F1: Lewis Hamilton takes pole position for Italian GP

  • Other Sport
  • Saturday, 12 Sep 2009

MONZA, Italy (AP): Lewis Hamilton of McLaren will start the Italian Grand Prix from pole position after leading qualifying on Saturday, and Giancarlo Fisichella will make his Ferrari debut from 14th on the grid.

The defending Formula One champion earned his 15th career pole after setting a leading lap time of 1 minute, 24.066 seconds to edge Force India driver Adrian Sutil at the Monza circuit.

Kimi Raikkonen, coming off a victory at Belgium, goes third for Ferrari at its home circuit and the season's fastest race, where cars average nearly 250 kph (155 mph).

Overall F1 leader Jenson Button starts sixth, one spot behind closest title rival and Brawn GP teammate Rubens Barrichello, while Red Bull pair Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber start ninth and 10th, respectively for Sunday's 53-lap race.

Hamilton took his second pole position in three races right at the finish with a flying lap that was just under two-tenths faster than Sutil. The driver starting first on the grid here has won seven of the last 10 races.

"I don't think we anticipated being as quick as we are this weekend," said Hamilton, who came second here in 2007 and who will now enjoy his KERS power boost at the start. "It was a very close qualifying session ... but I was able to put the lap together."

Sutil will be looking to follow up Force India's first finish in the points with another top-three finish after Fisichella finished second from pole position at Spa.

"It's a great moment, a great day for me," the German driver said. "The car is amazing, really quick, unbelievable. It's such a different feeling in the car right now knowing that you have a chance."

Sutil, a close friend of Hamilton's and who he also raced against in feeder series, knows he'll have to stay aggressive going into the first corner, especially with Heikki Kovalainen of McLaren starting fourth.

"A lot of KERS cars around me," Sutil said. "It's going to be a hard fight for my position at the start."

Raikkonen had already set his sights on Hamilton.

"Force India we can jump but McLaren, probably not," the Finnish driver said. Ferrari hired Fisichella after Spa to replace Luca Badoer, who classified last in the two races since taking over for the injured Felipe Massa.

"I think he did quite well," Sutil said of his former teammate. "Fourteenth position is not so bad."

Tonio Liuzzi, Fisichella's replacement, will start seventh after getting in an F1 car for the first time since 2007.

Fisichella will be the first Italian to race a Ferrari at Monza since Ivan Capelli in 1992 to give the home fans something to cheer about with no championship fight this year.

Both championship leaders endured disappointing performances, although Red Bull's title hopes are likely to take the biggest hit after trailing both Brawn GPs.

Button leads with 72 points, Barrichello has 56, Vettel - who won in the rain here last year - 53 and Webber 51.5. Brawn GP leads Red Bull by 23.5 points in the constructors' series.

Button was coming off his first non-points finish of the season at Spa, part of a dip in form that had allowed Barrichello to more than halve his teammate's lead.

"They will be very competive," Hamilton said of the Brawns. "It should be probably one of the most exciting races we've had here for quite a while."

BMW Sauber pair Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld start 13th and 15th, respectively, after both drivers pulled off the track with mechanical failures.

Nico Rosberg of Williams, who has finished in the points for eight straight races, failed to get out of the initial qualifying session for the first time this season.

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