it is a shame when you get out of the pit lane and you do not see someone coming or no one tells you - we will have a close look at it but I think I did quite a good time anyway - maybe I would have improved with one more lap though, we will look at it and see what we can do."
P14 for Fisichella
as he Trulli, Grosjean, Kubica and Heidfeld fall at the Q2 hurdle.
Stunning from Force India. Liuzzi screams through just behind Sutil into fifth as Vijay Mallya's team get two drivers into Q3 for the first time in F1. Great story. The irony won't be lost on ex-charge Fisichella. Button quickest in that session. Big boost for him as Q2 is usually the truest indicator of race pace.
Timo Glock is not a very happy chappy he tells BBC Radio Five Live's Holly Samos:
"My lap was destroyed by Sebastien Buemi. He was right in front of me and I could not get a fast lap in." As mentioned, Buemi appeared to be held up by Lewis Hamilton and it seems that Toyota's Glock, who qualified 16th, was the one to suffer.
Fisichella down in 15th for Ferrari, but it shouldn't stay like that for long. Here he comes... pushing the car hard in front of tens of thousands of his fellow Italians. Ah. Only moves into 13th.
1337: BBC F1 pit-lane reporter Ted Kravitz
has been doing some digging. "It was an engine problem," he informs us. "Nick [Heidfeld] felt the engine tightening up and a loss of power. But that was a new engine just in this morning, his seventh. So he's going to have to use an eighth now. Everyone getting really tight on engines now." Disaster for BMW!
Kubica is out now. Same problem as Heidfeld.
Could have been engine trouble for the German BMW Sauber driver. Barrichello half-inches the quickest time from team-mate Button. Brawn very consistent. Just as I look for McLaren's world champion Lewis Hamilton, he splits them.
Getting on the power very smoothly and early, faltering championship leader Jenson Button is back on form. That's the resolute opinion of BBC F1 analyst Martin Brundle.
Alonso quickest thus far. Hang on... Heidfeld is out.
Q2 is GO GO GO. Lewis Hamilton, take note, appeared to impede Sebastien Buemi as the Toro Rosso driver was attempting to post a lap then in Q1. Possible repercussions? Our eyes are peeled...
1323: Glock, Nakajima, Rosberg, Buemi and Alguersuari are out.
So that's the worst qualifying session of the season for Williams and Rosberg, who's had a stellar 2009, will be low. Jake Humphrey
reports, with a guttural yet bizarrely eloquent sound, that team technical guru Patrick Head feared i.e. knew they might struggle.
Trulli sneaks through it seems... Grosjean tiptoes into 13th. Tense.
Williams's Nico Rosberg is struggling right now. Trulli in trouble too. All 20 cars out. Fairly frenetic. Hamilton still top... no Raikkonen. Most drivers appear to be struggling through the middle sector.
Jose on 81111:
"Surely Kubica and Hamilton together in McLaren would be an incredibly formidable team! Two of the best young drivers for years. Here's hoping!"
Huge smile from behind some big old shades in the sun-flecked McLaren garage... Hamilton, looking bang in form, goes quickest. Fisichella is something of a guinea pig for the soft option tyres at the moment. Other teams keeping an eye on his progress. The expectant Tifosi look on. Six minutes of Q1 remain.
Brawns looking Speedy Gonzalez. "I think Button's head is in a better place this weekend," states BBC F1 analyst Martin Brundle
confidently. He then Barrichello quickest now after they, Raikkonen and Heidfeld zip down into the 1:23s...
Little problem for Liuzzi there but he soon steadies the ship after a grassy holiday. Raikkonen has the quickest time so far: one minute 24.230 seconds. Super Sutil second...
And... Q1 is under way. This session is 20 minutes. Five drivers to be knocked out. Reckon there'll be any high-profile bloody noses?
So that's official. It was a new gearbox for Alguersuari, so that five-place grid penalty looks very likely. We'll let you know as and when we get confirmation though. Ross Brawn
looks pretty relaxed. "The car looks OK. It's a pretty challenging track for the drivers. It's a nice place to be here at Monza and the fans are always very warm. This sunny weather should help us. But we have to put the whole sequence together. One stops looks to be a logical choice tomorrow but I think many might make two. There will be two races going on which will come together towards the end."
In a vignette which attempts to sum up the unique ambience of Monza, Mark Webber
excels. "There are many people here trying to look beautiful," ruminates the Red Bull driver. "Some successfully, some unsuccessfully." Cue rapid pan to a man in a garish silk shirt.
Anonymous on 81111:
"Could be interesting if we end up with six Kers cars at the front today. Maybe Kers hadn't been given a chance. If it resulted in a more exciting race maybe it would result in FIA planning to make all teams have it starting next year."
Mraprosser on 606:
"The Red Bull upgrades don't seem to working on a circuit that was surely made for them as their times are not great but then this is 2009 and every race is a mystery. Hamilton for pole?"
You'll know it's silly season with respect to driver movements for next year. The machinations are like Russian Roulette. Kubica will be a key mover. Will he replace Alonso at Renault when the Spaniard moves to Ferrari? But, says EJ, the Pole could drive for Williams alongside Nico Hulkenberg. But our little Irishman's white hot tip is Nico Rosberg for Brawn!
