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LIVE COMMENTARY: 2008 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX - FINAL PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING
   GO TO LIVE INDEX ALL TIMES GMT  
As it happened: Final Practice and Qualifying
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
08:30 Hello everyone and welcome to autosport.com Live as we continue to bring you blow-by-blow coverage from the 2008 Italian Grand Prix.

Today promises to be interesting, with wet weather in prospect, and we will bring you coverage from the third and final practice session and then the vital qualifying hour for tomorrow's race. The schedule looks like this:

08:30 - 09:00 The breakfast bar: Ease your way into Saturday with a look back over Friday's action at Monza.
09:00 - 10:00 Live commentary and updates from the final practice session.
10:00 - 12:00 Continuing track updates, as well as weather status, and any breaking news from the circuit.
12:00 - 13:00 Live commentary and updates from the qualifying session.
13:00 - 13:30 End of day reaction and round-up, where we go from here, and what we can look forward to tomorrow.
13:30 Autosport.com Live commentary ends for today.

08:32 You can join in the fun by chatting live with other autosport.com forum members.

Click the SHOW LIVE FORUM link in the red bar at the bottom of your browser window if you'd like to join the debate.

08:35 Overnight, a sharp shower fell at approximately 04:30 and soaked the circuit.

Since that time there has been no further rain, but showers have moved into the area from the south, with conditions expected to deteriorate quickly.

Currently, conditions are very dark overhead with threatening rain clouds approaching the circuit.

The maximum temperature today will reach 20 degrees Celsius, with low track temperatures due to the heavy cloudcover and expected rain.

Rain08:40 On Friday the Autodromo Natzionale Monza was open to the teams and drivers for three hours of practice, split over two 90-minute sessions.

A three-day test at this circuit in the last week of August meant the teams already had established a good baseline set-up to build upon. However, the presence of rain in the morning resulted in no dry times being set.

Conditions were damp with light rain showers for the first half of the morning session. Many of the top teams decided to wait for the conditions to improve, but instead the situation worsened, as a spectacular thunderstorm doused the circuit. Within minutes the track was flooded and teams were kept busy, sweeping water out of their pit garages. With no cars on the circuit in the atrocious conditions, the session was red flagged with five minutes remaining.

Adrian Sutil was fastest in the Force India, setting a time of 1:32.842 ahead of Rubens Barrichello, Giancarlo Fisichella and Timo Glock, with only 14 of the 20 drivers completing a timed lap.

Sutil quickest in very wet first practice

The rain began to ease some time after the morning practice and the mopping-up continued. The track was inspected by the officials as the volume of water began to drain away. Eventually the rain stopped, allowing the track to dry more quickly.

By the time the second practice session began, the circuit was damp with intermediate tyres being the sensible choice in the opening minutes. Sebastian Bourdais would be the first to try out the Bridgestone dry tyres on the slippery surface, and for several laps he couldn't approach the best time set on intermediates. Bourdais whittled down his time as the conditions got better and better, eventually taking the top spot.

That gave the signal to the rest of the teams that dry tyres were now fit for use, and within a few minutes the track was busy.

The Ferrari versus McLaren battle was again evident, with Kimi Raikkonen setting the fastest time of the session - 1:23.861. Neither team counted on BMW Sauber being so quick, though - both Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld upset the form book to some extent by ending the session second and third respectively. Championship leader Lewis Hamilton placed fourth, ahead of Nico Rosberg, whose performance was very positive in the Williams.

Raikkonen quickest in second practice

Lewis Hamilton08:45 Lewis Hamilton ended his Friday practice running in fourth, just over a tenth of a second behind pacesetter Kimi Raikkonen. The championship leader was not concerned by the times when he spoke with the media after the session.

"You know everyone is doing something different in practice," said Hamilton. "We are happy with the pace that we have, so we are not worried about it."

Hopping over the kerbs is an essential part of the Monza lap and Lewis spoke about his approach in the McLaren.

"This track you really need to have a very well-balanced car in terms of being able to use all the kerbs. You can use so much of the kerb here – it is a bit like in Montreal, you can use a lot of kerb there, but here obviously it’s the kerb in turn one and two, but also you need to have the traction. And then it’s really turn four and five (the second chicane) is the special one because you are braking in there with just no downforce and you’ve got to take pretty much as much kerb as you can possibly take. The car does bottom out over the kerb and it is how the car reacts after the kerb, if you can get down to power. We’ve always had a very good car in that sense and so hopefully it transcends here."

Rain was a popular topic of conversation in the paddock on Friday afternoon following the spectacular downpour in free practice and the forecasts for more inclement weather during the weekend.

