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Vettel grabs pole

Monza: Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel seized pole position for the Italian Grand Prix and left his title rivals trailing with Red Bull locking out the front row in qualifying on Saturday.

Australian Mark Webber will line up alongside on the front row for his last race in Europe while Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg sprung a huge surprise by grabbing third place on the grid for Ferrari-powered Sauber.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, Vettel’s closest title rival with a 46 point gap to make up, qualified fifth and behind Brazilian teammate Felipe Massa with Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo watching.

Lewis Hamilton, last year’s winner for McLaren who had entered the weekend chasing a fifth successive pole, failed to make the top 10 and starts 12th for Mercedes.

The pole was the 40th of Vettel’s F1 career and came at a track that Red Bull principal Christian Horner said only last month was something of an Achilles heel for the team along with Belgium.

However, Vettel won in Belgium and the 26-year-old German took his first Formula One victory at Monza in 2008 for Toro Rosso while also winning for Red Bull in 2011.

“This weekend, the car was fantastic. We had a really strong pace yesterday and we were able to take that into qualifying today,” he told reporters on a sunny afternoon at the ‘Pista Magica’.

“In the end, it’s a bit of a surprise to have both cars on 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 tomorrow.”

Hamilton was left shaking his head, even if he seemed to be held up by Force India’s Adrian Sutil. “I just drove like an idiot. That’s the worst I’ve driven for a long, long time. I’m sorry to the team,” he told reporters. “I just didn’t drive well. There’s not really much more to say. I was quick in Q1 (the first phase) and then I don’t know. I’ll do whatever I can from where I am but it’s going to be tough.” (Reuters)