Nico Hulkenberg admitted that he didn't expect to qualify third for the Italian GP

Sauber lines up ahead of both Ferraris at Monza

By Mike Wise at Monza.   Last Updated: 08/09/13 6:41am

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Nico Hulkenberg admitted that qualifying third on the grid for Sunday's Italian Grand Prix came as much of a surprise to him as it did everyone else.

The Sauber driver, whose previous best qualifying performance this season was ninth in Canada, will line up behind the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber at Monza.

Hulkenberg's Ferrari-powered C32 chassis also starts directly in front of both of the scarlet cars, with Felipe Massa fourth on the grid ahead of Fernando Alonso.

"I don't know either. It was really a nice surprise for myself," said Hulkenberg, who finished Friday's practice sessions only 16th fastest overall. "I didn't expect it, particularly after a very difficult Friday.

"Yesterday we struggled - we were trying some different bits and bobs and the team did a fantastic job to turn it around and give me such a competitive car today.

"The car felt better and better and I think with the track improvement and with the right decision just to go with one timed lap, it was the right call."

In what is proving a difficult season for Sauber, Hulkenberg is naturally hopeful of adding to his current tally of seven points - although he admitted that following up Sergio Perez's result for the team in last year's race was a long-shot.

Twelve months ago, Perez ran an alternative strategy to the fastest qualifiers and came through the field from 12th to finish second behind Lewis Hamilton.

"Last year was a different year: the Sauber was often very competitive in races. This year we've been struggling more," Hulkenberg said.

"It's a more difficult year, let's put it this way. I hope the long run pace is good from what I saw yesterday, it seemed all right.

"I don't think we can challenge these guys but definitely points are now obviously the target."

With showers forecast for Sunday afternoon, Hulkenberg added that he did not necessarily want rain to fall.

"I think I'd like it to stay dry to be honest. I think that would be the easier option but we'll take it as it comes," he said.

"We haven't run in wet weather conditions, so it will be new to everyone and more challenging."

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