Michael Schumacher scorched to his first pole position in eight races at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza today.
The German showed he will not give up his dream of a record sixth drivers’ crown without a fight as he punched the air in delight as he crossed the finishing line.
But Schumacher took top spot by just 0.051 seconds from Williams-BMW’s Juan Pablo Montoya whom he leads in the championship by only one point with three races left.
Brazil’s Rubens Barrichello was third fastest in the other McLaren with Kimi Raikkonen, just two points adrift of Schumacher, fourth fastest little over half-a-second slower for McLaren.
Spain’s Marc Gene was a career best fifth quickest in the other Williams after being called in at replacement for Ralf Schumacher who is suffering with headaches.
Jenson Button was an excellent seventh quickest for BAR Honda with David Coulthard eighth in the McLaren.
Jaguar’s Justin Wilson will start possibly the most important race of his career in 15th spot knowing a point scoring finish could secure a full-time drive with the team next year.
The 24-year-old rookie was around 0.8secs slower than team-mate Mark Webber who qualified in 11th spot for a race where Eddie Irvine scored a podium finish for the team last year then weeks later lost his job.
Gene's previous best qualifying slot was 15th at the German Grand Prix with Minardi four years ago but the 29-year-old Spaniard easily surpassed that with the BMW powerplant behind him.
It was the first time he had taken part in the single lap qualifying format having been promoted from test duties with Schumacher still suffering the after effects of his huge crash in testing at Monza last week.
Renault’s Fernando Alonso went from hero to zero just three weeks after becoming the youngest driver in history to win a championship race by powering to victory from pole in Hungary.
The 22-year-old Spaniard lost control and spun around 270 degrees on the edge of the circuit.
Although he managed to keep the engine running, he wound up bottom of the time-sheets over 19 seconds slower than the pole winner.
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemol had read the riot act after Hungary when Schumacher was lapped by Alonso and was at the pit-wall today to see the German claim the 55th pole of his career.
But it was close with Montoya ahead on the first two sectors only to lose out right at the end though there is a chance of a thrilling start to the race tomorrow with the duo both on the front row.