That's gotta be worth bolding up.
Nice little TV piece about Fernando Alonso going back to his beloved Spanish home town of Oviedo last weekend, spinning a range of Renault vehicles around the historic streets and squares. More than 170,000 wide-eyed fans turned out to catch a glimpse of him. Wow. "When I'm not winning it's a sad day," he laments. Any chance he will be wearing a smile come the end of qualifying at Monza?
"You couldn't even contemplate asking a driver to crash. It wouldn't even come into the rationale as you assess different strategies. Absolutely not. This is hugely damaging, but let's get it out in the open and make sure everything is clean," stresses former team boss Eddie Jordan on BBC1.
Former F1 driver David Coulthard is suitably disgusted by the whole affair too.
"It's a big subject. Everyone want to talks about whether it happened or not. People like bad news or controversial news. And this is a pearler." Red Bull's Mark Webber
on Arlene Phillips being replaced by Alesha Dixon on Strictly Come Dancing. I jest. He's talking about the Renault-Piquet-Singapore saga.
Businessman purple - lilac - and ivory-blue. That's the shirt spectrum being donned by Messrs Jordan, Coulthard and Humphrey respectively. Jake's with a sort of waiter-like trim. DC with blinding white trousers that only the uber-confident can pull off. Nice.
Bom, bom bom bom, bom ba-dom, ba.... you know the rest. If you (UK users) cannot see video pictures at the top of this page then manually refresh. BBC1 coverage of Italian Grand Prix qualifying is GO GO GO with a montage of, erm, the olden black-and-white days. "That's when cars were cars," chirrups my young colleague.
Aattaacckk on 606:
"I think Sutil's pace is genuine. Unfortunately for him he is a sitting duck, for are about 3/4 Kers cars close behind him. The opening laps are going to be really tough for him. For his sake, I hope he doesn't go too light and lose out in the stops."
Pronto. Welcome back. Nothing - not even still water - stands still in F1. In the past hour or so, FIA president Max Mosley has dismissed as "a little bit of fantasy" Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali's suggestion to run three cars from next season. And FIA presidential candidate Ari Vatanen has called for unity and order to be re-established in the sport as it
struggles with yet more damaging claims of espionage and cheating.
Let's concentrate on qualifying eh.
Interesting poser from a mystery texter below. Ponder that, and the magnetic prospect of an electrifying qualifying session, as we take a pit-stop for fuel (aka food). See you back here at 1200 BST.
Anonymous on 81111:
"As Force India is 'McLaren Light' what chance of Sutil joining his buddy Hamilton [next season]?"
But Sutil keeps top spot. Well done to him. Button second, then Heidfeld, Barrichello, Hamilton, Kovalainen... Not much running for Red Bull as Webber and Vettel, 17th and 18th, don't clock as many laps as the rest (bar Fisichellla and Alguersuari). The young German driver is now on his eighth - and last - engine of the season.
Kovalainen flying... it could be really close this weekend. The Finn goes second. he's BBC F1 pundit Anthony Davidson's
tip for pole. Button fastest now though. No, Sutil steals it! Not done yet...
Fangdango on 606:
"Terrific race in store and the first corner from the start could decide the outcome of the championship. Jenson needs to avoid what happened to Lewis in the last race or his hopes will be shattered this season. Lewis needs to qualify on the first two rows at least to use his Kers to outdrag the others down to turn 1 and keep clear for turn 2. Go Lewis Go!"
Getting a decent picture of race pace now. Force India - for whom Liuzzi is doing a great job - are fast. As are the McLarens. Button up to third now. Tall trees cast sultry shadows over track. Six minutes to go now then we cast our minds towards qualifying...
Having seen an FIA official inspecting events in the Toro Rosso garage, Ted Kravitz
speculates that Alguersuari could be hit with five-grid place penalty for having his gearbox changed. This is TBC. Scrabbling over gravel, Grosjean goes for a little detour off the track. Sutil now fastest as he pushes Hamilton into second. The German just tells his team radio: "I wouldn't change anything on the car."
Jaime Alguersuari is twiddling his thumbs in the garage - there's a problem with his Toro Rosso, which is now up on the stands being surgically inspected by his mechanics. All other cars are out. Championship leader of the pack Button now fifth, Webber down in 16th with Vettel 18th.
BBC F1 pundit Anthony Davidson:
"Monza is the lowest-downforce circuit of the year by quite a distance. The car reacts here quite differently to any other circuit. Downforce is basically the pressure exerted on the wheels of the car on the ground, it is like an aeroplane but in reverse - an aeroplane gains lift the faster it goes whereas a car gains downforce. So it's an inverted plane.
"But downforce and drag resistance go hand-in-hand. The more downforce you have the more drag you have. Because Monza has such long straights which make up such a large proportion of the lap, you need to run less downforce. That is why the cars are visibly different here they have skinnier wings and fewer elements on the front and rear wings. They look a lot less deep and substantial than at other circuits.
