Monza: Cheers from the ecstatic stands and assembled glitterati drowned out the usual roar of engines after Fernando Alonso clinched pole position on Saturday for Ferrari`s home Italian Grand Prix.
The Spaniard`s feat, in his first competitive outing in the famous red in their own country, was Ferrari`s first Formula One pole since in 31 races since the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Fans would have been forgiven for thinking they had won the championship given the backslapping which followed on the pitlane wall and the way Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo continually punched the air with utter delight.
Alonso, fifth in the standings but still very much in the title hunt, was not getting carried away for Sunday`s race given speedy Monza`s specifics and the fact only four of the 13 races so far this season have been won by drivers on pole.
"We know Monza, how demanding it is on the mechanical side of the car, it`s not an easy race to finish," the 2005 and 2006 world champion told a news conference having jabbed a finger at his helmet to show who was boss when jumping out of the car.
Montezemolo and John Elkann, the heir to the Fiat empire which controls Ferrari, wore the trademark red headsets as they hovered behind team principal Stefano Domenicali in the pitlane.
If having the big bosses there was not enough pressure, film actor Hugh Grant and larger-than-life former Renault F1 chief Flavio Briatore were also in attendance a day after England soccer boss Fabio Capello dropped by the Ferrari garage.
Alonso managed to deliver inspite of all the hype, with team mate Felipe Massa also grabbing third spot on the grid.
"It`s been a little surprising to be honest, a fantastic welcome here by the fans and a great support for the team and myself," added Alonso.
"It was a very nice feeling. This is a perfect place to be on pole position here in Monza."
His pole also followed the furore over Ferrari escaping any sporting sanctions for a team orders controversy when Alonso won the German Grand Prix in July after passing Massa.
Officials are reviewing the rules banning team orders.
"I`m happy the federation has taken note of the hypocrisy," Montezemolo told the usual scrum of reporters.
Bright sunshine at the famous track north of Milan and Alonso still being in contention with six races left also brought Ferrari fans flocking to qualifying, although a giant prancing horse flag covered many empty seats in the grandstand.
Monza officials have been promoting their track amid talks between F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and a delegation planning a grand prix through Rome`s streets in the coming years.
Some 5,000 more supporters than last year came to Friday`s practice despite troublesome roadworks, with an improving global economic picture also helping.
"Fernando, we believe," read one Monza banner, a thought the entire Italian nation will cling to on Sunday in the hope of real Ferrari success in a demanding race.