MONZA (Italy) • Lewis Hamilton made it 11 poles out of 12 yesterday to make himself firm favourite to win his seventh Formula One race of the season in today's Italian Grand Prix.
This was also his seventh straight pole, matching the best performances of Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher. Only Ayrton Senna, with eight, is ahead of him while Schumacher's season record of 15 is apparently there for the taking.
Hamilton will have another chance to take pole at the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix on Sept 19.
Yesterday, the 30-year-old Briton powered around the high-speed Autodromo Nazional in warm sunshine to clock a best lap of one minute and 23.383 seconds. He finished three-tenths clear of a resurgent Kimi Raikkonen, who was cheered to the flag in his Ferrari.
ITALIAN GRAND PRIX GRID
Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes
Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams
altteri Bottas (Fin) Williams
Sergio Perez (Mex) Force
India Romain Grosjean (Fra) Lotus
Nico Huelkenberg (Ger) Force India
Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber
15 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull
16 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren
17 Fernando Alonso (Esp) McLaren
The Finn, inspired by the supporters packed into the main grandstand opposite the Ferrari pits, produced a flying late effort to beat his team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who wound up third.
The Ferrari revival was bad news for Hamilton's team-mate Nico Rosberg who had to change engines before the session.
The German reverted to an older power unit and finished fourth, his worst qualifying result of the year.
All day, indeed all weekend, it had been a procession for Hamilton, with Rosberg - whose only pole this year came in Spain - left to battle it out with the Ferraris. It was Hamilton's 49th career pole.
"I'm really happy," he said. "The car's been feeling good all weekend. Pole is always a great feeling."
Raikkonen said, after securing his first front-row start for Ferrari since the 2009 Monaco Grand Prix: "We expected a strong weekend, knew this place was not our strongest and the car turned out to be pretty good."
Felipe Massa was fifth fastest ahead of his Williams team-mate Valtteri Bottas, Sergio Perez of Force India and Romain Grosjean of Lotus.
At the other end of the list, the two McLarens of Jenson Button, the 2009 champion, and twice world champion Fernando Alonso, were left behind in 16th and 17th places. They are ahead of the two Manor Marussias of Will Stevens and Robert Merhi.
On Friday, Hamilton, who won his first title with McLaren in 2008, expressed shock at how far the sport's second most successful team have fallen since he had left for Mercedes.
England-based McLaren have not won a race since 2012 while Hamilton's title, making him at the time the youngest champion in the sport, remains their most recent.
McLaren are ninth of 10 teams and have scored just 17 points so far. Hamilton, winner of six Grands Prix this year, scored more points in the first race alone than McLaren have all year.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
F1 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX
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