Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Monza, 2012

McLaren lock out front row as Ferrari challenge falters

2012 Italian Grand Prix qualifyingPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Monza, 2012Fernando Alonso headed the times in Q1 and Q2 as Ferrari used slipstreaming to boost their speeds at Monza.

But it all went wrong for Alonso in Q3 as he slumped to tenth place with a problem on his car.

That cleared the way for Lewis Hamilton to lead a McLaren one-two in Ferrari’s backyard.


Nico Hulkenberg’s effort to secure a place in Q2 came to an early end. He came to a stop at the Rettifilio chicane at the beginning of his first flying lap, telling the team he’d “lost everything” on his dashboard.

F1 returnee Jerome D’Ambrosio had fallen into the drop zone as the final minutes of practice began but salvaged his place with a lap more than half a second faster than Heikki Kovalainen could manage.

There was little in it between the two Marussia drivers and behind them Narain Karthikeyan out-qualified Pedro de la Rosa for the first time this year.

The contest for fastest time was between Ferrari and McLaren. This time it was Alonso who held the upper hand. Hamilton set the fastest first and second session with his last effort, but was 0.15s off Alonso in the final sector, leaving him second.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

18 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1’26.382
19 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1’26.887
20 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1’27.039
21 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1’27.073
22 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1’27.441
23 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1’27.629
24 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes


Alonso stayed on top in the second part of qualifying, heading Button’s McLaren by 13 thousandths of a second. As in practice the two Ferraris arranged themselves on track to use each other’s slipstream to maximum of effect.

Hamilton took third, complaining he’d been held up by another driver. Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes were sufficiently confident in their lap times not to run again. Massa queried the decision but in the end made it through comfortably.

A second run for Paul di Resta was sufficient to move him up to third place. But the fight for the final places in the top ten were very close.

Sebastian Vettel scraped in by a little more than a tenth of a second while team mate Mark Webber was eliminated.

Pastor Maldonado lost his grip on the top ten and nearly had a nasty crash when he ran wide at Ascari, got onto the grass, and had to make a quick correction to keep out of the barrier.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’24.809
12 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1’24.820
13 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1’24.901
14 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1’25.042
15 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’25.312
16 Jerome d’Ambrosio Lotus-Renault 1’25.408
17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’25.441


The Ferraris left the pits together as Q1 began and the plan appeared to be for Alonso to give Massa a tow. This he did, and Massa initially went fastest on a 1’24.436.

But Hamilton swiftly beat that with a 1’24.010. Team mate Button fell slightly short of Massa, 0.043s behind.

Di Resta did manage to beat Massa with his lap, but only briefly as the Ferrari driver took the place back.

Hamilton didn’t improve on his final effort but he didn’t need to. His team mate closed to within a tenth of a second of him to make it an all-McLaren front row.

But what happened to Alonso? His final lap left him tenth on a 1’25.678. “A problem on Fernando’s car prevented him to fight for pole,” his team announced on Twitter. “A real shame…”

Top ten in Q3

1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’24.010
2 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’24.133
3 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’24.247
4 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1’24.304
5 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’24.540
6 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’24.802
7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’24.833
8 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1’24.855
9 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’25.109
10 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’25.678

2012 Italian Grand Prix

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136 comments on “McLaren lock out front row as Ferrari challenge falters”

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  1. Alonso’s failure is all the more frustrating as he said that Ferrari had missed “the easiest Pole of the year” due to his car’s failure. He said that they had plenty of speed in reserve to get Alonso Pole. How different things might have been!

    1. If you take Massa’s lap as a benchmark, and look at how far ahead Alonso usually put his car then i would say he would definitely be on pole.

      1. That did cross my mind also. Even if Massa had a great performance today, there has been nothing all weekend to suggest he would have beaten Alonso. Give Alonso a modest 0.15sec improvement on Massa’s time and he’s on the front row!

  2. Only 3.6 seconds between P1 and P23. Very good I must say.

    1. tI was interesting to see de la Rosa topping the speed trap in one of the free practices, suprised commentators didn’t pick it up :)

    2. Traverse Mark Senior (@)
      8th September 2012, 16:16

      It’s impressive, but not amazing when you consider that Monza is a short circuit. Maybe that’s why the commentators didn’t pickup on it, or Sky’s attention to detail is just poor…

      1. Monza is NOT a short circuit, but it’s not very demanding for low-downforce cars. As there is no difference in engine power anymore, the 3.6-second difference is only due to time losses in a few corners. So the difference between the frontrunners and the backmarkers is track-dependent, with Albert Park being one of the toughest tracks for bad cars and Monza one of the easiest tracks. When correcting for track-dependent performance differences, I don’t think teams like hrt and Virgin have caught up this year. Even Caterham is still way off the Toro Rosso’s pace.

