Lewis Hamilton applied his “A game” in qualifying to blow his championship rival Nico Rosberg out of the water and continue his dominance of the Italian Grand Prix with an emphatic pole position.
The triple world champion, who is bidding to become the first driver since Juan Manuel Fangio in the 1950s to secure a hat-trick of consecutive wins at Monza, was nearly half-a-second faster than his sole title rival.
In securing the 56th pole of his career, Hamilton also joined his great hero Ayrton Senna and Fangio in claiming a record five poles at the so-called Temple of Speed.
Sebastian Vettel, in front of the partisan Italian crowd, will start from third on the grid, with his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen alongside him on the second row.
The records continue to fall for Hamilton and, with a nine-point advantage over Rosberg, the Stevenage-born racer is now the odds-on favourite to join only a handful of drivers to win four titles.
Hamilton, 31, was at his dominant best here, with Rosberg, who won from the front in Belgium last Sunday, a distant and demoralising second. And the Briton, who will bring up his half century of Formula One triumphs with another victory in Italy tomorrow, was delighted to match Fangio and Senna’s record.
”I am obviously very happy,” said Hamilton.”I was only made aware of that record as I came into this weekend. That was in the back of my mind, but I was hoping that it wouldn’t steer me off course.
”I feel incredibly proud to be up amongst Senna and Juan Manuel. They were incredible drivers and I never thought in a million years my name would be mentioned in the same sentence as theirs, so I am very proud of that.
“I came with my A game today and that last lap particularly felt incredible.”
Rosberg, who once led this championship by 43 points, attempted to put a brave face on the deficit of his margin to Hamilton.
But the German will surely be alarmed by the size of the gap to his Mercedes team-mate.
”I think the best explanation is he did some good laps and that is it,” Rosberg said. “I was just not quick enough today.”
Following Saturday’s qualifying session Jenson Button revealed he will watch the sport unfold from the sidelines next season and the 2009 world champion will start the beginning of what could ultimately be his farewell tour from a lowly 15th.
A gearbox penalty for Romain Grosjean however, will promote Button one place up the grid.
British rookie Jolyon Palmer faces a fight to join Hamilton as the only other British driver on the grid next season and he will start from 20th, with his Renault team way off the pace.
The 25-year-old from Horsham will, however, take some comfort from being the best part of two tenths faster than his team-mate Kevin Magnussen, who ran wide on his final timed run and will line up in 21st.
Valtteri Bottas was fifth for Williams, with the Red Bull duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen sixth and seventh.