Fernando Alonso secured Ferrari’s first pole position for 31 races as the team firmly put behind them the team orders controversy.
It was Brazil in 2008 when one of the team’s scarlet cars last led away the field, with Alonso securing this particular honour ahead of tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix, sending the fans wild at Monza.
Alonso is joined on the front row by McLaren’s reigning champion Jenson Button who finished 0.122 seconds adrift as his final flying lap was not quite enough.
It means there is no Red Bull on the front row for the first time in 18 races with Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel forced to settle for fourth and sixth, sandwiching championship leader in McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton in fifth.
With president Luca di Montezemolo in attendance, Ferrari's Felipe Massa will start third on a fine day for the Maranello marque.
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg starts seventh, followed by Nico Hulkenberg and Rubens Barrichello in eighth and 10th either side of Robert Kubica in his Renault.
Unusually for McLaren the team ran a split strategy that will now remain for tomorrow’s race, with Button opting to use the f-duct, and Hamilton preferring to run without it.
The f-duct normally aids straightline speed, but in Monza’s case it is assisting through the sweeping curves that adorn the famous old circuit.
The compromise is that Hamilton is running with a lower, flatter rear-wing which does improve speed along the straights, although it makes the car more difficult to handle.
With such a relatively low position on the grid it appears the 25- year-old may have already compromised his race.
Adrian Sutil starts 11th in his Force India after missing out on a place in the top 10 by just 0.057secs to Barrichello at the end of Q2.
For the 11th time in 14 races this season Michael Schumacher found himself out-qualified by team-mate Rosberg, with the seven-times champion down in 12th.
Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi will line up 13th, with the Toro Rossos of Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari 14th and 16th, sandwiching the Renault of Vitaly Petrov.
The Russian, however, faces an investigation by the stewards as he is understood to have blocked Virgin Racing’s Timo Glock at one stage in Q1, which will result in a grid penalty if found guilty.
The Lotus duo of Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen achieved the fine feat of qualifying ahead of Vitantonio Liuzzi, although that was due to the Mercedes engine in the Force India losing power.
On home soil Liuzzi managed to complete just one flying lap which was only good enough for 20th behind fellow Italian Trulli and Kovalainen in 18th and 19th.
The Virgin Racing duo of Glock and Lucas di Grassi qualified 21st and 22nd.
Glock, though, will start at the back of the grid after incurring a five-place penalty due to the team replacing the differential on his car’s gearbox at the end of final practice.
Hispania’s Bruno Senna and Sakon Yamamoto complete the final row, the Japanese driver finishing within 0.2secs of the Brazilian, but over 4.5secs down on Massa who topped the timesheet at the end of Q1.
After all the furore regarding the team orders in the German Grand Prix, Alonso now has an opportunity to win this race legitimately.
After claiming the 24th pole of his career and first since Hungary in July last year, Alonso said: “It was a nice surprise.
“I thought someone would arrive on the last lap and we would finish second or third by hundredths of a second.
“But it didn’t happen, and this is a fantastic taste to be on pole position here in Italy for Ferrari.
“Tomorrow we need a podium minimum to remain in the (title) fight.
“There is no big pressure about winning the race, but at the same time we know we cannot afford a DNF or bad result.
“A win would be great, but let’s try to be consistent and put in a good performance as we’ve not been that consistent this season.”
For the first time in 24 races, stretching back to Turkey in June last year, Button is on the front row and he said: “I want to say a big thank you to the team as we came here not sure which approach to take.
“But our side (of the garage) made the right decision to run the right downforce level, or the f-duct as it is called.
“I’m very happy to be second, the first time I’ve been on the front row of the grid this season, so it’s a good start.”
With Massa in third a Ferrari one-two is not out of the question.
The Brazilian said: “We’ve a good car, I’m happy with it for the race, and I feel we will be very strong tomorrow so I’m looking forward.”