Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton overcame a last-minute assault from Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel to place their Mercedes cars 1st and 2nd for tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix.
Rosberg’s 3rd pole position in a row confirms Mercedes as the de facto fastest team in Formula One right now, but the gap was not as large as might have been expected.
Vettel and Webber had to settle for 3rd and 4th, while Kimi Raikkonen managed to slip his Lotus ahead of Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard seemed to struggle in Q3 with a lack of front grip and could be seen scrubbing his front tyres across the circuit in a desperate bid for grip with less than 2 minutes of time remaining.
Sergio Perez qualified 7th ahead of Adrian Sutil, while Jean Eric Vergne finished the session 10th behind Jenson Button. The Briton had been among the fastest men on the circuit before mechanical woes hit his MP4/28, and any chance of qualifying higher was lost as he crawled forlornly back to the pits with a suspected engine problem.
Felipe Massa never made it onto the circuit; the damage he sustained in his FP3 crash was just too much for his mechanics to cope with and the perennially-unlucky Brazilian was left on the sidelines. Jules Bianchi might have joined the circuit but he got little further than the Ferrari man, retiring from the session at Massenet with a suspected airbox fire.
Esteban Gutierrez, Max Chilton and Charles Pic are Q1-victim regulars, but the unfortunate Paul Di Resta missed the cut for the first time since Belgium 2011. His Force India team admitted the session had ‘been a mess’.
Q2 was no less fraught – Giedo Van Der Garde was the first to gamble on dry tyres as the rain eased up and the Dutchman duly popped in a comfortable top 6 time. Others followed suit and the times tumbled, but Van Der Garde refused to lay down and submit and came back twice with even faster times, even climbing as high as P4 with just three minutes to go.
It wasn’t to be for Caterham as the faster cars made their laps count, but Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo and Romain Grosjean all missed out as their rivals managed to sneak in a final flying lap before the chequered flag fell. Despite being comfortably faster than team-mate Valtteri Bottas so far this weekend, Pastor Maldonado failed to make the cut in Q2 and ended up in 16th, two places behind the Finn.
“If there is any track where pole position matters, it is here.” said Rosberg afterwards.
“The conditions were really difficult out there today with the rain at the start but we handled it well. I have to say thank you to everybody at the team for all of their hard work in improving our car and our performance so much since last year.”
“I didn’t have a great first sector on my lap today but after that it really came together.” said team-mate Hamilton.
“I’ve got some work to do as I haven’t felt completely comfortable in the car this weekend but I’m confident that we can have a good race tomorrow and we’ll be aiming to get the best possible result for the team.”
“I was a bit annoyed with my flying lap in Q3; I think I may be pushed a bit too hard here and there.” mused 3rd-placed Sebastian Vettel.
“The start of the lap wasn’t bad, but also it wasn’t great; with hindsight I should have gone for two flying laps at the start of Q3 and not one, but I decided for that. I thought the tyres would be good enough for the first lap. I have been struggling all weekend, but in the end it was tight.”
“We had an issue with the car right at the end – I didn’t have any power, so I couldn’t post a quick lap.” said a down-trodden Jenson Button.
“It’s a pity because, apart from that problem, which we also saw a sign of at the end of Q2, it had been a great qualifying session for me. The team did a great job in terms of putting me out on the right tyres at the right time, while I felt I was driving well, making the most of the conditions. Tomorrow’s race will be difficult, starting from P9, but on this occasion there’s absolutely nothing I could have done about it.”
Similarly, Paul Di Resta had little to console himself with.
“The intermediate tyres were working fine for me, but we didn’t read the conditions well enough from the pit wall. I needed a set of fresh intermediates towards the end of the session, but by the time we realised it was too late and there was no time to pit. The only option was to stay out, but my tyres were finished and I didn’t have a chance to progress any further. It’s a painful position to be starting from tomorrow given the speed we had in the car today.”
Max Chilton had time to reflect on his first experience of qualifying in Monaco after he was knocked out in Q1.
“Naturally I was hoping for a better grid slot because it’s all about grid position in Monaco. I think I got the best out of the tyre too early and it just wasn’t there at the end when the track was a bit drier. It’s disappointing because it will be a long race tomorrow. The weather looks fine, so with a clean first lap I’ll be hoping to make the best of any opportunities which come our way.”
MONACO GP – QUALIFYING – CLASSIFICATION
|15||Van Der Garde||Caterham||+3.420|
|17||Di Resta||Force India||1:26:322|