        1. Traverse Mark Senior (@)
          8th September 2012, 18:05

          I should have said Monza is one of the quickest tracks rather than short.
          I agree with your analysis of HRT and Marussia, they have to show some progress soon, although I believe that the writing is on the wall for the minnows (Less so Caterham).

  3. i think di Resta challenge for the win tomorrow, it’s a track that will allow overtaking and i feel Force India will be quicker in the race setup than most of the guys in front. However the strongest candidate is Hamilton and followed by Button. Alonso will have to bring the car home with as much points as possible w/o taking much risks and try to hang on to the lead in the championship.

    1. Trouble for Alonso is he’ll be right in the thick of it at turn 1. If he can avoid getting punted off he should move up the order pretty quickly. Wouldn’t be surprised if they one stopped him, providing he can look after the hards.

      1. It is a one stop for everyone in theory (except Merc) so that won’t gain him anything surely.

  4. Survive Turn 1 at Monza then you can race. usually the race starts after Turn 1 and not when the lights go out.

  5. Smashaton in Turn out Alonso..Maldonado is close by..if it gets hairy just let the hare go..catch up later.

    1. Maldonado has a 10 place grid-penalty, demoting to the far end of the grid so unless he does a Liuzzi, I honestly don’t see him getting anywhere near Alonso but & it’s a big but – anything can happen like we experienced with Liuzzi’s bowling antics.

      1. With the unfortunate pins being Rosberg and Petrov(or was it Senna?)

        1. @chicanef1 Petrov. You can see it unfolding in this picture:

          Start, Monza, 2011

          1. OK Thanks again!!

      2. LOL. I remember that accident all too well. But don’t forget Alonso managed to win his home race in Valencia from p11. If his race pace is good, I wouldn’t be surprised if he manages to do it again.

        1. Monza race is one of the shortest(in terms of time duration).

  6. IĀ“m a Ferrari fan but, I canĀ“t help it and wonder that this was somehow fixed… think about it… a McLaren 1-2 and Alonso is still in the lead…. Massa needed Alonso to help him qualify up top so Ferrari can really start adding points and even though Alonso starts 10th… I reckon he can work his way up to 4th or 5th. The RBR have no straight line pace so they will be no match.. The only real obstacles to work his way up are going to be the Mercs and Force Indias… The Renault powered cars are at a deficit here so Kimi will have nothing to do aswell… Monza is all about speed and the Ferrari seems to have it as well as the McLarens so yeah…. I think itĀ“ll be a ML 1-2 and Ferrari 3-4…
    I know it seems crazy but it has been a weird season..

    1. Correct me if I’m wrong but Massas quickest time that put him P3 came in free air without Alonsos help. Give credit where credit is due, Massa was on it today and it was good to see.

      1. I agree but he did catch a bit of AlonsoĀ“s slipstream… not a whole lot but he did just catch a bit…

  7. A good thing for Alonso is, it’s sort of mechanical failure, It should have happened sooner or later unless they found early sign.

    It was able to fail 1) earlier, which means totally distrous qualifying for him 2) later, I mean during the race. So it might be not that bad.

    Now I hope he and Massa would have good start(which is Ferrari is really good at) and enough pace to challenge for victory. It’s shame there’s little room for strategy due to harder compound tyres.

    1. And it is a track notoriously difficult for overtaking, being one of the narrowest purpose-built circuits in the world.

  8. Did you know that Kubica is back?!

    1. …in rallying.

  9. I don’t know about the rest but I’m having Massa in for a podium here. All or nothing.

  10. Lewis looks glum because things are not all rosy between him and McLaren. They have been like this for a while since Whitmarsh’s barely disguisable preference for Button became apparent. Both parties have been trying to paper over the cracks for a while, but it is only a matter of time before they run out of plaster or wallpaper. I think the time is alomost upon us.

    As far as Lewis is concerned, this prefence had led to the occurence of many tactical decisions which have not favoured him, or favoured Button at his expense. His issue is not only is he NOT a clear No.1, but Whitmarsh’s prefence for Button affects the team tactics usually dished out to him, thereby undermining his chances iof winning the WDC. He feels he is McLaren’s best chance of winning a world championship, and i don’t blame him for doing so.

    For these reasons, it is fair to say that Lewis no longer feels at home in McLaren since Martin Whitmarsh took over as team principal. His confidence is low, and his thinking constantly borders on paranoia. He has openly questioned many team decisions, tactics and mistakes – most of which, on the face of it, do look questionable.
    This is what Twittergate was about, and it deos not look like it will get better.

