Vettel riding the red wave at Monza

Mercedes have presented themselves as the underdogs for the Italian GP but vowed not to surrender to Ferrari without a fight. The Finn's chances were boosted when Vettel defended too hard from Hamilton into the second chicane on Lap 1.

Mercedes fear Ferrari will again hold the cards at Monza as they go in search of their first victory at the "Cathedral of Speed" in eight seasons.

"The next race, with this kind of performance they have on straights, we might struggle to match them there", Hamilton said at Spa. At the same time, he said that the pressure racing in front of them is like any other race on the calendar. There was a lot of negativity here and I could see so many British flags out there, and they inspired me so much. I don't think we are anywhere near the place they have been for the last years. The German suffered a decisive championship blow previous year when he was forced to retire with engine failure.

Kimi back on pole: It seemed like a good bet a red auto would be claiming pole position come Saturday afternoon, but most of us assumed it would be Sebastian Vettel.

"I don't think anybody was purposefully [going to] take a stupid amount of risk to damage someone else's auto".

"One thing I can guarantee is that none of that has been put on", Priestley said. "But I'm not entirely happy with the end of my qualifying and that's the emotion that's dominating at the moment".

Asked if his team could still win on Sunday, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff's response was emphatic: "Absolutely".

"Clearly I wasn't happy but I don't tell you why", he said.

With fresher tyres, and the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, who had yet to stop, backing Raikkonen up at the front, Hamilton closed onto the Ferrari's gearbox. But this time, Vettel powered past Hamilton shortly after the start and never looked back. "We have always tried to stay neutral and have an equal approach to the drivers".

Heavy rain just before the morning practice saw neither of the title contenders do many laps, with Force India's Sergio Perez leading the way through the spray with a best effort of 1:34.000. "If you don't get everything right you might not win".

Yet, the 38-year-old Finn, whose future beyond this season is still yet to be determined, was curiously afforded the luxury of a slipstream by Ferrari off Vettel's auto.

The four-time champion German clocked a best lap in one minute and 20.509 seconds in improving weather, after overnight rain, to finish ahead of Hamilton's Mercedes by 0.081 seconds. Sorry. And the third one was "is Kimi allowed to win"? "It's a long race".

Hamilton: Possibly his most successful track with five wins from the last six races.

  • Salvatore Jensen