Sebastian Vettel defied predictions that Red Bull Racing would struggle on the flat-out stretches of the Monza autodrome by claiming pole position today for the F1 2011 Italian Grand Prix.
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 McLaren's Lewis Hamilton made a mistake, Vettel, running at the back of the train, continued to press on, eventually coming home with a lap of 1 minute 22.275 seconds, improving his own mark by nearly four-tenths and beating the rest of the field by almost five-tenths.
It was another brilliant performance from the defending champion, who will now start tomorrow's race from the very front for the tenth time this year. It also means that Red Bull Racing maintains its 2011 pole streak.
Hamilton meanwhile took second, despite his error on his second run. He will start alongside Vettel on the front row, with his team-mate and fellow countryman, Jenson Button third. Button also aborted his final effort and finished up just 0.052s shy of the sister car.
Mark Webber briefly held the outside of row two, despite opting to only make one run - but he was then deposed by Fernando Alonso for home favourite Ferrari. The Spaniard's team-mate, Felipe Massa sandwiches Webber in sixth spot, ahead of Lotus Renault's Vitaly Petrov, the two Mercedes of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg and Bruno Senna in tenth.
Senna, who opted not to venture out in Q3 in his R31, had only just made it through to top-ten shoot-out, when a late lap - and a tow from Hamilton - saw him bump Paul di Resta down to P11 by just 0.006s.
Further back, Adrian Sutil was twelfth in the other Force India, followed by Williams twins Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado - the latter suffering a DRS-induced clash with the barriers in Q1, which forced him to pit for a new front wing - and then the two Saubers of Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi, who sandwiched the remaining Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi in 16th.
Buemi's team-mate, Jaime Alguersuari was the man in the wrong place at the wrong time as Q1 came to an end. The Spaniard, who is still fighting for his place at Toro Rosso in 2012, did not initially appear under threat, but was sitting 'on the bubble' when Barrichello posted an improvement on his final flying lap. The Brazilian had previously been forced into the 'drop zone' by a flurry of improvements around him, but dragged a faster lap time from his Williams when it mattered, relegating Alguersuari to the dreaded 18th position.
Alguersuari was still on track when Barrichello leaped into 14th spot, but aborted his final lap when it was clear he would not improve by enough to dislodge his Toro Rosso team-mate Buemi, who had also taken his turn in the danger area, along with Kobayashi and Senna.
Alguersuari, who has scored points from 18th in previous races this season, joins the familiar Lotus, Virgin and HRT runners in the bottom seven, with Jarno Trulli 'best of the rest' after out-qualifying team-mate Heikki Kovalainen for only the second time this year. Timo Glock was the faster of the two Virgins in 21st, while Daniel Ricciardo beat Vitantonio Liuzzi to P23 in only his fourth qualifying session - 0.177s quicker. All the runners were comfortably within the 107 percent - a 1m 29.854s - the slowest time of Liuzzi more than 1.5 seconds below that target.
To see the full times from qualifying for the F1 2011 Italian Grand Prix at Monza - CLICK HERE