Sebastian Vettel made it 10 poles for the season as he continues to close in on Nigel Mansell’s Formula One record.
On a circuit supposed to be Red Bull’s worst over the closing seven races of a one-sided campaign, the reigning champion smashed his rivals to grab top spot on the grid for the Italian Grand Prix.
Vettel blitzed the Monza track with a time of one minute 22.275secs to finish a full half second clear of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton who lines up second for the fourth consecutive race.
The German is now just four short of Mansell’s mark of 14 set in 1992, cementing Red Bull’s unblemished record of claiming pole in every race this season.
In his career, Vettel now has 25 poles, eighth in F1 history, with only Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Jim Clark, Alain Prost, Mansell, Juan Manuel Fangio and Mika Hakkinen ahead of him.
Behind the front row, Hamilton’s McLaren team-mate Jenson Button lines up third alongside the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso, with Mark Webber fifth and a staggering 0.7secs adrift of team-mate Vettel.
Felipe Massa starts sixth in his Ferrari, followed by the Renault of Vitaly Petrov and Mercedes duo Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg.
Bruno Senna scraped into the top 10 with a stunning lap at the end of Q2, however, did not venture out in the last 10 minutes.
Paul di Resta was the unlucky recipient of Senna’s flying lap, the Force India driver missing out on a place in the top 10 by a mere 0.006secs.
The Williams pair of Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado start 13th and 14th, the latter doing well to even make it into Q2.
The Venezuelan was involved in the only incident of the session as he hit a barrier coming out of Parabolica, swiping off his front wing.
Maldonado was fortunate the accident occurred close to the entry of the pitlane, and that he ended up facing in the right direction after his spin.
It enabled his team to work quickly on fitting a new nose and tyres and sending him back out again in time to get through Q1.
The Sauber duo of Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi start 15th and 17th, sandwiching Sebastien Buemi in his Toro Rosso in 16th.
On a power circuit such as Monza, the bottom seven to drop out in the wake of the opening 20-minute Q1 were no surprise.
Jaime Alguersuari lost out to team-mate Buemi by 0.170secs and will start 18th, with Lotus duo Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen behind him, the Italian almost half-a-second clear of the Finn.
Virgin pair Timo Glock and Jerome D’Ambrosio occupy the 11th row of the grid in 21st and 22nd places, the former 0.4secs off Kovalainen and only 0.018secs ahead of his team-mate.
Despite a troubled weekend so far, Daniel Ricciardo at least out-qualified more experienced partner Vitantonio Liuzzi, with the duo 23rd and 24th.
“I didn’t expect to be on pole by that big a margin on a track that in the last two years has not suited us,” said Vettel.
“As you can imagine I’m very happy, also that we have quite a racy approach. The balance is good and the car is great.
“We’ve been working hard as we’ve known this is not the best track for us when it’s dry.
“All in all I’m very pleased with the result. I got everything out of the car.”
Hamilton dismissed suggestions this was a pole that got away as he said: “I don’t think so. I didn’t have a half a second in the bag.
“It’s a great step Jenson and I are up there, but Sebastian was mega quick, with his last lap untouchable.”
As for Button, he said: “I totally agree with Lewis. Even if we had got a bit more out of the car, we didn’t have enough to challenge Seb.
“Fortunately, it’s not so important to be on pole here as we have DRS (drag reduction system) to aid overtaking.”