    It is no coincidence that the year widely considered to be his best (2007/ late 2008), where the ones where he felt (and majority of the fans too), that he had a No.1 status or prefential status to win the WDC.
    Whitmarsh’s approach, which is frangmented support at best, and a clear preference for the other driver at worst, has clearly not helped. Agree or not, all the drivers who have won WDC’s in his generation, have done so in teams where they received the lion share of support available.

    Yes, the money is a factor, Yes, a winning car is a factor, but these things are only being factors because of what is missing – being THE No.1 driver. Lewis would sign for McLaren in a hearbeat, if he felt the team would throw it’s weight behind him, as he clearly feels he is better placed to win a WDC more that Button is.
    McLaren have yet to learn, that supporting both drivers equally, or attempting to do so, is highly unlikely to bring home that WDC. Supporting both drivers, whilst having a clear undisguised preference for one – As RBR did in the later part of 2011, and McLaren did in the later part of 2008, and Brawn was accused of doing in the later part of 2009, can only lead to paranoia and a loss of motivation on the part of the driver concerned.

    A move to Mercedes or any other team will bethe best thing for all concerned.

    1. Well, in 2007 Hamilton was given a number one status, but it only served to expel Alonso, so I don’t think that’s a good example. Furthermore, in 2008 the championship battle was almost exclusively between McLaren and Ferrari (and Kubica in the first half of the season). From 2009 to now Red Bull has been a major factor in the championship and it has been much more difficult for Hamilton to stand out in a relatively poor car.

      I agree it is quite silly not to fully support Hamilton for the world drivers’ championship. McLaren are making the same mistakes as in 1999, when they didn’t use any team-orders. In the end Hakkinen miraculously managed to clinch the title, despite the dubious efforts of his team. Having said that, remember how McLaren ruined Button’s race in Hungary. It made me believe Button is still the number two driver at McLaren, but probably the McLaren outsmarted themselves.

  11. William Brierty
    8th September 2012, 18:11

    I think this whole “pole was easy for us” is just Fernando playing the game. He said that they could “easily” do 1.24.0 in Q2, and that they had an extra “three to four tenths in the pocket going into Q3”. Now anyone that has watched F1 in 2012 will know that generally improvements are a tenth/tenth and a half, in fact a lot of drivers go slower than their Q2 time because of used tyres or an attempt to preserve tyres. So three to four tenths over a relatively short lap is just preposterous. OK, I think Alonso could have got into the 23s, but so to, in my opinion, could Hamilton, because by Hamilton’s own admission, it was not a perfect lap.

    1. Could Lewis be playing the game, too?

      1. William Brierty
        8th September 2012, 19:02

        Lewis seldom plays the game, he just finds interesting and imaginative ways to get agitated by the media. Pyscological games are more the pass-times of Button, Vettel and particularly Alonso.

        1. Alonso, yes. Vettel…if he does play the game he’s not very good at it. And Button is probably the straightest shooter out there- he knows all about the game and pretty much ignores it. The we have Lewis, who, I think, has forgotten how not to play the game. Everything he says and does is a (often misguided) PR exercise. If he put as much effort into being the best driver out there as he does into appearing to be the best driver out there he’d be the reincarnation of Fangio. IMHO.

          1. William Brierty
            9th September 2012, 9:34

            Actually I completely agree. Hamilton is the best driver on the grid when he’s thinking about driving. Lately he’s been thinking about his management, Nicole, contracts, family greivances and all manner of things that have a greater importance to the world of rap than the world of F1. Hamilton and Vettel destroy their teamates because of their sheer speed (when I say Hamilton, I mean Kovalainen not Button) not because of Alonso-style games.

  12. been thinking, Mercedes have been having trouble with rear tyre wear, their solution was to reduce rear downforce. Does the loser down force of Monza potentially negate their problem?

    1. Reducing rear downforce may have an adverse effect on rear tyre wear, as it increases oversteer. But tyre wear doesn’t seem to be a problem this weekend. Given Mercedes’ high topspeed and their double DRS, their car should be fitted for this track, at least in qualifying. Practice showed otherwise.

  13. Can’t wait for the Lewis, Ross Brawn pairing!
    Lewis will never win Whitmarsh over, it’s a good he’s leaving sooner rather than later.

  14. And who could potentially replace Lewis at Mclaren?
    When the car is less than perfect, whilst undergoing development during a season, can they rely on Jenson to pull them through?

  15. I would put Nico Hulkenburg on McLaren to replace Hamilton, or if they want to go for publicity put Senna there.

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