Championship leader Lewis Hamilton said he planned to study late into the night Saturday to find a way to beat Ferrari in Sunday’s keenly-anticipated Italian Grand Prix.

The defending world champion qualified third behind Kimi Raikkonen, who took pole with Formula One’s record fastest lap, and title rival Sebastian Vettel.

After acknowledging Ferrari’s marginally superior speed, he said: “The start will hopefully create an opportunity for us.

“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 great that Valtteri (Mercedes team-mate Bottas) is right behind me so we can really apply the pressure on the red cars.”

The Briton broke the record set by Juan-Pablo Montoya at Monza in 2004, in a BMW-powered Williams, but it was not enough to earn a front row spot as his run of four Italian poles ended.

“They did a solid job,” he said, during post-qualifying interviews on the track, when he was booed by sections of the partisan crowd.

“We gave it everything we could - it’s obviously incredibly close between us, but they’ve had the upper-hand this weekend. Everyone in the team is working as hard as they can to make the difference.

“It’s incredibly close, which is great for the sport and it’s great to see so many fans here.

“We’ve improved the car overnight and I’m really happy with where we were today. I’m proud of my guys for pushing this hard.

“We’ve squeezed absolutely everything out of the car, I kind of knew that the Ferraris might just be able to pull out some extra bit of time.

“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.”

Team-mate Bottas who battled to take fourth said: “It has been difficult. We tried some set-up changes for final practice and it was better in the corners, but on the breaking, I lost performance. It was easy to lock up.

“But this is only qualifying and the weekend is not over. We will give it everything tomorrow in the race. The first lap is going to be interesting – we might get a bit of tow-effect into Turn One.