Formula One: Ferrari On Course For Italian Victory

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Formula One: Ferrari On Course For Italian Victory
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Fernando Alonso gets out of the car after qualifying at Monza.

Alonso claimed pole position ahead of what should be an exciting race at Monza after narrowly beating Button to the top spot. Ferrari teammate Massa came third, followed by Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton.

Starting at the last row of the grid, Hispania driver Sakon Yamamoto qualified last once again, although he shouldn't get over confident after Glock's demotion due to a gearbox replacement leaves the Japanese driver in 23rd place. Sakon paid tribute to the team who prepared the car well, and said afterwards that he had not been able to practice on the option tyres. As in the other races, he is likely to be the last person that finishes tomorrow - if he finishes. Timo Glock qualified 21st but was placed at the back after a seal on his car's gearbox had to be broken after final practice. He had problems on a final set of tyres and had no grip on the rear of the car. If he works well he should get past the Hispania drivers and possibly past his teammate and a Lotus or two, but it is unlikely that he will get into the points.

Bruno Senna starts 22nd after qualifying 23rd, and will probably revert back to his qualifying position as the second last car to finish. According to the driver, he had traffic on his best laps, but he did the best he could. Lucas di Grassi is promoted to 21st, after qualifying 22nd, and he said he extracted the maximum from his car as it was set up for the race tomorrow. He might be involved in a battle with the Lotus team ahead of him, but there will be a massive gap to Sauber in this race.

Vitaly Petrov qualified in 15th position, but lost five places due to holding up Virgin driver Timo Glock on his first timed lap in the first qualifying session. Despite having a relatively fast car, he could not get the same speed as his teammate, and only managed to outpace Pedro de la Rosa and Jaime Alguersuari in the second qualifying session. He starts in 20th place, just behind the Force India of Liuzzi who was unable to set a competitive lap time and finished 19th. Despite Petrov's inexperience, he should be able to make up a few places and possibly grab one or two points.

Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli were the fastest of the new teams, despite mainly stopping development on this seasons car. Kovalainen finished 19th and Trulli just ahead in 18th and deserved their places on the grid, and they will both be promoted one place after Petrov's penalty. Despite this, two faster cars will be behind them, and both Petrov and Liuzzi should expect to get through, unless the latter has some car problems once again.

Pedro de la Rosa was the slowest car in Q2 as he finished just under four tenths behind his fellow Spanish driver Jaime Alguersuari, who will start 15th and 16th. After Toro Rosso's slightly improved performance in practice and qualifying, I expect Alguersuari to hold off the challenge of De La Rosa, but Petrov and Liuzzi are likely to pass both. There may be an in-house battle as Buemi will be fighting with Alguersuari, possibly leaving them both to make a mistake similar to Germany, and the Sauber driver behind could benefit, although he shouldn't be able to get past Kobayashi.

Sebastien Buemi topped the speed charts several times in practice, but was unable to transform this into faster lap times. He has slightly more experience than Alguersuari, and this may show in the race, because apart from that they are evenly matched. I don't see him being able to pass Kobayashi, who starts one place ahead of the Swiss driver in 13th, although I don't see anyone being able to pass the Japanese driver who has had many good performances. Kamui Kobayashi, who signed a new contract for 2011, may challenge Schumacher and Sutil, and may be able to equal his best performance in Valencia if he gets lucky.

Michael Schumacher isn't having the best comeback in Formula One, and he qualified in 12th, but should be able to get some points. He admitted he wasn't expecting to have a competitive car in Italy, and this showed. Adrian Sutil was expected to perform better at a low downforce track, but finished just outside the top ten in qualifying. I expect him to get ahead of Barrichello, but in theory should not be able to challenge the greater speed of Kubica's Renault.

The slowest of the drivers in the top ten was Rubens Barrichello, who was around 1.4 seconds behind the pole position of Fernando Alonso. Although challenging Kubica may be tough, his teammate proved that it is possible in that car. However, he may spend more time trying to avoid being pushed into a wall by Schumacher behind him. Kubica qualified nineth and should do well, even if a podium position is out of reach.

Nico Hulkenberg is only two thousandths of a second ahead of Kubica, and I suspect this will show in the race as he is hunted down by the Polish driver. Ahead of him is another Nico, as Nico Rosberg managed to get the Mercedes into seventh position, and they may be able to tactically plan some rise through the positions through the pit stops, and may even be able to get ahead of Vettel after the Red Bull had a poor performance at a lower downforce circuit.

Sebastian Vettel qualified sixth and might have trouble getting past Hamilton. If Hamilton finishes ahead, I think that the German will be mentally out of the championship after he failed to score points in Belgium. Hopefully he won't lose control as he tries to overtake once again, although it may make the championship more interesting if he takes out Lewis, who qualified one place ahead of him after opting for a low downforce setup and taking off the F-duct, unlike his teammate. The British driver has acknowledged that he will be sliding through the corners, but he will have good speeds on the straights.

Mark Webber, who is three points behind Lewis Hamilton in the championship, may have a tough battle, but unless Felipe Massa makes a big mistake he will probably stay in fourth, the same place he qualified. Felipe Massa will be behind Alonso, as the Brazilian qualified third, and is likely to get past Jenson Button because of his setup, but is likely to stay behind Alonso because of what Ferrari have named "team strategy and tactics" instead of the straightforward old-fashioned 'team orders.'

Button decided against taking off the F-duct for this weekend, and that decision paid dividends as he starts on the front row despite having a higher downforce package. The British driver expects that the car should have good pace for long runs on heavy fuel loads, and he wants to win the race, which may be possible. The biggest problem to that is Alonso, who starts on pole in Ferrari's home race. Judging by his pace in qualifying, he should win, and that is what I think will happen tomorrow, barring a massive mistake. He had an advantage by having two sets of new tyres, and his time of 1:21.962 on the first run grabbed pole. In my opinion, he should hang on to the top spot, and a Ferrari one-two is within reach. However, Jenson Button could spoil the party...

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