Lewis Hamilton has been left in second place on the Monza grid after a struggle with the balance on his car left him fractionally slower his team-mate.
Fernando Alonso will be starting the race on pole after qualifying with a lap time of 1:21.997 – just enough to beat Hamilton’s time of 1:22.034.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa took third place with 1:22.549 – approximately half a second behind the McLarens. BMW Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld, whose team have been predicting Monza as one of their best prospects of the year, will start from fourth after putting in a time of 1:23.174.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen demonstrated nerves of steel to take the fifth spot after a dramatic 200mph accident on the circuit’s fastest section, the approach to the left-hand Curva del Vialone, in the final practice before the qualifying session began.
Although his car was destroyed, meaning he will take to the T-car for the race, both Raikkonen himself and his engine were left unharmed – despite a 70-plus metre skid that left him buried in the tyre wall.
He was therefore able able to take part in qualifying without penalty. Under the circumstances, fifth place seems like a real achievement.
Speaking after the session, Hamilton said: “It was a good battle with Fernando throughout qualifying. My first timed lap wasn’t the best, but I was able to improve on it for my final attempt.
“The result today shows just how hard everyone at McLaren and Mercedes-Benz has been working. We have all put our heads together and this has resulted in us locking out the front row.
“For the team I hope we can maintain these positions throughout the race tomorrow.”
Team boss Ron Dennis added: “Lewis has not been quite as happy with the balance of the car, and in the circumstances therefore he did a great job.
“Whilst it is important to the team to be on the front row, we will now be concentrating all our efforts into repeating this performance tomorrow afternoon and rewarding everyone in the team for their tremendous efforts over the past few weeks.”