First up, a little advanced notice. Assuming I managed to get this out after P3 and before qualifying, the next article (pre-race) will be delayed because I’ve got some family business to attend to.
The Italian circuit is well-suited to McLaren (and also Renault and Force India). High top speed paves the way to victory at Monza. However, Red Bull still took the Spa pole and got second in the race, so they’re not exactly going to slip down to the mid-field here.
In P1 Button was fastest, followed by Vettel, Hamilton, Kubica, Rosberg, Webber, Liuzzi, Alonso, Massa and Schumacher.
I heard an interesting snippet during qualifying coverage, suggesting that the extra downforce McLaren ran (cutting straight line speed but giving a good advantage into corners) was promoting stability under braking. This, in turn, really helps out Button, who likes an even keel, more than Hamilton, who is quite happy sailing in a storm (as it were). This is borne out, perhaps, by Button leading P1. I’ll certainly have my eye on him for pole, if he keeps up his form.
P2 had Vettel the fastest, followed by Alonso, Massa, Hamilton and Button, then Webber, Barrichello, Kubica, Hulkenberg and Rosberg. The McLarens did, however, do their fast times earlier than everyone else, so may have not enjoyed a track quite as rubbered in.
P3 had the timesheets led by Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso, all very close. However, this is moderately misleading. Alonso’s flying lap, destined to be fastest or veeery close, was blocked. Hamilton got a tow in slipstream from Sutil, somewhat embellishing his time. They were followed by Massa, Button, Rosberg, Webber (who suffered an engine failure of some variety), Hulkenberg, Kubica and Sutil.
Pole seems to be a Hamilton-Vettel-Alonso affair. I’ve decided to back Vettel at 4.4 (naturally, I also advocate hedging this). My grounds for this are that:
Hamilton’s lap was just 0.047s faster than Vettel’s, but achieved with a slipstream advantage.
The Red Bull shines in qualifying, and has only failed to capture pole once.
A strong case can be made for any of the three (or, even, for Button, who lost his shine in P3). Bit of a rushed article, but hopefully the tip’ll come off. As mentioned at the start, pre-race post will probably be delayed.