"If it rains as hard as it was earlier today, I think it would be very tricky out there – a bit like Fuji last year but I think it was raining more than it was at Fuji last year, so it would be pretty tough (to race)," said Hamilton.

"In the wet, it is pretty much stay away from them (the kerbs) as much as possible, especially the white lines and the kerbs, it is just wheelspin on them so you just try to drive around doing pretty much every lap without touching any kerb if you can."

08:50 The teams, drivers, media, officials and enthusiasts worldwide ponder the developing weather situation at Monza.

The northern Italy rainfall radar is showing a large, heavy downpour just to the west of the circuit. Spots of moisture are in the air at the track but the rain holds off for the moment at least.

08:55 There are five minutes to go before final practice at Monza.

08:58 Some drops of rain are now reaching the circuit as the surrounding showers make their presence felt.

0 min: The practice session is underway.

0 min: The umbrellas are up in the grandstands as a rain shower hits the start of practice.

1 min: Installation laps are underway on the circuit, with wet tyres in use by all the drivers.

2 min: Fifteen cars have come out onto the circuit to check over their cars. Sutil is the first to complete his sighting lap and comes back into the pits.

2 min: The BMW team tell their driver on the radio that the rain has increased quite remarkably and should last for about five minutes.

The track is damp at this stage and ideal for the intermediate tyres.

3 min: The drivers come back into the pitlane, and there will undoubtedly be a period of waiting while everyone waits to see what the weather does.

4 min: Only the pair of Ferrari cars have not put in an installation lap.

4 min: Rubens Barrichello has crossed start-finish and begins a second lap. Going into the first chicane the Honda driver locks up his tyres and takes to the escape road.

6 min: Honda occasionally send their drivers out to set two laps to give the car a thorough checkover. That is the case again today and Barrichello comes back into the pits.

No cars on track.

7 min: Rubens Barrichello comes back out onto the circuit again, following a very short pit visit.

7 min: Barrichello is running on the intermediate tyre as he continues his out lap.

8 min: The rain continues to wet the circuit and is falling fairly heavily in the pits at the moment.

9 min: It is no surprise to see Rubens as one of the first drivers out there. The Brazilian loves the wet conditions, and finished a memorable third in the wet British Grand Prix earlier this season.

Barrichello crosses start-finish and begins a timed lap.

9 min: Timo Glock and Adrian Sutil have also come out onto the racetrack to test the conditions.

10 min: Barrichello completes the first timed lap of the day and it is a 1:40.427.

10 min: The Renaults of Alonso and Piquet join a number of cars now out to sample the conditions.

11 min: Timo Glock comes round to start his first flying lap. The Toyota driver then locks up his extreme wet tyres in the braking zone for the first chicane, and he goes onto the grass, before rejoining the racing surface after the chicane.

12 min: Conditions are variable around the circuit with the worst of the rain making the track quite wet near the pits but the rain is not as intense at the Lesmo end of the track.

13 min: Timo Glock continues on for another lap and the German gets it right this time, moving to the top with a time of 1:38.261.

13 min: Rubens Barrichello is second and Adrian Sutil third, with those the only three drivers to set a time so far.

14 min: Fernando Alonso has the extreme wet Bridgestone on his car but they were not grippy enough to aid is turn in to the second chicane. He bounced over the run-off and continued.

16 min: The Red Bull team have been debating tyre choice with David Coulthard, saying the track is in no-mans land between the two tyres - the intermediate and the extreme wet.

17 min: Nelson Piquet barrels down at high speed into the braking zone for the first chicane, but isn't able to stop when he gets there. The Brazilian shoots down the escape road and rejoins the circuit on the approach to Curva Grande.

17 min: Timo Glock is the quickest man after almost twenty minutes of final practice at Monza. His teammate Jarno Trulli is second, from Fernando Alonso, Nelson Piquet and Rubens Barrichello.

18 min: Felipe Massa is heading out for his first lap of the day in the Ferrari.

18 min: The light rain continues to fall as the session continues. The weather radar shows that this is likely to continue for a while. There is a brief break in the rain coming, but another large area of rain is following on behind for later this morning.

19 min: Lewis Hamilton is also on circuit to sample the grip level.

19 min: Felipe Massa is over the line and starting a flying lap on the extreme wet tyre.

Hamilton pitted his McLaren after a single tour on the same rubber.

20 min: Jenson Button is out there on extreme wet tyres in his Honda. The Briton comes through the Roggia chicane and takes way too much kerb for the conditions, and loses grip under acceleration exiting the second right-hand part of the chicane. He loops the car round but rejoins quickly.

21 min: Felipe Massa sets a 1:37.988 first effort to go seventh in the order.

22 min: The Toyota duo of Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli have now pitted, having completed their first runs of the day.

