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Hamilton pips Sutil for Italian GP pole
« on: September 12, 2009, 03:54:13 PM »

Hamilton pips Sutil for Italian GP pole
AFP 12 September 2009, 06:38pm IST

MONZA: Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton grabbed the 15th pole position of his career on Saturday when he produced a stunning last-gasp lap to take the prime starting spot for Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.

Hamilton, in his McLaren Mercedes, clocked a best lap of one minute and 24.066 seconds to outpace his nearest rival and close friend Adrian Sutil by just two-tenths of a second, so denying widespread celebrations in Delhi and Mumbai.

Sutil was second for the ever-improving Force India team, running on the same Mercedes engines as the McLarens, with two Finns, Kimi Raikkonen in a Ferrari, and Heikki Kovalainen in the second McLaren, taking third and fourth to fill the second row.

Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello was fifth for Brawn GP ahead of the current championship leader, his team-mate Jenson Button, the pair failing to break into the top four for this race.

Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi was seventh on his comeback debut with Force India and two-times champion Fernando Alonso eighth for Renault with the two Red Bulls of German Sebastian Vettel and Australian Mark Webber qualifying ninth and 10th.

On the first runs in the shootout, Hamilton set the pace with 1:24.605, a lap that left him in front of Raikkonen's Ferrari and the stunning Sutil's Force India while Button's first laps left him down in 10th.

With decent fuel loads, the cars were not showing their outright pace, as in Q2, but it was still a surprise when Sutil went top in the final seconds only to be overhauled shortly before the chequered flag fell by Hamilton.

On another glorious afternoon of blue skies, warm sunshine and perfect dry conditions, the opening mini-session delivered just what the local fans had come to see - a Ferrari on top of the time-sheets, with the flying Finn Raikkonen setting the pace ahead of Hamilton.

Equally satisfying for the tifosi was the sight of the luckless-so-far Giancarlo Fisichella cruising through to Q2 in 11th place, following his crash during morning practice.

He was clearly showing no nerves and plenty of determination on his dream debut with Ferrari.

Down at the bottom of the pile, however, there were exits for German Timo Glock of Toyota, Japanese kazuki Nakajima and his Williams team-mate German Nico Rosberg, Swiss Sebastien Buemi and his Toro Rosso team-mate Spaniard Jaime Algueersuari, who had to take a five place penalty after requiring a new gearbox following practice.

The track temperature was by mid-session hovering at 40 degrees Celsius and the air temperature was a balmy 27 degrees, conditions that ensured no problems for the leading teams including Brawn's sensitive machinery.

Button, driving with greater confidence and much more of his once-customary smoothness, appeared to be back to his best again after his run of five races without a podium.

Team chief Ross Brawn was certainly showing no signs of strain as his outfit began the countdown towards the championship finale. Acknowledging that the Italian race was important, he said: "Well, the car looks ok, doesn't it?

"It's a pretty challenging track for the drivers. It's a nice place to be here at Monza and the fans are always very warm. This sunny weather should help us.

"But we have to put the whole sequence together. One stops looks to be a logical choice tomorrow but I think many might make two. There will be two races going on which will come together towards the end."

The second part, Q2, saw Button emerge on top with a best time of 1:22.955 ahead of Hamilton and Barrichello with Sutil fourth for Force India, again making the best of their Mercedes-Benz engines.

But it saw a sad early exit for Fisichella, who was only 14th fastest for Ferrari and failed to make the top-ten shootout.

He was sent packing along with compatriot Jarno Trulli of Toyota, Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Renault, Pole Robert Kubica and his BMW Sauber team-mate German Nick Heidfeld, who suffered an engine failure.

Vettel crept through in 10th place, four behind Red Bull team-mate Webber, who was sixth just behind the astonishing Liuzzi, the Italian ensuring that Force India had two cars in the top ten for the first time.


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