At soggy Monza, 21-year-old rookie Sebastian Vettel followed up his pole position by becoming the youngest winner in F1 history, more than 12 seconds ahead of a McLaren. "This is the best day of my life. I will never forget these feelings. It is so unbelievable," said the German, whose achievement was also the first win for chassis supplier Red Bull Technology. It was not a day to remember for Sebastien Bourdais, whose good grid position fizzled with a stall on the grid that cost him a full racing lap.
Lewis Hamilton salvaged two points from his less than stirring Monza weekend, albeit allowing Ferrari's Felipe Massa to almost equalise the drivers' standings with four races to now run. "If it had kept on raining, I feel pretty confident I probably could have even won, but my tyres overcooked," the Briton said. Heikki Kovalainen looked very disappointed after trailing Vettel home for second place. "In today's conditions he was just too fast for me," the Finn admitted.
After failing to make Q3 on Saturday, Robert Kubica rose to a podium finish, meaning he is still within shouting distance of the Hamilton-Massa title contest. Nick Heidfeld started tenth and finished fifth, and Kubica explained that his passing move on the German was executed accidentally. "I overtook Nick before the first chicane without even seeing him. It was really dangerous," the Pole said, recalling the opening laps in the spray.
Fernando Alonso, whose early switch to intermediate tyres was the right move, finished just over 3 seconds away from Kubica's final podium step. "We made up the five points that we needed in our championship fight," said the Spaniard, referring to the team's close battle for fourth in the championship with Toyota. Nelson Piquet finished tenth.
Felipe Massa started sixth and finished in the same position. "In certain conditions, our car is not quick enough," team boss Stefano Domenicali admitted. By holding off Hamilton, though, Massa's points deficit to Hamilton reduces to just one point. The Brazilian said he decided against trying to attack Heidfeld for fifth: "I thought it wasn't worth taking too many risks." Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest lap of the race on the final tour to the chequered flag, but the burst of performance came too late for a point.
As a footnote to Vettel's triumph in a near identical car, Mark Webber headed the charge of the senior team, with his third grid slot becoming just eighth at the flag as he struggled with tyre performance. David Coulthard was the first lapped car, after a spin, tyre troubles and finally contact with Kazuki Nakajima's Williams at the Parabolica.
About a minute behind the sensational Vettel, Toyota's Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli finished 11th and 13th respectively. "We were expecting this to be a difficult race but the next few races might be better for us," said Trulli.
Nico Rosberg's strategy, and a backfiring tyre choice at a pitstop, simply did not marry with the track conditions, ruining his promising fifth grid position. Kazuki Nakajima started from the pitlane after some pre-race aerodynamic modifications, and he finished ahead of Rosberg in 12th.
On the bright side, Jenson Button - who like Nakajima started from pitlane in the hope of benefitting from overnight car tweaks - was the last driver in the field who avoided being lapped, but in a lowly 15th place. Rubens Barrichello was 17th, his gamble of trying dry tyres not paying off. "We had nothing to lose. I tried my best but it was definitely too wet," said the veteran.
Giancarlo Fisichella's midfield run after a strong qualifying ended shortly after Coulthard overtook him, when he tagged the back of the Scot's car and soon sped into a gravel trap without a frontn wing. Adrian Sutil finished two laps down and last, when like Barrichello his gamble to switch to dry tyres also did not pay off.
Italian GP qualifying results
Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel has come out on top at qualifying in Monza today, becoming the youngest ever driver to take pole position at only his 22nd attempt. Next to him will be McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen, who managed to keep up the pace despite heavy rain. Meanwhile, his team mate and championship leader, Lewis Hamilton, will have to start at 15th on the grid after a poor session. In another surprise showing, fellow Red Bull racer Mark Webber will start in third.
It is no surprise when Toro Rosso, whooping up the paddock after a stunningly competitive Saturday, was very tardy with its post-qualifying media statement, after Sebastian Vettel netted the former Minardi team's first ever top grid spot, and the 21-year-old booked a page in history by becoming the sport's youngest ever pole sitter. "It's obvious we haven't got the heaviest fuel load in the world," said Giorgio Ascanelli. Behind the fellow Red Bull-branded Mark Webber in a near identical car, Vettel's teammate Sebastien Bourdais qualified fourth, albeit most of a full second behind pole.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton did not take part in the Q3 proceedings, and he was actually the slowest runner of the Q2 segment, after unwisely deciding to try intermediate tyres just as it started to rain harder. Once on full wets, he could not find enough pace and will line up just 15th on the grid. "We were caught out by a less than fully accurate weather forecast," team boss Ron Dennis complained. Heikki Kovalainen was fast throughout qualifying and shares the front row of the grid with Vettel.
The fizzy Red Bull and other beverages will be flowing freely in the Energy Station on Saturday night, after Webber joined his junior stablemate Vettel in the post-session press conference. David Coulthard was nearly a second slower in Q2 and lines up 13th, but team boss Christian Horner was pleased with the overall result: "Three Red Bull chassis in the first four is a fantastic result."
Nico Rosberg's good weekend continued on Saturday: third in the sodden morning and similarly competitive in qualifying, bagging fifth on the grid. "We didn't compromise too much for qualifying and we have a good strategy plan for the race," the German said. Although quite quick in the morning, Kazuki Nakajima dropped out in Q1.
P6 doesn't seem impressive, but given fellow title pretender Hamilton's struggles, Felipe Massa is quite happy after he managed to scrape through in the difficult Q2 session and then qualify sixth. "It could have been better, but it could also have been much worse," he said. The Brazilian also fared better than his teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who will start one place higher than Hamilton. "In the wet we are not competitive at the highest level," team boss Stefano Domenicali admits.
The Toyota drivers must be praising the heavens, with the TF108 proving slow in the dry but never lower than P9 on soaking Saturday -- with Timo Glock even topping morning practice. In qualifying he dropped back to ninth, with Jarno Trulli qualifying 7th. "It was a difficult last ten minutes but we are still in good shape for tomorrow," said Glock.
Nelson Piquet has struggled in the wet at Monza, including in qualifying, when he dropped out in Q1. Fernando Alonso participated in all three segments, however, and is eighth on the grid.
Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld both did a 1.36.6 laptime in Q2, but the German driver just managed to scrape through to the final ten runout, while Kubica is 11th. "The last laps were disappointing," said Heidfeld. "Instead of more grip I got less. We now have to figure out why this happened."
The usually backmarking Force Indias were in the midfield in the wet morning, but Adrian Sutil - usually always strong on a slippery track - will start the race from dead last. "I changed tyres and suddenly we lost all the grip," he said. Giancarlo Fisichella on the other hand raced through Q1 and came within a whisker of joining the grandee top-ten action. "With the predicted rain I think the race will be very exciting," said the Roman.
With a slow car in the dry, Honda is always hoping for rain these days, but Jenson Button - faster only than Force India's Sutil - on Saturday described his RA108 as the worst car he has ever driven on a wet track. Rubens Barrichello was half a second faster but even that wasn't enough for a berth in Q2.