They are currently one-two in the session.

22 min: Felipe Massa improves to fifth fastest with a lap exactly two seconds off the Toyota pace.

23 min: Sebastian Vettel is on track and flying in the Toro Rosso. He sets a fastest first sector of all on his way to third place with 1:36.951.

23 min: Fernando Alonso now has the intermediate tyres on his Renault. He finds slippery conditions under braking for the first chicane and takes to the popular escape road.

25 min: Nico Rosberg goes down the access road at the first chicane, with Robert Kubica following him. This route is proving quite popular among the drivers.

Perhaps they would like the old Monza pre-chicanes reinstated to the calendar.

27 min: Nelson Piquet is the next driver to take to the escape road at the first chicane. He makes his way through the bollards but knocks one of the polystyrene blocks over as he does so.

27 min: The rain is now falling slightly heavier overhead, with track conditions slowly getting wetter.

28 min: Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen are out for a lap as the rain intensifies.

The decision of how much to run in this session is a complex one - balancing the need to experience the conditions with the potential for a disastrous crash, which would result in a pit lane start tomorrow if the car can not be repaired in time for qualifying.

28 min: It is now pouring with heavy rain at Monza.

29 min: The track is completely soaked, and is now unsafe to run sensibly.

29 min: The cars are sure to pit as a massive shower floods the circuit.

30 min: Kimi Raikkonen crawls back to the pit lane with a bow wave of water from his front wheels as he safely navigates the Parabolica and pits the Ferrari.

31 min: Jarno Trulli is the last driver to make it back to the pits, and they are now all back in.

No cars on track as the heavy rain continues.

32 min: Trulli was out there on the extreme wet tyre, and the Italian is pushed back into the Toyota garage.

33 min: Heavy rain continues to lash the Monza circuit. There is a huge amount of standing water on the track surface and the cars will not be running any time soon due to the risk of aquaplaning.

36 min: In the pits, most of the drivers have chosen to remain in their cars as they wait to see if the track returns to a sensible running condition soon.

36 min: The rain level has eased in the last couple of minutes but it is still raining.

Nick Heidfeld is told by the BMW team that rain is expected to last for the rest of the session.

38 min: Nick Heidfeld in the BMW breaks the silence and heads out for a lap on the extreme wet tyres.

39 min: There are huge plumes of spray from Heidfeld's car as he eases the BMW through the puddles around the circuit.

40 min: Heidfeld continues round at a cautious pace and he crosses the line at speed to start a timed lap as the rain becomes heavier again.

40 min: Official weather forecast: Rain to continue during third practice.

40 min: Sebastien Bourdais is also out for a tour in the heavy rain.

42 min: Nick Heidfeld twitches and fishtails his way round a 3.6 mile lap of Monza in the rain, and he sensibly decides that the conditions are still a bit too severe and returns to the pits without completing that timed lap.

43 min: Nico Rosberg is another man to sample the extreme conditions on the circuit. Unsurprisingly he finds a lack of grip under braking for the first chicane and uses the popular escape road.

Rosberg pits the Williams.

44 min: Rain continues to soak the circuit and is now falling heavily again.

44 min: Down at Ferrari, Felipe Massa is out of the car, and he is sitting on a tool chest talking with his manager Nicolas Todt and Ferrari team advisor Michael Schumacher.

45 min: Nick Hedifeld reports to his team that he doesn't think the cars should run in these conditions. "It is very dangerous like this," he said.

46 min: Needless to say, the heavy rain continues and there are no cars currently on the circuit.

47 min: Lewis Hamilton decides to take the risk of a run around the soaked lap. His team advise him to play it safe.

49 min: At Ferrari, Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher are eagerly watching Hamilton's progress on the monitors.

49 min: Hamilton is easing the McLaren around a lap using the extreme wet tyre.

He decides to continue into a further lap and is picking up the pace as he splashes through the puddles.

50 min: Hamilton is almost ten seconds off the pace as he cuts the beam at the second sector.

50 min: Timo Glock also now comes out onto the saturated racetrack in the Toyota.

He remains at the top of the timesheet with very little chance of any further improvements in the remaining minutes of the session.

51 min: Lewis does complete the tour in a 1:50.834.

51 min: Timo Glock completes his lap out of the pits and begins a timed lap.

53 min: Sebastien Bourdais left the garage to join the racetrack, but decided that a single lap was enough and immediately returned to the pits.

53 min: There is an enormous amount of water on the track surface and that is being flung into a huge plume of spray by the extreme wet tyres.

Conditions are very difficult at the moment with a high potential for the cars aquaplaning off on a puddle.

54 min: Lewis Hamilton continues to lap and has improved his pace to a 1:46.325 as he pits the McLaren.

