Lewis Hamilton had to brace himself amid a hostile reception from the passionately partisan Italian crowd at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza following Saturday’s qualifying session.

The cheers that had greeted Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel quickly turned to thunderous boos and jeers once it was Hamilton’s turn to speak.

But Hamilton remained unflappable as he saluted his rivals’ achievement clinching a front row lockout on Saturday.

“That was an exciting qualifying session!” he said afterwards. “Congratulations to Ferrari, they did a solid job today.

“We’ve squeezed absolutely everything out of the car today,” he insisted. “We’ve improved the car overnight and I’m really happy with where we were today.

“Everyone in the team is working as hard as they can to make the difference.

“It’s obviously incredibly close between us. But they’ve had the upper-hand all weekend, but we still gave it everything we can.

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“I kind of knew that the Ferraris might just be able to pull out some extra bit of time, but I think second place might have been possible today.

“I lost maybe half a tenth in the last corner and that’s the difference between third and second,” he admitted. “We gave it everything we could today and will give more tomorrow.

“We’ve got to fight hard tomorrow. The long run pace of the Ferraris looked quicker than ours, so it’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure.

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“The start will hopefully create an opportunity for us,” he suggested. “It’s great that Valtteri [Bottas] is right behind me, so we can really apply the pressure on the red cars.

“I’ve got to study hard tonight to figure out a way how I can get in front of at least one of the Ferraris on the first lap.

“It’s incredibly close as I said, as you can see, which is great for the sport and great to see so many fans here,” he added among the boos. “Obviously they’re all Ferrari fans, but it’s still great!”

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