Lewis Hamilton held off the challenge from Ferrari to claim his 49th career pole position for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.
The world champion, who has topped every session so far this weekend, will be joined on the front row by Kimi Raikkonen with his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel in third.
Hamilton’s title rival Nico Rosberg will start only fourth in Monza after his qualifying session was plagued by an engine problem.
Rosberg, already 28 points adrift of Hamilton in the championship, needs luck to be on his side if he stands any chance of catching his Mercedes team-mate in the eight remaining races.
But fortune was firmly against the German after he was forced to take on a replacement engine after Saturday’s final practice session.
Mercedes have brought a new-specification power unit with them to Monza, but Rosberg took to the ’Temple of Speed’ for qualifying in an older, less powerful version. He needed a miracle and it never came.
Instead it was Hamilton, who romped to another pole position – his 11th from 12 races this term and the 23rd on the spin for Mercedes. The Silver Arrows are now just one short of Williams’ all-time record.
Hamilton’s best lap of one minute 23.397 secs was only a quarter-of-a-second faster than Raikkonen, who pipped team-mate Vettel, competing in his first Italian Grand Prix since his move from Red Bull to Ferrari.
Ferrari’s best qualifying session of the season came at the perfect time – in front of their home fans and under the watching guise of Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Ferrari parent company Fiat Chrysler, and Piero Ferrari, the Italian manufacturer’s vice chairman. Raikkonen and Vettel linked arms before waving to the adoring Tifosi, who waved their red flags and sounded their air horns in response.
For McLaren it was yet another Saturday to forget in their miserable campaign after Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso were eliminated from the first phase of qualifying. As has become a sorry theme for the British team only the Manor pair of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi were slower.
Monza, just as the previous race in Belgium, is a power circuit, and one which was never likely to suit the McLaren-Honda package. McLaren have won this famous race on 10 occasions – only Ferrari have more – but on this evidence they will struggle to score a single point on Sunday.
To add insult to injury, Button will serve a five-place grid drop and Alonso 10 places after changes to their Honda engine.
They will be joined at the back by Red Bull with Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat also penalised under the sport’s complex engine rules.
Max Verstappen failed to post a time after his engine cover spectacularly exploded on his first flying run. Bits of Toro Rosso carbon fibre were scattered across the circuit in the opening phase of qualifying.
Elsewhere, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, who have both been retained by Williams for next season, qualified fifth and sixth. Sergio Perez was seventh for Force India with Romain Grosjean, who crossed the line third in Belgium, next up. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was ninth with Marcus Ericsson completing the top 10 in his Sauber.