"In simple terms, the car moves around a lot more on a low-downforce track. It is a bit more like driving your road car in the snow - it is much more challenging. You never feel confident that the car has the grip that is there for you around most circuits."
BBC F1 pit-lane reporter Ted Kravitz:
"That's a massive setback for Giancarlo Fisichella. Whereas before that crash he would've expected to get into Q2 quite easily, now getting through Q1 is very much in the balance because he won't have had any opportunity to go through his qualifying runs. Not at all what he would've hoped for."
That seems bound to affect Fisichella's chances in qualifying. He has just not had enough time in the car. Gone to the medical centre now to get the OK from docs. Did nerves get the better of him? Let me know what you think. Hamilton still quickest, then Glock, Alonso, Kovalainen, Sutil, Grosjean...
Joe in Monmouthshire on 81111
"How much harder will it be next year, especially under braking, carrying 53 laps of fuel with low downforce?"
Fisichella has gone off at Parabolica! That's not good. It's a right-front locking situation, braking too late, as he tries to find the limit of a car he's unfamiliar with. The front-left wheel almost snaps off as he slams into the tyre wall. Drama. The Italian looks sheepish.
Hamilton fastest now. The world champion, gaining between two or three tenths of a second by slipstreaming the car in front, absolutely flying. And he's got that Kers power boost button. Many tipping him for a second win of 2009 this weekend.
BBC F1 pundit Anthony Davidson:
"You'll often see drivers and cars getting their best times three or four laps into a stint at Monza, when the tyres are yet to grain but when the temperature in them is near optimum. That could make things interesting come qualifying later."
Liuzzi fastest now. Don't forget, he is replacing Fisichella - who grabbed Force India's first-ever F1 podium with second place in Belgium at the last race. Many believe that car now truly has some legs, though they may be more than Asafa Powell than Usain Bolt. And Adrian Sutil went quickest yesterday.
Hammydigrassi on 606:
"What a weekend we have in store. Force India looking good again. McLaren back up there, Hoping Heikki and Lewis can do the business and either one of them win this weekend. Let's hope Grosjean can give Renault something to smile about this weekend and score some points, he looked a cool dude in practice yesterday. I think Button, Webber, Vettel and Barrichello could struggle to get near the front this weekend. I also expect one of them to be knocked out of third quali."
Clean-shaven Brawn driver Rubens Barrichello looks typically happy as he waits to go out. Fisichella, on the team radio, is raving about the Ferrari car. He posts the first time: one minute 28.402 seconds. Lovely morning in Italy.
No times posted yet. That Rambo chap was in fact Jean Alesi, who is well known within F1 to be a top man and true gent. BBC pit-lane reporter Ted Kravitz
says he nearly put the Eastenders theme tune on a the end of a TV report he did about the Renault-Piquet affair, such is its soap opera qualities. So who's Dirty Den then?
John from Maidstone in Kent on 81111:
"Wouldn't it sum up the season if Fisi qualifies last in a Ferrari the race after putting a Force India on pole?!"
The hour-long session is under way.. Force India's new boy Tonio Liuzzi is first out on the asphalt. Sly Stallone look-a-like in the Ferrari garage.
Huge thunderstorms in northern Italy over Monza. Last night. Stunning blue skies this morning though, and it's 31 degrees track temp. Great chat F1 commentator David Croft on 5 Live Sports Extra.
"Who can ride the kerbs here at Monza, who can be aggressive on these 15cm-high beasts?" he sings. "You can't go anywhere near those big, bulbous red things," retorts pundit Anthony Davidson
sat in the commentary box next to him.
ButtonNumber22 on 606:
"My bet is for a Lewis-Rubens front row with Kimi, Jenson, Vettel and Heikki not far back!"
BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Monza:
"Hello again. Team BBC arrived at the track super early this morning to avoid the log-jam of Italian traffic and roadworks. We were here so early that Jake even had time to polish his shoes while Eddie had a good sit down with a cup of tea on the sofa. It is another bright morning in northern Italy but it does feel noticeably cooler than the last two days. The forecast for qualifying is, at this stage, uncertain. Some sources say it'll be cloudy while others predict rain will begin to fall at exactly 2pm local time (1300 BST). Oh perfect."
Now that's out of the way, let's concentrate on some racing. Third and final practice for the Italian Grand Prix starts at 1000 BST - so not long now - before the always pulse-quickening qualifying sessions kick off at 1300 BST. In gorgeous early autumn sunshine, Lewis Hamilton and Adrian Sutil ran well for McLaren and Force India yesterday. Who's gonna do the biz today? Text me on 81111
or get involved in 606
In case you spent yesterday near the peak of Everest, though you can still probably get a mobile phone or WAP reception up there, the top line is that Renault are to launch legal action against Nelson Piquet Jr and his dad - Nelson Piquet Sr - over the Singapore 2008 race-fixing allegations. Claim and counter-claims are now swirling around like cheap cars in a violent hurricane...
this is the full story.
Once again, the high-speed Formula 1 action on the track (yes, Luca Badoer is no longer driving for Ferrari) is being viciously overshadowed by events off it. You know what I'm talking about. Don't you? Welcome to a world of controversy. Oh, and Monza.