54 min: Bourdais is back out again, possibly having driven through the pitlane. Also out now is Heikki Kovalainen.

55 min: Heikki Kovalainen has also been sent out to test the waters in a McLaren.

56 min: As Kovalainen is on his lap out of the pits, Steve Hallam comes on the radio to tell Heikki that Lewis Hamilton has reported that the track is slippery and be aware of aquaplaning.

That would sound like rather obvious advice, given the fact that the rain is still hammering down and the track is soaked.

57 min: Kovalainen fails to slow the McLaren for turn one on his flying lap and he takes to the escape road.

58 min: Kovalainen sets a 1:47.172 on that lap but he did miss the first chicane.

58 min: Sebastien Bourdais completes a timed lap in the conditions, and he clocks a 1:43.456 - eight seconds away from Glock's benchmark time set when it was lightly wet.

59 min: Nico Rosberg is another man who is lapping at the moment. His latest tour is an impressive 1:43.738.

60 min: The session has ended.

10:01 Nick Heidfeld and Jenson Button also came out onto the track in the dying moments of the session to sample the track conditions, so that they know how things are ahead of qualifying later on this afternoon.

10:01 Sebastien Bourdais is the fastest man on the circuit at the flag as he sets a 1:39.319.

10:02 The cars splash back to the pit lane as thoughts begin to turn to qualifying and how the weather conditions will play out over the next two hours.

10:02 Sebastien Bourdais spins at the Roggia chicane on his final lap back to the pits. He rejoins and makes it back without damaging the Toro Rosso.

10:04 Timo Glock is the last to return to the pits, and everyone is back safely. Remarkably, there were no serious incidents during the session.

10:04 The rain has eased again in recent minutes but the track remains soaked.

10:06 So Glock ends the final practice session on top of the charts. His time of 1:35.464 was set in damp conditions, when the track was at its best. Sebastian Vettel was second in the Toro Rosso, with Nico Rosberg third, Jarno Trulli fourth and Kazuki Nakajima fifth.

Felipe Massa was eighth, Kimi Raikkonen 18th, Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton finishes the practice at the bottom of the timesheet for the first time in his Formula One career, in 20th place.

10:09 Conditions in the second half of the session deteriorated badly, meaning that the Ferrrari and McLaren drivers played it safe, not running much in the worst conditions.

Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen did come out for a few laps, but took things cautiously, making sure they returned to the pits with their machinery in one piece.

10:14 Here is the round up on a very wet final practice in Monza:

Glock fastest in final practice - Italy

10:31 Weatherwise, there is no change as light rain continues to fall over the circuit.

The satellite sequence gives an accurate picture of the situation resulting in the rain experienced across the whole of Italy.

Starting with the upper left corner of the image, the clouds move in from the Atlantic Ocean, then south-east across the border between France and Spain, through Catalonia.

You can see the clouds then swing east, and then north towards the Italian mainland. The centre of the low pressure system is now located just off the southern French coast, with the rain circulating anti-clockwise around it.

With the low centre expected to stay around the south of France for the rest of the day, the resulting rain is expected to continue feeding northwards on its track towards northern Italy for some considerable time yet.

10:40 The autosport.com news team at the circuit tell us that the rain has eased to a very light drizzle, as the conditions brighten a little.

On track, the racing surface remains very wet.

10:50 The Porsche Supercup cars are running their final qualifying session of the season in between the Formula One action. The brutish tin-tops will aid the drying process as they lap on wet tyres and remove water from the racing line.

11:12 For a time the weather radar was beginning to show the intensity of the showers and band of rain on the decline, briefly raising the possibility of a drying qualifying session.

However, in the last few minutes the showers are intensifying quickly again and more rain is certainly possible in time to affect the session.

To confirm that, the autosport.com team in the pits tell us that it is not raining at the moment, but that the threatening rain clouds are returning and it is becoming darker again.

11:33 The weather is going to play a major role in the outcome of today's qualifying session, which is all set up to be one of the most fascinating for some time.

Whether it rains again or not, grip levels are set to change throughout the session and, unless it dries completely, the outcome of each period may reflect the cars that lapped with the best of the track conditions.

The teams also have to lock-off the set-up of their machines when parc ferme commences at the start of the session. After a disrupted set of practice sessions, this will be a difficult decision for the engineers on how they compromise the settings for this afternoon and the uncertain conditions expected tomorrow.

11:44 The rain is beginning to fall once again at Monza.

11:45 This shower will ensure a damp or wet qualifying for Formula One cars this afternoon.

11:46 The drivers are limited to four sets of the intermediate tyres and three sets of the extreme wet rubber for the remainder of the weekend, with some of those being used conservatively in the practice session this morning.

