Lewis Hamilton says Ferrari are now a bigger threat at Italian GP

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Hamilton dominates to take Monza pole
Italian Grand Prix on the BBC
Venue: Monza Dates: 4-6 September
Coverage: Highlights on BBC TV, coverage on BBC Radio 5 live, online, mobile, the BBC Sport app and Connected TV. Full details here

Lewis Hamilton said he was expecting a close fight with the Ferraris during Sunday's Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

The Briton took his 11th pole in 12 races but Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel demoted Hamilton's team-mate Nico Rosberg to fourth.

Hamilton said: "They've definitely made a step with the engine for qualifying.

"It's great to see them giving us a bigger run for our money. I'm expecting [a close challenge in the race] but the engineers I don't believe are."

Ferrari flag
Ferrari's fans, the Tifosi, show their support during qualifying at Monza

Hamilton heads into the race 28 points ahead of Rosberg in the drivers' championship and aiming for his seventh win in 12 races this season.

He said he was not concerned about an engine problem for Rosberg that forced Mercedes to remove the upgraded unit both drivers were planning to use all weekend from the German's car for qualifying and the race.

Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff said on Saturday evening that the team had not yet identified what the issue was.

Wolff admitted that if they found a "major issue" there was a possibility they would have to "consider whether to play it safe" and change Hamilton's engine for the race, which would mean him starting from the back of the grid.

Hamilton took pole by 0.234secs from Raikkonen and Wolff admitted he was "a bit surprised" to see such a small margin.

Nico Rosberg in action during the qualifying session of the Italian Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg will start the race in fourth on the grid behind Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel

Ferrari have also introduced an upgraded engine for this race.

Hamilton said: "I didn't do the perfect lap; if I had the gap would have been a little bit more."

Rosberg blamed his relatively poor performance on having to revert back to the engine he had used in the last race in Belgium.

It had already done six races, he said, which meant it was down on power compared to Hamilton's.

But he said he was confident of being able to challenge the Ferraris in the race: "The Ferraris, yes," he said. "Lewis is more difficult."

A historic race under threat

The race is due to take place in perfect early-autumn weather in the historic Monza autodrome 12 miles north-east of Milan.

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Watch Hamilton's Monza pole lap

The future of the event, the oldest on the F1 calendar, is under threat as the track has not yet agreed a new deal to continue the Italian Grand Prix beyond the end of 2016.

Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is demanding a higher race fee and so far the organisers have not been able to raise the money.

No progress was made at a meeting between Ecclestone and the regional government of Lombardy on Saturday. He is due to meet the Italian prime minister to discuss the issue on Sunday ahead of the race.

What's so wonderful about Monza?

Like nowhere else, Monza has a claim to be the spiritual home of F1.

It is not the best circuit, and it is not where grand prix racing started. But Italy is the oldest surviving race on the calendar - and Monza the oldest track still in use.

The first Italian Grand Prix there was held in 1922 and through the near-century since Monza has seen it all, from the closest finish on record to the deaths of some of the sport's greatest drivers.

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Magic Monza: Italian GP preview

That history hangs heavy in the protected trees of the royal park that houses the Autodromo.

They say you can feel the ghosts of yesteryear's heroes there. That might be stretching it a bit. But as the first morning mists of the Piedmont autumn hang in the air, the foothills of the Alps visible in the distance, there is something undeniably special about the place.

Monza fills you with awe like nowhere else on the motorsport calendar.

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