F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton did what just about everyone expected, namely claim pole for the Italian Grand Prix but few would have imagined that Ferrari would be firmly in the hunt as Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel chased hard to qualify second and third on ‘home’ soil.

Hamilton’s demure demeanour as he alighted from his Mercedes after qualifying suggested that he was aware that he will have a mighty job on his hands come Sunday. His best lap time of 1:23.397 was set on his first run in Q3, and in the end was almost a quarter second up on Raikkonen who claimed a front row start slot for the first time since 2013.

It was also the Finn’s first top six qualifying at Monza  since 2009, the year in which he was last on the podium in Italy.

Mercedes have taken their 23rd pole position in succession, leaving them one short of Williams’ all-time mark of 24, set during the combined 1992 and 1993 seasons.

Vettel will head up row two, the Ferrari pair the meat in the Silver Arrows sandwich as Nico Rosberg ended fourth fastest, unable to match his pole winning teammate and title rival all weekend thus far.

Both Williams’ came good in their final runs with Felipe Massa and Valtterri Bottas, ending fifth and sixth respectively and set to share the third row of the grid.