Conservation of the sets of wet tyres is likely to be on the mind of the race engineers this afternoon, although good tyres in the garage for tomorrow looks like a lower priority than a good grid slot.

The drivers also need to be careful not to spin off. Any car that stops on the circuit will take no further part in the session.

11:47 The rain is falling heavily now as conditions at Monza decline once again.

11:50 Heavy rain is continuing to fall, setting up a sensational set of conditions for the qualifying hour, which gets underway in ten minutes.

11:54 The rain has eased slightly in the last couple of minutes.

11:56 This shower is a nightmare scenario for the teams as they are forced to make a choice on the best tyres to use for each part of the session as the track conditions change all the time.

11:58 Rain continues to fall at Monza with qualifying just two minutes away. The track temperature is following the air temperature at a cool 18 Celsius.

11:59 The drivers are sitting in their cars, ready to react if the call comes that they should go out immediately.

0 min: Heavy rain is falling at Monza as the Q1 session begins.

0 min: The cars are queueing at the end of the pitlane, and out they come onto the circuit.

1 min: The cars stream out of the pits on extreme wet tyres. They will need to bank a lap time in case the conditions change.

2 min: All cars are on track to set a time. Lewis Hamilton hung back in the McLaren garage and has joined in clear air.

Many of the cars are in heavy traffic and extreme spray.

2 min: The initial lap out of the pits is in widespread progress by all drivers.

Nick Heidfeld has spun in the Parabolica as he sets up to start his first qualifying lap.

2 min: Heidfeld rejoins and starts a timed lap.

3 min: Heavy rain continues as the drivers attempt to set a lap time.

3 min: Fernando Alonso ruins his first attempt by missing his braking point for the first chicane. He continues but his time will likely be disallowed.

3 min: David Coulthard was the fastest man in the first sector as the entire pack scrambles to clock a lap.

4 min: Timo Glock is the first man to top the timesheet with a 1:39.655 effort in the Toyota.

5 min: The drivers are all completing their first laps now with 15 minutes to go in the first part of qualifying.

5 min: Lewis Hamilton beats Glock with his first lap of a 1:39.359, which is quickly beaten by Glock's second tour of 1:37.406.

6 min: All 20 drivers have set a laptime.

Jarno Trulli, Mark Webber, Kazuki Nakajima, Giancarlo Fisichella and Robert Kubica are all in the dropzone at the moment.

There will be a lot of position changes as the times come down on subsequent laps.

6 min: The drivers continue to lap, which they will have to do throughout the session to be on the track when it is at its best.

7 min: Kimi Raikkonen drops to last position, with Fernando Alonso also in the dropzone.

7 min: Heikki Kovalainen is up to second quickest with a 1:37.571 as Glock extends his advantage at the top in 1:37.056.

7 min: Kimi Raikkonen is on a better lap, setting a 1:38.592 to move up to ninth.

8 min: Felipe Massa goes over the line in a 1:39.376 and that is only enough for 17th at the moment.

9 min: Heikki Kovalainen is now the fastest with a 1:36.405. Teammate Hamilton is eighth in the jumble at this point.

9 min: Felipe Massa in the Ferrari is down in 17th position as the racing line is now beginning to have some of the standing water removed from it. Massa isn't especially fast on this lap, and there is no improvement.

Massa still 17th.

10 min: The cars continue to lap, with Heikki Kovalainen setting an impressive pace at the top in 1:35.830.

10 min: Rubens Barrichello runs wide and through the gravel trap at the Ascari chicane. He continues and is currently in 15th position.

10 min: Lewis Hamilton springs up to second quickest with a 1:36.134 on his latest lap.

11 min: Jarno Trulli is out there on extreme wet tyres but he isn't able to slow down for the first chicane, taking to the grass.

The Italian aborts the lap and pits. He is 14th currently.

12 min: Times continue to tumble as Hamilton runs wide at Ascari, losing time on a lap that had been the fastest in the middle sector.

13 min: Timo Glock has fallen to 12th after leading early in the session. He pits for more extreme wet tyres and a slug of fuel.

13 min: Mark Webber, Rubens Barrichello, Kazuki Nakajima, Nelson Piquet and Giancarlo Fisichella are all in the bottom five positions with just under seven minutes remaining. These five drivers must improve or face elimination.

14 min: Most of the pack scramble to the pit lane for new tyres and additional fuel. The concrete apron in the pit lane is particularly slippery as they try to get away from the stops.

14 min: Kimi Raikkonen has dropped down the order to 17th position, but is on a much better lap on his latest attempt. Raikkonen clocks a 1:36.335 to move up to seventh.

