With air temperatures into the 30s and track temperature into the 40s, the afternoon at Monza was certainly blisteringly hot and the action got off to an appropriately fast start.
Julian Leal was first to hit the track, but his first flying lap was quickly displaced by Michael Herck with a 1:35.472s just pipping his team mate Luca Filippi in the first runs.
Next time around it was Filippi who went fastest with a time of 1:32.460s, over a quarter of a second faster than Romain Grosjean and Adam Carroll, but eight minutes into the session it was Charles Pic who went faster still with a time of 1:32.349s. After that it became a battle for the third place slot behind Filippi, briefly taken by Dani Clos then Alvaro Parente and finally Fabio Leimer taking up residence as the 30-minute session reached the midway point.
Despite further flying laps, the top four cars were unable to improve their times further, which meant Pic gained his third pole position of the year, and a valuable extra drivers' championship point in his battle to finish in the runners-up spot. Romain Grosjean did just pop in front of Clos again for fifth place, despite a messy session that saw him running off track out of the exit of the first Lesmo with five minutes remaining. Leimer and Parente also pushed hard in the closing minutes and ran wide as they failed to squeeze the extra time out of the circuit that they needed to upset the front row.
A flat tyre for the already-struggling Pal Varhaug in turn 7 brought out a yellow flag with just under two minutes to go, thwarting any final banzai laps and bringing a premature end to proceedings. Earlier in the session the yellows had also been out for an extended period after Esteban Gutierrez lost the rear of his Lotus ART and crashed the car into the fence on his fourth run through the exit of the Ascari chicane, ensuring that he would play no further part in the session.
While two of the contenders for the GP2 title runner-up position start from the front row, the two drivers ahead of them on points - Jules Bianchi and Giedo van der Garde - had terrible qualifying sessions with their runs disrupted by the yellow flags and by traffic at critical moments, Bianchi nearly colliding with Alvaro Parente in the first chicane at one point. They will start alongside each other on the tenth row of the grid, with Bianchi 19th and van der Garde in 20th positions respectively, almost a full second off Pic's pole time.
Full qualifying times and positions