Alonso claims pole for Italian GP

Sports Network

, Last Updated: 11:43 AM ET

MONZA, Italy -- Fernando Alonso edged Jenson Button in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix to give Ferrari its first pole position in 31 races.

Alonso, in his first year with Ferrari, posted a lap of one minute, 21.962 seconds around the 3.6-mile Monza road course, which is the home track for the Italian auto manufacturer. Ferrari's last pole came in the 2008 season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix, with Felipe Massa taking the position in front of his home crowd.

"It was a nice surprise," Alonso said. "I thought we would be second, but today was different. It's a fantastic place to have the pole position in Italy for Ferrari."

The two-time F1 champion from Spain recorded his 19th career pole. He won the Italian GP in 2007, when he drove for McLaren.

Alonso was 0.122 second quicker than defending world champion Jenson Button from McLaren. Button will start on the front row for the first time since the Turkish Grand Prix in June 2009 (24 races ago).

"I'm happy to be second," Button said. "It's the first time on the front row this season, so it's a step forward. It's a good start, and hopefully it will be a competitive race."

Alonso's teammate, Massa, qualified third, while Mark Webber from Red Bull Racing and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton rounded out the top-five. Sebastian Vettel placed his Red Bull car sixth on the grid.

Hamilton currently holds just a three-point lead over Webber.

Red Bull had taken the pole in 12 of the first 13 races this season. It also will be the first time a Red Bull driver will not start on the front row since last year's Italian GP.

Mercedes GP's Nico Rosberg qualified seventh, followed by Nico Hulkenberg from Williams, Robert Kubica from Renault and Hulkenberg's teammate, Rubens Barrichello, who is the defending race winner.

Michael Schumacher once again was knocked out of qualifying after the second round. The Mercedes driver and seven-time F1 champion will start 12th.

Earlier this week, F1's governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA), decided not to impose any further penalties on Ferrari for their controversial one-two finish in July's German Grand Prix.

Race stewards fined Ferrari $100,000 for imposing team orders and bringing the sport into disrepute after Massa moved aside to let teammate Alonso win the race. Alonso is the only Ferrari driver who remains in championship contention.


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