14 min: Felipe Massa jumps up to second with an improved run of 1:35.799.

15 min: Nelson Piquet is 19th and struggling. His last lap was a 1:38.116 and there are just over four minutes to go in the first phase of qualifying.

15 min: It continues to rain at Monza on a thrilling qualifying session.

16 min: Heikki Kovalainen returns to the track with his impressive pace in the McLaren.

His 1:35.214 is the new target time in P1.

17 min: Mark Webber posts a 1:36.679 to move out of the dropzone, up to 11th.

17 min: All the cars are on track as the rain comes down even heavier.

17 min: Nelson Piquet has another go in the Renault as he strives to make it through to the next stage. He needs to make the top 15 to progress, and another lap sees a small improvement - to 17th.

18 min: All 20 cars are on the circuit and we anticipate a hectic final lap by all the drivers.

19 min: Heikki Kovalainen pits the McLaren and he feels secure at the top of the timesheet.

19 min: Rubens Barrichello does not move up the field on his latest lap. The Brazilian is 16th and facing elimination.

19 min: Nico Rosberg springs up to second with a 1:35.485 in the final minute.

20 min: The qualifying period has ended. Cars that have already started a lap may complete it.

20 min: Nelson Piquet is 19th now and on his penultimate lap. He crosses the line and moves up to 13th with a 1:36.630.

12:20 Lewis Hamilton improves to second with his final run of the session in 1:35.394.

12:20 Rubens Barrichello moves up from 18th to 13th on his last lap, but there are other drivers still to come.

12:21 Kimi Raikkonen is in 13th and in danger of being eliminated. He moves up from 14th to 11th and safety.

12:22 The following drivers were eliminated in the first period of qualifying:

16) Barrichello
17) Piquet
18) Nakajima
19) Button
20) Sutil.

12:23 There were impressive performances from Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg, Sebastien Bourdais and Timo Glock to secure top ten places in that session.

12:24 After that stunning 20 minutes of action, the upcoming Q2 session promises another close scramble to avoid elimination.

12:24 Giancarlo Fisichella made it through in 13th position, to put Force India through to the next stage of qualifying. His teammate Adrian Sutil was eliminated, qualifying in 20th place.

12:25 Fernando Alonso tells the Renault team to keep an eye out for drivers going to the intermediate tyre, which may be quicker, as long as the drivers can keep it on the road.

12:26 In the Renault garage, an extremely disappointed Nelson Piquet takes one look at the timing monitor and walks away in disgust. The Brazilian has qualified 17th for tomorrow's race.

12:26 The rain is still falling at Monza as we approach the beginning of the second phase of the session.

0 min: The second period of qualifying is underway.

0 min: The rain is falling much heavier again as the cars stream out onto the circuit.

1 min: Extreme wet tyres are still the choice of the pack as they scramble to bank a time once again.

2 min: All fifteen drivers have now joined the racetrack. Those at the front of the queue are about to start their timed laps.

2 min: Once again the drivers need to get a fast time on the board right away, just in case the rain intensifies, decreasing grip levels even further.

4 min: Lewis Hamilton came back into the pitlane after one lap, without setting a time. He is now back out on the track again.

5 min: Heikki Kovalainen jumps to the top of the order with a 1:35.843.

Lewis Hamilton has spent some time in the pits, after aborting a tour on intermediates, and he is now out again on extreme wets.

This may be costly for the championship leader as heavy rain falls.

5 min: Hamilton initially went out on intermediate tyres but the conditions were clearly too wet. He pitted for extreme wet tyres and is on his out lap.

6 min: It is a huge moment for Kimi Raikkonen as he gets a massive slide on out of Ascari. He survives and continues.

7 min: Sebastian Vettel is the man on the top of the pile at the moment with a 1:35.837 in the Toro Rosso.

8 min: Lewis Hamilton is on his first attempt now in the second qualifying period. The Briton will be the last to set a time. He is horrendously slow through the first two sectors of the lap as the rain continues.

Lewis completes that first timed effort and is 15th of 15, with seven minutes to go.

8 min: The rain continues and the track conditions are going downhill fast.

Massa, Raikkonen and Hamilton are all in the drop zone at the moment and struggling to improve.

9 min: Lewis Hamilton goes on for another lap. He improves to a 1:39.398 but he is still in 15th position and now definitely facing elimination, with just over five minutes remaining.

9 min: Rain continues to fall heavily on an incredibly dramatic session.

10 min: The order is Vettel, Kovalainen, Rosberg, Trulli, Bourdais, Webber, Alonso, Glock, Heidfeld and Massa are the top ten with the drivers struggling to set improved times.

11 min: An amazing qualifying session continues with Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton firmly in the dropzone.

