Italian GP Qualifying: Vettel and Red Bull dominate as Hulkenberg astounds

Sebastian Vettel powers around Monza

Sebastian Vettel powers around Monza

Italian Grand Prix qualifying was packed with surprises, one of which was not Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull dominating proceedings at Monza on an afternoon which saw Nico Hulkenberg in the Ferrari powered Sauber out qualify both Ferrari drivers while Lewis Hamilton’s run of four pole positions came to a dramatic end.

Other surprises were that both Lotus drivers failed to make it into Q3, while both McLarens made it through to the final stanza, as did the Toro Rosso pair making it five Ferrari powered cars in the top ten.

Since Friday afternoon, when Vettel stepped up a gear the writing was on the wall: the triple world champion was going to be hard to top. His final lap time of 1:23.755 was good enough to claim top position.

Indeed, in qualifying no one really came close as the German controlled proceedings to claim his fourth pole position of the season and set himself up nicely for victory at the circuit where he scored his maiden win in 2008. It was also Red Bull’s 50th F1 pole position and Vettel’s 40th.

Monza qualifying top three (L to R) Mark Webber (second), Sebastian Vettel(pole winner) and Nico Hulkenberg (third)

Monza qualifying top three (L to R) Mark Webber (second), Sebastian Vettel(pole winner) and Nico Hulkenberg (third)

Vettel summed up his afternoon at the self styled ‘citadel of speed’,  “It’s a special track…always nice to come back here. My memories of 2008 are great. I had another win in 2011 but your first win is always special. This weekend, the car was fantastic. We had a really strong pace yesterday and we were able to take that into qualifying today. In the end, it’s a bit of a surprise to have both cars on front row at a place [where] historically we’ve had bad years. This year seems to work well and hopefully we’ll have a good race tomorrow. We’re able to match other cars down the straight and we know in [the] corners, we have a strong car.”

Mark Webber did his bit to claim second place on the grid and guarantee a Red Bull lock out of the front row. The Australian, racing in his final grand prix on European soil, was 0.213 seconds down on his teammate which has been about the gap between the two all weekend.

Webber was pleased with his effort, “I said to the boys I was looking for a qualifying PB, it’s a nice step towards a good race tomorrow. I got there in the end when it mattered. Seb did a really good lap. It was a bit of a mixed up session and it’s usually difficult at Monza. Brazil will be a little more emotional and I’m still enjoying my driving and hopefully will get a few good results in the coming races. I’m not retiring and people can come and see me race at Le Mans next year.”

Nico Hulkenberg impressive with third in qualifying

Nico Hulkenberg impressive with third in qualifying

Hulkenberg, perhaps wanting to impress Ferrari in their home race, sensationally claimed the third best time, in the Ferrari powered Sauber, which thus far this season has only been good for mid-pack life. The talented German stumped the established hierarchy with a tremendous lap.

The modest German described it as a perfect lap and cheerfully admitted, “I don’t know [ where the lap came from] either. A really a nice surprise, I didn’t expect it especially after a very difficult Friday. The guys have done a fantastic job to turn the car around.”

Ferrari had spent much of free practice running in tandem, in an effort to use the slipstream to advantageous effect in qualifying. The plan was for Felipe Massa to run at the front, about a second or so ahead of Fernando Alonso and on their flying laps the tow from the Brazilian’s car would was expected to provide an advantage for Alonso.

The trick worked a treat, but when it really mattered in the final shootout they timed it badly and Massa shot away into the distance; Alonso simply lost the tow.

Felip Massa out-qualified his teammate

Felip Massa out-qualified his teammate

Alonso had to settle for fifth, with Massa taking fourth. However La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Alonso was livid over the radio “You’re really idiots. Mamma mia guys.” He later yelled: “Massa is too far away!” The report points out that some heard Alonso use the word ‘geniuses’, sarcastically, rather than idiots.

With Luca di Montezemolo and several high ranking Ferrari connected dignitaries in the team’s pit garage this latest incident is going to be interesting to monitor.

Massa said afterwards, “I lost a little bit on the Ascari, just too … for the lap. I don’t know if it would have been possible to be third, but it was a good lap, I tried to get everything out of the car. Tomorrow is the race and let’s concentrate on doing the best job. We know the cars in front are quick, but it would be fantastic to do a great race for the fans. He’s fighting for the championship, I’m not fighting, I’ll do whatever is important for the team.”

It was strong performance by Nico Rosberg who sat out most of FP3 with an overheating issue on his Mercedes. He was compromised in terms of set up and track time, but extended himself to claim sixth place on the grid.

