Fernando Alonso. (Photo: Getty Images)

. (Photo: Getty Images)

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 Alonso happy despite being beaten by Massa

Fernando Alonso insists that he’s happy with how qualifying unfolded in Monza, despite being beaten by teammate Felipe Massa.

The two Ferraris tried to coordinate a tow to help the Spaniard, and while he complained initially on the radio that the Brazilian was too far ahead, he said that in the end it had worked out. Alonso will start fifth, right behind Massa.

Fernando was clearly annoyed that a negative radio message, made when the plan for a tow appeared to been unraveling, had been played on TV.

“In Q3 we had Vergne in the middle out of Turn 4,” he said. “And then I was ready to take the slipstream of Vergne, because he seemed to want to follow Felipe at that stage. So I prepared the tires a little bit, and then he let me by, and I had no one in front.

“So I said on the radio Felipe is too far away now if we want to do this, so they slowed down him and he was waiting a little bit in Parabolica, so we started the last attempt more or less the same distance as always.

“I just have to say thank you to the team and thank you to Felipe again for this 10th that helped me to do the last attempt in Q3. They didn’t put the last radio message when I said thank you to the team, thank you to Felipe, it was perfect at the end.

“It’s the first time in many, many races that I will be able to see the Red Bull rear wings on the grid, and on the first lap I can attack. It’s been an extremely, extremely good qualifying for us.”

Alonso believes that he can at least keep in touch with the Red Bulls.

“I think so. Normally in a race the worst point for us is the Saturdays, there are always three or four cars between us and the Red Bulls, so we start, we pass those cars, and we see the Red Bulls 10s ahead of us, and more or less we keep that distance or that gap throughout the race.

“We are very happy today because hopefully tomorrow after the start and the first corner we don’t have these three or four cars in the middle of us, we don’t have Hamilton, we don’t have Kimi, we don’t have Grosjean, we don’t have all these people who slow us a little bit in the first part of the races, because we have a great pace normally on Sundays. If tomorrow we have this great pace that normally we show on Sundays I don’t see any reason why not to follow the Red Bulls.”

However, he concedes that Vettel will be hard to beat.

“He was fast all weekend, in all practices, in qualifying, in the race pace. It’s going to be tough. I think we need some changeable conditions tomorrow, maybe the rain, a mixed race, if not we know that it’s going to be tough, because they are very, very strong this weekend.”

 Vettel eyes race win after dominating Monza qualifying

Sebastian Vettel. (Photo: Getty Images)

. (Photo: Getty Images)

Sebastian Vettel has been utterly dominant so far at Monza, setting the pace in practice and in all three qualifying sessions as he secured pole position at the track where he scored his first win five years ago.

It was the first time in three months that a Mercedes driver had not qualified on pole.

“It’s a special track for sure,” said Vettel. “It’s always nice to come back here. Obviously the memories of 2008 are great. I had another victory in 2011 but I think the first victory is always special. Today I think, or generally this weekend, the car was fantastic so far. I think better than what we could expect.

“We had a very strong pace yesterday and we were able to take that into the qualifying today. I had two good runs in the end. In the end I think it’s a bit of a surprise to have both cars on the front row at a place where historically we’ve had bad years. This year it seems to work well, and hopefully we’ll have a good race from where we start tomorrow.”

Vettel said the team had done a good job on aero set-up.

“Obviously, some years we were closer and other years we were quite far away. It seems that this year we’re obviously in a very strong position. We’re able to match other cars down the straight and we know that in corners we have a strong car.

“It’s a nice place, a nice track, very challenging to get the lap right, because you have low downforce on the car, so the car is very light, sliding a little bit here and there. It doesn’t cost us as much probably as in other places. But yeah obviously if you try too often to go over the limit there is a big penalty. So, yeah, I think it was a tough session but we managed to get through and get a great result.”

Regarding prospects for Sunday, he said: “I think today it was obviously all about preparing for the race, getting the best position. As I said, in this regard we got our job done but the main job comes up tomorrow so we will see. The races are long, a lot of things can happen so I don’t know.  I think Felipe is P4 so I think Ferrari was strong in every race this year in terms of race pace so they will be strong tomorrow as well.

“I think their long run looked quite competitive; I don’t know what they have done exactly in terms of fuel loads but I’m sure they have the pace and the ability to come through. Equally, I wish that Nico stays there, first of all for him and for his team, to have a strong result and secondly, obviously, it would do me no harm in terms of the championship. But first of all, I have to finish in front of him.”

 Hulkenberg surprised to start third

Nico Hulkenberg. (Photo: LAT Photographic)

. (Photo: LAT Photographic)

Nico Hulkenberg surprised both himself and his Sauber team by earning third on the grid in Monza, behind only the two Red Bull drivers.

He was helped by difficult days for Mercedes and Lotus, but nevertheless it was an impressive performance.

“I don’t know either,” he said when asked where the performance had come from. “Really, a nice surprise to ourselves. I didn’t expect it, especially after a very difficult Friday. Yesterday we struggled a lot with the car, we were trying some different bits and bobs, but the guys have done a fantastic job to turn the car around and give me such a competitive car today.