Hamilton spins off the track at the Ascari chicane. He blows that lap as well and his time is running out.

12 min: Kubica, Fisichella, Coulthard, Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton are all in the dropzone with less than three minutes remaining.

12 min: The cars are heading out for the final few minutes.

Rain continues to fall, which is not what the big guns stuck outside the top ten want to see.

13 min: Lewis Hamilton completes a clean lap with no mistakes and is still rooted to the 15th spot. 1:39.265 on his latest effort. He needs to find nearly three seconds to have any chance of progressing through to the top ten shootout.

14 min: The drivers are all struggling to improve in terrible conditions at Monza.

Felipe Massa still holds a crucial advantage over his championship rivals by being inside the top ten, just.

15 min: Hamilton's last lap is a 1:41.2 and with the rain hammering down continuously the Briton has just one lap to make it count.

15 min: The qualifying period has ended. Cars that have already started a lap may complete it.

12:43 The flag is out and the field for Q3 looks set.

Robert Kubica, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton are sensational victims of the session.

12:43 Lewis Hamilton sets a 32.4 second first sector and he is guaranteed to be eliminated.

His second sector is also slow and it is all over for Lewis Hamilton. He will start the Italian Grand Prix from 15th place on the grid.

12:44 Eliminated drivers after the second phase of qualifying:

11) Kubica
12) Fisichella
13) Coulthard
14) Raikkonen
15) Hamilton.

12:44 It is an incredible break for Felipe Massa to make it though into the Q3 session, giving him a shot at pole and the likelyhood of a huge number of grid places in between him and the other championship contenders.

12:45 Sheer disbelief down at Ferrari and McLaren as the World Champion and the World Championship leader are both knocked out.

12:46 McLaren's move for Hamilton to venture out on intermediate tyres has proved a costly gamble, delaying his first run at a time just when the rain intensified.

12:48 The ten remaining drivers get ready for the Q3 session, which again promises to be an outstanding scramble for grid position.

The rain has eased but is still falling lightly.

12:49 Sebastian Vettel, Heikki Kovalainen, Nico Rosberg, Jarno Trulli, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Timo Glock, Nick Heidfeld, Sebastien Bourdais and Felipe Massa will contest the best places on the grid in a ten minute shootout.

12:49 Massa rolls out of the garage to queue at the lights with extreme wet tyres on the Ferrari.

0 min: The qualifying period has started.

1 min: With the rain easing, a potential gamble exists to move to intermediate tyres once the cars have moved some water on the extreme wets.

1 min: All ten drivers come out onto the racetrack for the first runs in the shootout.

2 min: The first timed laps are now in progress with race fuel on-board for the first stint of tomorrow's race.

3 min: The track remains very wet and the intermediate tyre looks too risky at the moment, given the amount of standing water.

4 min: The Q3 cars, as ever, are carrying their fuel for the first part of the race. Although consumption is lower in the wet, these cars are burning away their race fuel by continuing to lap.

4 min: Sebastien Bourdais goes to the top of the list with 1:38.910.

5 min: Heikki Kovalainen comes out on top of the first runs as the Finn demonstrates a strong performance in the McLaren.

1:38.694 puts Heikki on top of the pile so far.

5 min: Mark Webber goes third with a time of 1:39.433.

5 min: Massa springs up to fourth with his second lap in 1:39.505.

6 min: Kovalainen, Bourdais, Webber, Massa, Alonso is the top five with four minutes to go as the battle for pole hots up.

6 min: A glitch with the timing system is not helping the teams and the media see what is going on in the gloom at Monza.

6 min: Sebastian Vettel shoots to the top of the pile with a rapid 1:37.555.

7 min: Felipe Massa has slipped to seventh and could only manage a lap in the 1:41s as rain falls again.

8 min: Nico Rosberg goes third with 1:38.767, but Mark Webber beats that with 1:38.732.

9 min: The rain is now falling much heavier again as Sebastien Bourdais spins exiting the Ascari Chicane.

One minute to go and Vettel is set to claim pole position in Italy!

10 min: The flag is out with Vettel's Toro Rosso on course for an incredible pole!

10 min: The drivers are crossing the line and they are not improving in this heavy rain. The Toro Rosso team are beside themselves as they wait for the final laps to be completed.

13:00 Felipe Massa improves to sixth with a late lap of 1:38.894, a great effort in horrible conditions.

13:01 It is jubilation down at Toro Rosso and Sebastian Vettel claims an astounding pole position for tomorrow's Italian Grand Prix!

13:01 It is a 1:37.631 last lap for Kovalainen as he fails to stop Vettel taking the pole in Monza.

13:02 Mark Webber sets a brilliant lap to move into third on his very last lap of the session - 1:38.117. Heikki Kovalainen stays second in the McLaren.