Nico Rosberg will start from sixth

Nico Rosberg will start from sixth

No doubt inspired by his Red Bull deal, Daniel Ricciardo was seventh fastest in the Toro Rosso, who are enjoying one of the strongest race weekends of their year thus far. Jean Eric Vergne was tenth best, he may have been further up the order had he not had a huge moment exiting Parabolica on his last flying lap.

McLaren were without doubt the team to make up the most ground between Spa and Monza, proof was in the fact that both their drivers made it into the top ten with Sergio Perez and Jenson Button eighth and ninth respectively. By all accounts their race pace is not too shabby either. A change of fortunes may be on the cards for the Woking outfit.

If anyone was expected to challenge the Red Bull supremacy, Hamilton would have been a logical bet to do so despite the Mercedes driver looking ragged all weekend.

But his ongoing feud with former best mate Adrian Sutil came back to haunt him, as the German clearly baulked the Briton when the Silver Arrows was on a hot lap and scuppered any chance of a strong lap in Q2. It was an early shower for Hamilton, and Sutil too – the latter given a three grid place penalty by the stewards for his actions.

Sergio Perez was eighth

Sergio Perez out qualified his teammate and will start from eighth on the grid

A forlorn Hamilton told reporters, “I just drove like an idiot. That’s the worst I’ve driven for a long, long time. I’m sorry to the team.”

Asked if he felt Sutil had impeded him, he said,  “Yep, but there’s nothing you can do about it. I should have done a lap before that. I just didn’t drive well. There’s not really much more to say. I was quick in Q1 and then I dunno. I’ll do whatever I can from where I am but it’s going to be tough.”

Final word to pole winner Vettel, “I’m very happy obviously; it was a scary performance yesterday. We didn’t expect to be so strong here with both cars on [the] front row. A lot of hard work, we did our homework. This circuit has been up and down for us – more up this year – so let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

With the kind of dominance he has shown on the day, it is looking more and more likely that the 26 year old from Heppenheim will bag his fourth successive world title long before the season ends. (GP247)

Subbed by AJN.

Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying at Monza – Saturday, 7 September 2013

Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:24.319 1:23.977 1:23.755 15
2 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:24.923 1:24.263 1:23.968 18
3 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:24.776 1:24.305 1:24.065 21
4 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:24.950 1:24.479 1:24.132 21
5 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:24.661 1:24.227 1:24.142 15
6 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:24.527 1:24.393 1:24.192 26
7 19 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:24.655 1:24.290 1:24.209 24
8 6 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:24.635 1:24.592 1:24.502 17
9 5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:24.739 1:24.563 1:24.515 21
10 18 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:24.630 1:24.575 1:28.050 20
11 7 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:24.819 1:24.610 16
12 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.589 1:24.803 14
13 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:24.737 1:24.848 14
14 15 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:25.030 1:24.932 19
15 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:24.905 1:25.011 19
16 14 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:25.009 1:25.077 18
17 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:25.226 13
18 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:25.291 11
19 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:26.406 9
20 20 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1:26.563 10
21 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:27.085 11
22 23 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:27.480 10
Q1 107% Time 1:30.221



  • Tamburello_1994

    Great job Nico Hulkenberg!!

  • Alonso_is_Slow

    I hope Hulkenberg goes to Ferrari and destroys Alonso from inside.

  • Tinto

    Monza and F1 is all about speed and mind control.

    That is Sebastian, just fenomenal mastering both! Too much for Lewis, Lauda may not have seen that banging his head in disbelief…

    Another low in Ferrari/Alonso using Massa as a towing force. ‘Felipe is too fast’ shouted by Alonso is the best joke I have ever heard today in the race.

    Time for other racers’ fans to rally behind The King of F1 Ring!

  • hillside

    lol @ the failed tow

  • Tamburello_1994

    Alonso critics will have a field day with that epic Ferrari qualy strategy. How pathetic was that? Notice how the reporters stayed very clear of Ferrari afterwards. I bet it got very ugly behind close doors.

    Felipe might of just sealed his fate with Ferrari no matter what happens down the line. He was noticeably absent at the post qualy interview session – No doubt getting read the riot act by Luca di personally.

    Ferrari looked foolish. Period.

    Ferrari might as well shut it down for 2013 and concentrate on next years technology.

  • the fan

    tamburello… i agree, alonso was interviewed and he doesnt sound so upset, however a radio message was picked up by the french channel that translates to Alonso calling the strategy and the team plain stupid

  • real LOTUS is the GREEN one

    I don’t know if international broadcast showed it but Alonso told its box via radio: “siete veramente degli scemi” during Q3, wich means ” you are really some stupids”

    Great Job Nico! :-)

  • Nemo Nobody

    I like to think that Felipe was pushing as hard as he could so Alonso wouldn’t catch him :)
    I understand Felipe is playing a role at Ferrari but isn’t he human after all?!…

  • Nemo Nobody

    …and how Alonso thanked Felipe after Quali session for his help -> what a strait-forward and honest person, really an example for us all :)

  • Rau

    Great job for Nico! That shows his talent and might boost his chance for driving at Ferrari next year.

