Both Lotus entries failing to make it through to the final phase of qualifying at the Italian Grand Prix would have been an obvious headline, had it not been for Lewis Hamilton's similar exit after Q2.

The Briton, who has been on pole for the past four races and a fixture in the top ten for 66, appeared to be thrown off kilter by a mistake exiting the Parabolica on his first run. The Mercedes driver seemed distracted as he put his left-hand wheels into the dust and, having failed to improve his time, had to abort the run for a fresh set of tyres. Expecting to still make it out of the bottom six in the session, however, Hamilton was twice blocked by Adrian Sutil - resulting in the German attracting the attention of the stewards.

Hamilton wound up twelfth fastest in the session, his car undamaged by the excursion, and won't get any solace from a penalty for Sutil, as the German proved slower still, finishing the session 14th overall.

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Either side of Hamilton were the Lotuses, with Kimi Raikkonen failing to improve on his final run and having to settle for eleventh, having been demoted by Jenson Button's escape to seventh. Romain Grosjean, meanwhile, looked ragged in the other E21 and could not better 13th.

With Paul di Resta slowest of all in the session, questions were raised regarding the set-up adopted by Lotus and Force India, both of which may have been hedging their bets amid reports of rain hitting Monza on Sunday. Pastor Maldonado was the other driver not to progress to the pole shoot-out, joining Williams team-mate Valtteri Bottas on the sidelines, after the Finn failed to make it through from Q1.

Sebastian Vettel was again the fastest man on track, heading Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber at the top of the times, with Daniel Ricciardo fourth for Toro Rosso.