While Sebastian Vettel boosted his hopes of extending his 46-point lead in the drivers' championship with pole position for Sunday's Italian Grand Prix, it was another German who provided the talking point of the day.
Hulkenberg and Sauber have toiled in 2013 thus far, scoring only 11 points in the first seven races, and the German, who has been linked with drives at Ferrari and Lotus, said: "I can only influence the future by performing very well and today's result is not the worst.
"For me it is important to focus on my competitiveness, on my performance and that will make the rest easier. Probably the timing is not the worst at this moment."
Hulkenberg, whose previous best qualifying effort of the season was ninth, was beaten by the two Red Bull Racing cars, and he added: "It is a nice surprise for ourselves, especially after a difficult Friday, with the car changed with some bits and bobs.
"The guys did a great job to give me a competitive car today and I had a good lap which made this surprise happen."
His Sauber team chief Monisha Kaltenborn said: "We couldn't believe it ourselves. This is fantastic. Nico said it himself, it was the perfect lap. I think he did a great job."
At the front Vettel was happy with the 40th pole of his career, ahead of his Red Bull Racing teammate Mark Webber at a venue which he said was close to his heart as it was where he won his first race with Toro Rosso in 2008.
"This is a special track for me and it is always nice to come back here. My memories of 2008 are great," he said.
"I had another win in 2011, but your first win is always special. This weekend, the car was fantastic.
"We had a really strong pace on Saturday and we were able to take that into qualifying today."
Despite being the dominant force in F1 for the past four years, Red Bull's record at Monza is not great, with just Vettel's 2011 success to their name.
The triple world champion added: "It's a bit of a surprise to have both cars on the front row at a place, historically where we've had bad years."
Hamilton highly critical ... of himself
Lewis Hamilton admonished himself after enduring his worst qualifying display for 67 races in Italy as he was only 12th quickest. The Mercedes-GP driver, who has taken five pole positions this season, said: "I drove like an idiot. That's the worst I've driven for a long, long time."
Raikkonen's title chance looks finished
Kimi Raikkonen's slim title hopes took a further blow after he qualified only 11th. The Finn, who is 63 points adrift of Vettel, said: "I was expecting to have a difficult weekend because it was last year. We were close to getting into Q3 but I think the end result would've been very similar."
Ricciardo gambles on straightline speed
Daniel Ricciardo is confident a decision to go for high straightline speed on his Toro Rosso car will pay off in Sundayday's race. The Australian, who will drive for Red Bull Racing next season, lines up seventh on Sunday on the grid and he said: "[Sunday] it should help us for defending or attacking."
Penalty for Sutil
The German, who had qualified 14th, will now start 17th on Sundayís grid.
Italian GP qualifying results
1 Vettel, Red Bull 1m23.755secs
2 Webber, Red Bull 1.23.968
3 Hulkenberg, Sauber 1.24.065
4 Massa, Ferrari 1.24.132
5 Alonso, Ferrari 1.24.142
6 Rosberg, Mercedes 1.24.192
7 Ricciardo, Toro Rosso 1.24.209
8 Perez, McLaren 1.24.502
9 Button, McLaren 1.24.515
10 Vergne, Toro Rosso 1.28.050
Top 10 must start the race on the tyres with which they completed qualifying
11 Raikkonen, Lotus 1.24.610
12 Hamilton, Mercedes 1.24.803
13 Grosjean, Lotus 1.24.848
14 Maldonado, Williams 1.25.011
15 Di Resta, Force India 1.25.077
16 Gutierrez, Sauber 1.25.226
*17 Sutil, Force India 1.24.932
18 Bottas, Williams 1.25.291
19 V der Garde, Caterham 1.26.406
20 Pic, Caterham 1.26.563
21 Bianchi, Marussia 1.27.085
22 Chilton, Marussia 1.27.480
*Sutil given a three-place grid penalty for impeding another car
Sebastian Vettel, Germany 197 pts
Fernando Alonso, Spain 151
Lewis Hamilton, Great Britain 139
Kimi Raikkonen, Finland 134
Mark Webber, Australia 115
Nico Rosberg, Germany 96
Felipe Massa, Brazil 67
Romain Grosjean, France 53
Jenson Button, Great Britain 47
Paul di Resta, Great Britain 36
Adrian Sutil, Germany 25
Sergio Perez, Mexico 18
Jean-Eric Vergne, France 13
Daniel Ricciardo, Australia 12
Nico Hulkenberg, Germany 7
Pastor Maldonado, Venezuela 1
Valtteri Bottas, Finland 0
Esteban Gutierrez, Mexico 0
Jules Bianchi, France 0
Charles Pic, France 0
Giedo van der Garde, Netherlands 0
Max Chilton, Great Britain 0
Red Bull Racing-Renault 312 pts
Force India-Mercedes 61
Toro Rosso-Ferrari 25
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