    It is sad to see Fernando melt down because of the failed tow strategy. He just can’t blame it to Felipe or the whole team. I don’t know if it is true and the exact words he used, but those are unnecessary things to say.

  • stings

    Felipe is too fast!!

  • lawl

    Alonso, Chilton is faster than you, confirm the message?

  • stings

    I think is time to replace Felipe’s gear box….isn’t it?

  • Madnessisfame

    By end of sector 2 in quali 3, Alonso was .002 slower than the fastest poll, and seemed to have lost it in sector 3 where Ferrari was supposed to be very fast…did he have to slow down due to a driver that went off at the last turn in sector 3 causing the dust to erupted all over or what? Any idea?
    It didn’t look right to me and nothing was said.

  • realf1fan

    LOL Alonso calling his team fools over the radio after quali he really one of the poorest team player I have seen I hope Ferrari sack him.

  • the fan

    sting… he said far and not fast. its already posted above and clearly said on the radio lol!

  • stings

    far, fast….who cares.? It’s BS strategy anyways.
    Their only goal was to push alonslow in front. Not this time said Felipe.
    By the way…this is not the first time he is out-qualified.

  • Empee

    I was a little disgusted when one of the articles here presented Nico Hulkenberg as a riskier replacement option for some of the top teams, and performances like this are why. He’s gotten after it in underwhelming cars since his F1 inception, and persists with that mindset even as Sauber is in breach of their contract. Yet someone had the nerve to label him a ‘riskier’ option. Perhaps that’s true in the sense of not having played in their system, but some of the pay and talent-pool drivers in decent seats would’ve languished straight off the F1 radar if their careers ran a similar gamut.

    Hulk has put it three seasons of work ethic, ability, and perseverance, and his reward may be driving with a rookie who’s advancing primarily on the merit of his daddy financing the team? Seriously?

  • Ukwhite

    @Empee: well said, Hulk is what we call typical Germsn quality. Great lad.

  • the fan

    actually that strategy works in monza if executed correctly. however if not properly executed then its disaster definitely. their goal to pull fernando up front is expected and i think thats the right thing to do in this stage of the championship. im not going to debate about team orders since we’re talking about ferrari already. not this time said felipe? then it could have sealed his fate in Ferrari. by the way… being outqualified by your team mate is not a new thing so i dont think its a big deal besides, if this kind of strategy doesnt work, it will obviously benefit the leading car.

  • Ukwhite

    @the fan: That is right far not fast…

    Seems Alonso needed not only tow/pull, but push as well. Webber could helped him from behind, but that a$$ betrayed him this time.

  • mightyk

    Way to go Hulk !!!

  • the fan

    slipstreaming is a very complicated move. you have to watch your distance to the car upfront while maintaining that gap to ensure you are being towed with minimal drag. precision is key.

  • Ukwhite

    @the fan: Engineering wise, agreed… Alonso mission was to comply with, he was the follower, wasn’t he?

    So Massa can be faster, that’s news.

    Anyway, a double tow would have helped, a friend in need is a friend indeed: Webber towing Massa towing Alonso.

  • Nico_Hulkenberg

    Thanks, I pushed hard but I think I deserve it.

  • Drift

    Although being older, Heikki Kovalainen would do at least as good a job with Ferrari as Hülkenberg.

    People only remember him for playing second fiddle to Lewis Hamilton at McLaren.

    What they do not realize is, that he constantly beated Lewis in the qualifyings and that his car was permanently fueled up to the extreme to support Hamilton and hold up pursuiters.

    Anyone who doubts this, look at Monza qualifying 2009:

    1. Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes 1m 24.065s
    2. Adrian Sutil Germany Force India-Mercedes 1m 24.261s
    3. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 24.523s
    4. Heikki Kovalainen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 1m 24.845s

    and the respective fuel loads:

    Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 683.0kg (4th)
    Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 683.0kg (10th)
    Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 682.0kg (9th)
    Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 679.5kg (7th)
    Fernando Alonso Renault 677.5kg (8th)
    Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 662.0kg (3rd)
    Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 655.0kg (2nd)
    Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 653.5kg (1st)

    This is a difference of more than 40kg of fuel and made a difference of 0.799 seconds and Kovalainen being the unchallenged qualifying winner at Monza in 2009. (To point out one example)

  • Empee


    I also read somewhere that Lewis had to turn to Heikki’s driving style in order to figure out how to better manage his tires. Apparently, Lewis used a more gradual corner entry style, which strained the tires for a greater period than Heikki’s comparative flick and go.