13:02 With Kovalainen confirmed in second, Mark Webber is a sensational third for Red Bull from Bourdais in the other Toro Rosso and Rosberg in the Williams.

13:04 Felipe Massa will start sixth for Ferrari, with Trulli seventh, Alonso eighth, Glock ninth and Nick Heidfeld tenth.

Sebastian Vettel comes back to the pitlane and is going ballistic on the team radio in celebration of his maiden pole position in Formula One.

13:04 There are scenes of pure joy in parc ferme as Vettel steps out of his car to celebrate the first ever Toro Rosso pole.

13:05 An extraordinary grid is set for tomorrow's Italian Grand Prix after a remarkable rain-affected hour of qualifying.

13:07 The rain continues to fall at Monza as the paddock reflects on an amazing session.

"Everybody got a little caught out with the weather. The forecast was that it was going to, you know, we were looking at it staying dry for about four or five minutes (at the start of Q2). So, we took a chance and put the intermediates on for one lap but I mean it really rained.

All credit to Heikki. He did a good job. A lot of guys around them that did a good job. Obviously our competition isn't occupying the first three rows. I'm delighted for Gerhard, but Heikki's position is good. We've really got a strong race strategy so he is going to have a good race and Lewis has got a bit of work to do.

We have Kimi alongside us, we have obviously Massa only sixth on the grid. A lot of people would have put in quite a bit of downforce for today and it's going to really hurt them tomorrow. You've got to be very sensible about how far you go on rain settings."
Ron Dennis, McLaren, talking to German broadcaster Premiere

13:18 The report and classification for this incredible session is now available:

Vettel grabs record-breaking pole

"In the wet, always, everything is possible, but to be honest, especially on Sebastian Vettel's car we've set everything very well for the dry so that we have this performance in the wet was really surprising for me too.

I think the car showed in the last few races already that it is good in the dry and in the wet. It's a good car. Very simple, and I think the team are doing a great job, the drivers are doing a great job, and today we got everything nice together."
Gerhard Berger, Toro Rosso, interviewed by British broadcaster ITV

13:25 An abundance of rain over Monza on Saturday provided the main ingredient for a stunning qualifying session.

Despite heavy rain during the first portion, there were few surprises when the rear end of the field was decided. Nelson Piquet didn't make the cut, setting consistently slow laptimes. Jenson Button - a wet weather specialist - wasn't able to progress either. Joining them were Nakajima, Barrichello and Sutil.

If the first part of the session passed without surprises, then the second part more than made up for that, with major shocks during a frantic 15 minutes.

Lewis Hamilton drove out onto the track with intermediate tyres bolted onto his McLaren, a surprising move given the track conditions and the level of rain that was falling on the circuit. He came in at the end of the lap to switch to the extreme wet tyres, but with the track conditions deteriorating, his job of progressing was made that much more difficult. He struggled on, but was well short of the pace set by others in the same conditions. Lewis will start the race from 15th.

We also lost Kimi Raikkonen as the shocks continued. The Ferrari is proving to be an extremely difficult car to handle in the wet, and Raikkonen - no matter how hard he tried - simply couldn't find the time. Raikkonen starts 14th tomorrow.

With only one McLaren and one Ferrari making it through to the top ten, as the rain continued, a jumbled grid was guaranteed. All ten drivers came out onto the track and started to put in times in the tricky conditions.

Sebastian Vettel produced a wet weather masterclass to take an astounding pole position for the Italian Grand Prix. He was sitting on the top spot for the last five minutes of the session and was there to be shot at, but as the rain became heavier again, no one could beat the German's time. Heikki Kovalainen came the closest to Vettel's 1:37.555, but was just under a tenth of a second shy. Mark Webber claimed a brilliant third position in the final stages of the session - a very positive result for the Red Bull team, with Sebastien Bourdais lining up fourth, capping a marvelous day for Toro Rosso and Red Bull.

With the grid turned upside down, be sure to join us tomorrow when we see who can come through and win the 53-lap Italian Grand Prix. Our live text coverage and updates will begin from 08:00 GMT

  OVERVIEW QUALIFYING  
Session Length: 60 mintues
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  CURRENT WEATHER
Rain High Temp: 20°C / 68°F
Track: Wet
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Monday 08 Sep Start GMT
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Friday 12 Sep
 Friday Practice 07:30
Saturday 13 Sep
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Emlyn Hughes and Geoff Creighton are autosport.com's live commentary team. The dynamic duo have developed an inimitable style and a reputation for fast, accurate and insightful commentary. With unrivaled access to events unfolding at the circuit, they bring you the very latest, as it happens.

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