Sainz had suggested throughout practice he would be the man to beat, and so it proved over one lap as the Spanish driver scored only the fourth pole of his career, and his first for 11 months to send the Tifosi wild.
Verstappen finished 0.013secs adrift, yet managed to deny the Scuderia a front-row lock-out on home soil, with the Dutchman splitting Sainz and team-mate Charles Leclerc, who was a further 0.054s behind in a tightly contested qualifying session.
Ferrari's sharp about-turn in form, compared to their dismal performance a week previously over the Dutch Grand Prix weekend, came out of the blue, although Verstappen felt the SF-23 would deliver at the low downforce ‘Temple of Speed'.
“Not really surprised, they were also quick last year,” said Verstappen, referring to the one-three in qualifying of a year ago from the Scuderia, with Leclerc on pole on that occasion and the two-time F1 champion again dividing the duo.
“Also, when you look at their rear wing, it seems like it's quite well optimised for Monza, whereas I think our wing, especially for one lap, is maybe not the best optimization.
“But for the race, normally it should be better. So yeah, nothing shocking to be honest.”
After a raft of penalties across the grid last year, Verstappen started from seventh, yet still managed to beat Leclerc.
Sainz has already indicated that Ferrari's race pace is not a match for Red Bull, leading to the likelihood that barring an accident or retirement, Verstappen will set an outright record for consecutive victories by making it 10 in a row.
Team-mate Sergio Perez, who lines up fifth after finishing four-tenths of a second behind the leading trio, remarked that he was “definitely” surprised to see the finishing positions of Sainz and Leclerc.
“Especially given where they were last weekend,” said Perez. “But we've seen it before, that it's so track-to-track dependent that anything can really happen.
“Let's see what their pace is (in the race) but it's also looking quite strong.”
Verstappen conceded that the flow of his weekend had not been as smooth as previously yet overall he had no issue with finishing second best.
“Every run, you could see that we were very closely matched,” said Verstappen.
“This weekend, especially from my side, Friday was a little bit more tricky, but I think we can't really complain.
“So many weekends in a row where we have put the car on the track and it has been easy going, really well set up.
“Here, it seemed like it was just a little more difficult to find the right trade-off of downforce for us, but I was very happy (with Saturday practice). I thought the car was working well over one lap, and on the long run as well.
“So I'm happy with second, to be honest. Here in Monza, it's always very tight. Sometimes you might jump ahead, sometimes you're just behind but I'm confident (for the race)”