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Qualifying analysis: Ferrari surprise even themselves

05 Sep 2015

Perfect weather for qualifying in Italy came as a relief after the first half of FP3 was affected by heavy rain earlier in the morning. There was a revelation too, in the form of the two Prancing Horses. With Ferrari splitting their Mercedes rivals on the grid, the tifosi could yet be in for a treat of a race. We take a team-by-team look at Saturday's Monza formbook...

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 23.397s, P1
Nico Rosberg, 1m 23.703s, P4

Mercedes were probably very glad they had upgraded their engine here, when they saw Ferrari's qualifying pace. In the end Hamilton had enough in hand to take his 11th pole of the season and thus to equal Alain Prost's record for seven consecutive poles in the same year. Rosberg, however, struggled a little to fourth, being forced to revert to the old spec engine after his new one went awry in FP3. Both believe they have great race pace, but Rosberg's engine is entering its sixth Grand Prix.

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 23.631s, P2
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 23.685s, P3

Even the drivers said they were surprised at just how quick the SF15-Ts were in qualifying trim, and they certainly got Mercedes' attention. Raikkonen said he just drove better than he did yesterday, while Vettel wasn't fazed to lose out by 0.054 to his team mate. Both think they'll be strong tomorrow, and can push hard to beat Mercedes.

Felipe Massa, 1m 23.940s, P5
Valtteri Bottas, 1m 24.127s, P6

Both drivers believed they did the best they could, though Bottas regretted not getting a decent tow on his final run. Both felt the Ferraris were just out of their reach, but say they'll be fighting for a podium finish.

Force India
Sergio Perez, 1m 24.626s, P7
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 25.317s, P9

Perez only made one run in Q3, and said he actually lost a couple of tenths trying to be greedy by grabbing a tow from Raikkonen. But he was otherwise happy with his time. Hulkenberg was most unlucky as his engine lost power at the end of his first run, on old tyres, in Q3, stranding him in ninth place based on the time he achieved then. There was a problem in the fuel system. Both should be very strong in the race, however.

Romain Grosjean, 1m 25.054s, P8
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 24.525s, P11

Grosjean was disappointed not to muster more pace in Q3, but believes he's on for another strong helping of points. Maldonado rued difficulty in getting heat into his tyres, but only missed Q3 by a fraction. The black and gold cars should be strong in the race tomorrow.

Marcus Ericsson, 1m 26.214s, P10
Felipe Nasr, 1m 24.898s P12

The low-downforce track and the upgraded power unit Ferrari had used earlier in the year gave Sauber a new lease of qualifying life. Ericsson's recent progress continued as he made it through to Q3 and a well-deserved 10th, though he was subsequently handed a three-place grid penalty for impeding Hulkenberg in Q1. Nasr, meanwhile, was 12th, so both will firmly be in the hunt for points.

Toro Rosso
Carlos Sainz, 1m 25.618s, P13
Max Verstappen, no time, P20

Like Red Bull, Toro Rosso knew that grid penalties for a double engine change would affect their qualifying philosophy. They had to change Verstappen's after FP3, which meant they literally got him out with only 20s left in FP1. Of course that was too late, and by the time he got to Curva Grande his ill-secured engine cover blew off...

Red Bull
Daniil Kvyat, 1m 255.796s, P14
Daniel Ricciardo, no time

What a tough day for Red Bull. Of course they expected penalties as both drivers had their sixth engines installed, but not that Ricciardo's new one would break in FP3. He'll revert to yesterday's motor and hope for the best, but it won't have helped the Aussie's aspirations for Singapore.

Jenson Button, 1m 26.058s, P16
Fernando Alonso, 1m 26.154s, P17

McLaren looked better today than yesterday, but still lacked the pace to have made it into Q2. Alonso suggested that he was losing the most time "when the steering wheel was in the straight-ahead position," which just about summarised things on this power circuit. Thanks to others getting greater penalties than their own, they are actually set to start 15th and 16th, improvements on where they qualified… Both expect another bruising race, however.

Will Stevens, 1m 27.731s, P18
Roberto Merhi, 1m 27.912s, P19

No problems here after another reliable display and closely-matched times from both drivers. They are looking forward to starting in the midfield once so many of their rivals have had grid penalties applied, with their main focus initially being to avoid damage in Turn 1. Then they'll see how their race unfolds.