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Page last updated at 14:37 GMT, Saturday, 11 September 2010 15:37 UK

Fernando Alonso captures Italian GP pole for Ferrari

Fernando Alonso

Highlights - Italian GP qualifying

By Andrew Benson
BBC Sport at Monza

Fernando Alonso produced a stunning lap to grab Ferrari's first pole position of 2010 at the Italian Grand Prix.

The Spaniard was 0.122 seconds quicker than McLaren's Jenson Button at Monza to give himself a great chance of reviving his faltering title challenge.

Alonso's team-mate Felipe Massa was third ahead of Red Bull's Mark Webber, whose fourth was an excellent effort.

McLaren's championship leader Lewis Hamilton could manage only fifth place, with Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel sixth.

Alonso's fastest time of one minute 21.962 seconds came on the first of two runs in the top-10 qualifying shoot-out, at which point he was nearly 0.3 secs quicker than Button and 0.6 faster than Massa.

BBC commentator Jonathan Legard

Defending world champion Button closed the gap on his second run, as Alonso was unable to improve his time, but could not find enough to snatch pole.

Alonso said: "Pole position was a nice surprise. When I stopped in parc ferme, they radioed and told me I was keeping the first position. But there were still some cars completing their laps, Jenson had gone pink [fastest of all] in the first sector and I thought, as had happened before, someone would go faster.

"It is a nice surprise and a fantastic feeling to get this first pole position for Ferrari.

"The first run was just to put a normal lap on the table and then try to risk more in the second run. But, as sometimes as happens in Monza, when you do a normal lap it is better than when you try to push because it is easy to make a mistake."

It was Ferrari's first pole position since the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, and Alonso's first since Hungary last year, when he was driving for Renault.

Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa

Italian GP qualifying - Top three drivers

The two McLaren drivers, meanwhile, adopted different strategies with Button choosing to set up his car to achieve more grip through the corners and less speed on the straight, while Hamilton chose not to use the F-duct in order to maximise his straight-line pace.

"We came here not quite sure which approach to take," said Button, "and I think our side [of the garage] made the right choice to run the high-downforce set-up with the F-duct.

"It's very tricky here, as Fernando said, and out of Ascari I got a bit of oversteer and ran wide off the circuit.

"But it's the first time I've been on the front row so I'm happy with second and the car's performance."

Red Bull's Mark Webber

Webber stays cool despite problems

Massa, who controversially handed the lead to Alonso in the German Grand Prix in July, was more than 0.3 secs slower than his team-mate.

"When I put the soft tyres on in Q2, I could not do my best lap straight away - the best was my third lap. I said 'let's risk and try to do three laps', but in Q3 it didn't work as well as I expected.

"I was able to do one timed lap on my other set but it was not enough. We have a good car for the race - we've improved it massively," he explained.

Webber's performance was deeply impressive after the Australian suffered problems in practice.

He stopped out on the track twice, on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, and that meant he had not run on the softer of the two tyre choices - which the leading drivers used to set their grid positions - before qualifying.

To beat team-mate Vettel by more than 0.2secs in those circumstances made it one of the best laps of Webber's season.

"I would have taken that [at the start of qualifying]," said the Australian, who lies second in the drivers's standings, just three points behind Hamilton.

"We extended to a few laps on the option tyre in Q2 and we delivered, in a way, when it counted."

Renault driver Vitaly Petrov was given a five-place penalty after qualifying 15th for impeding Timo Glock's Virgin as he rejoined the circuit from the pit lane.

"I can only apologise to him if I held him up. I didn't see him coming up behind me and didn't see any blue flags as I came out of the pits," he explained.

However, Glock was given a similar penalty, relegating him to the back of the grid, after the team broke a seal on his gearbox to replace the differential, a breach of F1's technical rules.

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see also
Italian Grand Prix qualifying results
24 Feb 10 |  Results
Hamilton regrets 'wrong choice'
11 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Ferrari president demands victory
11 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Italian GP qualifying as it happened
11 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Italian Grand Prix photos
11 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Vettel heads Ferrari duo at Monza
10 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Button seeks Monza podium finish
10 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Ecclestone makes team orders hint
10 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Alonso faces team orders grilling
09 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Ferrari escape further punishment
08 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
McLaren confident of Monza form
08 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Webber cautious on Monza chances
08 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Alonso not giving up on title yet
01 Sep 10 |  Formula 1

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