Monza: Nico Rosberg blamed his enforced need for a hasty change of Mercedes engine for the loss of speed that resulted in him qualifying only fourth on Saturday for Sunday`s Italian Grand Prix.
His Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton claimed his 11th pole in 12 races by topping the session, with a new upgraded engine, followed by the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.
It was Rosberg`s most disappointing qualifying effort of the season and a relative loss of power, on a circuit where it is essential, appeared to be the clearest reason.
But Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda disagreed with his driver and claimed, instead, that handling problems were the reason for Rosberg`s failure to qualify on the front row.
"Nico was not down on power," said the three-time world champion Austrian. "He had handling problems - he had too much under-steer... He complained about it.
"He couldn`t get the car to handle properly for his way of driving and this made a huge difference. The surprise for me, and everybody, was the Ferrari performance.
"They really came up to a good top speed and the engine improvement has been shown now, surprisingly enough. It`s impressive what they`ve done with their engine here."
Rosberg was forced to change from the upgraded new engine introduced by Mercedes for this race after his unit developed a problem on Saturday morning.
He insisted that was his problem, not the handling issues.
"We had to go back to an engine that`s done six races," said Rosberg. "And every kilometer you lose a bit of power, especially in Monza, which is the absolute power track for engine.
"It`s very disappointing that it happened exactly here, for me.
"That`s a really big compromise then and that`s the reason why I`m fourth today, which makes the race tough, because I`m also a bit slower than I could be in the race as well.
"It`s not ideal and it`s going to be difficult."