Lewis Hamilton set the standard today in qualifying for the 2012 F1 Italian Grand Prix, with Fernando Alonso's hopes of challenging for pole position fading with a suspected rear-anti roll bar failure.
Hamilton posted the best time in the top-ten shoot-out, a 1 minute 24.010 seconds, on his very first run, while team-mate Jenson Button ended up being his closest challenger, just 0.123 seconds slower in the sister car, moving up to P2 right at the end. It was McLaren's 61st front row lock out, a new all-time record.
Alonso, who had been quickest in Q1 and Q2, was left down in tenth in front of the adoring Ferrari fans. The Scuderia had appeared to be trying to use drafting to improve their position, but Alonso's mechanical woes put pay to that, although Felipe Massa did pick up the baton as his team-mate struggled. Indeed the Brazilian will start third, the first time this season he has beaten Alonso.
Paul di Resta briefly held second spot before being deposed by Massa and then Button, but, despite ending up fourth quickest, the Scot will take a five-place grid penalty due to a gearbox change, which drops him to an eventual ninth, sharing row five with Alonso.
Behind, Michael Schumacher is bumped up to fourth at di Resta's expense, with Sebastian Vettel, who only just made it into the final phase of the session, assuming the inside of row three for Red Bull Racing. Nico Rosberg is next up, while Kimi Raikkonen and Kamui Kobayashi fill row four for Lotus and Sauber respectively.
Mark Webber meanwhile found himself on the wrong side of the cut-off in Q2 and will start down in P11, the third race in a row Red Bull Racing has lost at least one driver in the second session. Joining Webber in making their exit at the end of Q2 were Pastor Maldonado, who survived a grassy moment at Ascari on his final throw of the dice, Sergio Perez, Bruno Senna, Daniel Ricciardo, Jerome d'Ambrosio and Jean-Eric Vergne, although Maldonado already faces a ten-place drop, which will leave him outside the top 20 for tomorrow's race.
Of the remaining runners, Nico Hulkenberg joined the expected Q1 casualties after suffering gearbox problems. The German's Force India ground to a halt in the opening minutes of the first session leaving him right at the back.
Heikki Kovalainen made repeated attempts to try and put his Caterham into Q2, but ulitmatley missed out by around half a second. Vitaly Petrov trailed his team-mate, with the 19th best time, while Timo Glock came in 20th, ahead of the second Marussia of Charles Pic. Narain Karthikeyan and Pedro de la Rosa were slowest in their HRTs as usual, although for once Karthikeyan genuinely out-qualified his team-mate.
To see the full times from qualifying for the F1 2012 Italian Grand Prix - CLICK HERE