“It was just that Q1, Q2, Q3 the car just got better and better, I think with the track improvement and with the right decision just to go for one timed lap, fueled for one timed lap, was the right call. A burning lap which made this nice surprise happen.”

It’s worth remembering that Sauber had a second place with Sergio Perez in 2012, albeit with a more consistent car.

“Last year is a very different year. Obviously Sauber was very competitive very often last year in races. This year we have been struggling more, we’ve had a more difficult year, let’s put it this way.

“So I hope that the long run pace is good. From what I could see yesterday it should be all right. Definitely points are now the target.

“I think I’d like it to stay dry to be honest. I think that would be the easier option but we’ll take it as it comes. We haven’t run in wet or inter conditions, so it will be new to everyone. Obviously more challenging, but I’m open-minded.”

 Webber happy with best Monza qualifying

Mark Webber. (Photo: Getty Images)

. (Photo: Getty Images)

Mark Webber has spent the Monza weekend chasing Sebastian Vettel, but nevertheless the Aussie is pleased to have qualified second at a venue that has rarely favored him in the past.

“It hasn’t been the best track for me, so it’s a nice step towards a very, very good result tomorrow,” he said. “I’m happy with qualifying, to be up there. It took the old boy a little bit of while to be ready for Q1 but I got there in end, in the sessions where it counted.

“Jean-Eric [Vergne] went off in the Parabolica, in the last corner, so I didn’t know if he’d dropped a wheel or if he was continuing on the circuit, so I couldn’t really see with the dust. Obviously then when I got further round I could see he was in the gravel. So a little bit of a tricky finish to the lap but overall it wouldn’t have been enough to get Seb, he did a very good lap.

“We have a few different people up here as well with us, which is good. It was a bit of a mixed-up session and that can happen at Monza, it’s not an easy track to get right. I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow.

Webber was pleased to have reduced the six-tenths advantage that Vettel had for much of the weekend.

“It’s down to two. It’s not quite there but it was still a session which I was pretty happy with because to qualify in second position is good. Seb’s strong here, quick in Monza. It’s a bit of an opposite circuit for me so certainly happy to have a personal best in qualy, and I’ll do my best tomorrow.”

It just wasn’t our day, says Brawn

Ross Brawn. (Photo: Getty Images)

Ross Brawn. (Photo: Getty Images)

Ross Brawn admits that Saturday in Italy was a tough day for Mercedes, as the team failed to get pole for the first time in three months.

Nico Rosberg didn’t quite get his set-up right after missing most of FP3, and had to settle for sixth.

Meanwhile Lewis Hamilton damaged his floor at the Ascari chicane in Q2, which contributed to his later trip over the gravel at Parabolica. That meant he had everything to do on his final run, and the damage – plus getting caught behind Adrian Sutil – contributed to him getting stuck in 12th place.

“It definitely wasn’t a great day for all of us today,” said Ross Brawn. “We had a reliability issue with Nico in the morning which meant he lost most of the session, and for me Monza is always about confidence for a driver, getting a balance fine tuned and being confident in the car and building up.

“It’s very low downforce, high speed braking, so I think losing that amount of time was always going to be difficult. It meant as a consequence we didn’t really have a great balance on Nico’s car during qualifying.

“Lewis was looking OK, and unfortunately caught a kerb and damaged the car underneath and broke the floor, and we didn’t realize the consequence of that until a bit later in the session. It was irreparable, so that was unfortunate as well.

“It just wasn’t our day, today. Some of it is the nature of motor racing, some of it like the reliability problem with Nico we have to try and do a better job.”

 Raikkonen and Grosjean miss top 10 in Italy

Kimi Raikkonen. (Photo: Getty Images)

. (Photo: Getty Images)

Lotus endured a difficult Saturday in Monza as Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean managed only 11th and 13th.

Yesterday both drivers had been close to the front running pace, suggesting that the team was in for a good weekend.

“We were just not fast enough today,” said Raikkonen. “We have been suffering a bit all weekend so far and it was the same today. It just isn’t our kind of circuit and layout where we have to run small wings.

“The car behaved pretty okay but we just didn’t have the downforce to go fast through the corners with our low drag package. Hopefully tomorrow will be a bit better, but I’m not expecting any big surprises. In any case we will do the best we can.”

“Today was difficult for us as we had no grip,” said Grosjean. “I was quite surprised at how it went in free practice yesterday, but today was simply a different story. The aerodynamic configuration for Monza isn’t an easy one and it didn’t go the way we would have liked it to go. I hope that we find grip levels for tomorrow, and are able to deliver as good a race as we can.”

Trackside operations director Alan Permane admitted that the car simply wasn’t fast enough.

“It wasn’t great and there’s no secret that we couldn’t find the pace we needed from the car here at Monza. It was quite a hit not to make it into the top ten, but Monza is such a distinct challenge that there is often a shake-up in the order of which cars perform well here, which is what we’ve seen today. Eleventh and thirteenth is not where we want to be, and there’s no real solace in seeing another race winning car between us on the grid.

“For a dry race we can start on whichever Pirelli compound we choose, as we are not constrained to those we used for our qualifying lap as those in the top ten are constrained. However, the weather forecast does highlight potential for rain which changes everything. We will be looking to the sky tomorrow as eagerly as our rivals.”

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