Sebastian Vettel defied predictions that Red Bull Racing would struggle on the flat-out stretches of the Monza autodrome by claiming pole position for the Italian Grand Prix by half a second.

The German laid down an early marker in the opening part of the final ten-minute phase of the session, but knew that most of those behind him had a legitimate shot at top spot, so had to go for it on his final lap. Although the pressure eased slightly when Lewis Hamilton made a mistake, Vettel, running at the back of the train, continued to press on, eventually coming home with a lap of 1min 22.275secs, improving his own mark by nearly four-tenths and beating the rest of the field by almost five-tenths.

Hamilton remained second fastest despite his error meaning that he failed to improve, as those behind him - both literally and figuratively on that final run - failed to improve sufficiently to dislodge the Briton. McLaren team-mate Jenson Button remained closest in the final reckoning - lapping just 0.052secs slower, but aborted his final effort after an error denied him a shot at the front row.

Mark Webber briefly held the outside of row two, despite only making one run in order to preserve his engine - the Australian being among the few to keep an older engine for this race - but was then deposed by Fernando Alonso for home favourite Ferrari. The Spaniard's team-mate sandwiches Webber in sixth spot, ahead of Renault's Vitaly Petrov, the two Mercedes of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, with Bruno Senna bringing up the rear after opting not to venture out.

Full report and times to follow....