Lewis Hamilton proved the furore surrounding his future is firmly at the back of his mind by grabbing pole for tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix.
Hamilton will lead away an all-McLaren front row at Monza as team-mate Jenson Button, runner-up in this race on the last three occasions, starts second, the duo split by a tenth of a second.
Remarkably, for the first time this year, Felipe Massa managed to out-qualify Ferrari team-mate and championship leader Fernando Alonso who starts a lowly 10th.
Ferrari had employed slipstreaming tactics during the first two sessions to aid their cause, notably with Alonso quickest at the end of both.
Monza’s long straights lends itself to slipstreaming, but it all went horribly wrong for the Spaniard in Q3 as he made a mistake on both flying laps to leave himself in the midfield come the race.
Paul Di Resta conjured the best qualifying performance of his career with fourth, but sadly takes a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change to his Force India, so will start ninth.
Michael Schumacher in his Mercedes and Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull will move up a place to fourth and fifth.
The same applies to Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen in his Lotus and Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi who will start sixth, seventh and eighth, with Di Resta ninth and Alonso 10th.
For the second time in three races Mark Webber failed to qualify for the top-10 shoot-out, and for the third consecutive race Red Bull failed to get both cars into Q3 such has been their drop in pace of late.
Webber will start 11th after missing out on a top-10 shot by 0.067secs to Raikkonen in Q2.
Williams’ Pastor Maldonado qualified 12th, but the Venezuelan faces a 10-place grid penalty for two separate incidents in last Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, so will start 22nd.
From Q2, it means Sauber’s Sergio Perez, Bruno Senna in his Williams, Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo, Jerome D’Ambrosio for Lotus and the second Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne will all move up a place from their qualifying positions of 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th.
D’Ambrosio, standing in this weekend for Romain Grosjean who was handed a one-race ban for causing a first corner pile up at Spa, finished 0.7secs shy of Raikkonen in Q2.
In Q1, there was not the usual bun fight to avoid being the driver to drop out alongside the six regulars from Caterham, Marussia and HRT.
The cause of those usually in the mix was aided by Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg who ground to a halt at the first chicane just two minutes into the session.
It means the 25-year-old German will start at the back of the grid, albeit the team will have to apply to the stewards for permission to do so given he failed to set a time.
Ahead of Hulkenberg in 17th and 18th, given Maldonado’s penalty, will be the Caterham duo of Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov, the Russian celebrating his 28th birthday today.
Timo Glock and Charles Pic will start 19th and 20th for Marussia, with Narain Karthikeyan 21st ahead of Maldonado.
Significantly for the Indian he out-qualified team-mate Pedro de la Rosa for the first time this season on the occasion of the Spaniard’s 100th grands prix.
Hamilton barely showed a glimmer of emotion after completing the team's third all front row for McLaren this season.
He said: “Congratulations to the team. I managed to get a half-decent lap at the end of Q3, and it’s great to have me and Jenson on the front.”
Asked as to the distractions this week, with speculation linking him with a move to Mercedes, Hamilton was dismissive.
“I haven’t had any distractions this weekend, so it’s been quite positive, enjoying the support of my family and friends,” added Hamilton.
Button, winner six days ago in Spa, echoed Hamilton’s sentiments with regard to the front row as he said: “It’s great for us. The last few races shows our strength.
“But even being on the front row it’s not going to be an easy race, but it’s the best place to be.”
Massa, meanwhile, had no answer as to what went wrong with team-mate Alonso as he said: “I think he had a problem in Q3.
“I don’t know what, but I’m happy with the lap I did. I always took care of the tow, but then on my last lap I was out of the tow and I did my best lap.”