Monaco GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
Silver Beats Red
Silver beat red in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix.
Red Bull drivers Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel held the top spots in the waning moments, but Mercedes teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton blazed through to claim the front row for the Silver Arrows.
With rain leaving the track slick as the first session started, qualifying turned into a quickly changing tableau as the track dried and the lap times fell almost by the second.
"We were lucky out there today," Rosberg said. "It was really difficult; you had to have the right tyre at the right time. The last lap was OK and it's great to be on pole again, especially in Monaco as this is the best lap to get it."
Hamilton had mixed emotions.
"I've been struggling all weekend and that's why I look unhappy," he said. "I was struggling with the car for the first time in my career in Monaco. So I'm really happy to be here and lock up the front row for the team. This was a massive improvement for me in qualifying so it's a good feeling."
Vettel said third was the best he could hope for.
"It was very close but Mercedes were very quick all weekend," he said. "I think there was a bit more than one tenth missing, I thought I had it on the last lap, the car was good so maybe I'm to blame. I'm not entirely happy but I'm happy there's no Lotus or Ferrari ahead of me. These guys will have to stop as much as us, at least, so it will be interesting race."
The mechanics at Lotus, Ferrari and Force India worked furiously during the lunch break to repair the cars that Romain Grosjean, Felipe Massa and Adrian Sutil had crashed during FP3.
The ambient air temperature at the start of the session was 62.6 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Celsius), and the track temperature was 73.4 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius.)
A light rain fell during the lunch break, and the track was slick and greasy. The rain had stopped, but Pirelli's intermediate wet tire, with the green sidewall, was still the tire of choice for the start of the 20 minute session that would eliminate six of the 22 drivers. Caterham teammates Charles Pic and Guido van der Garde were the first out of pitlane.
Jules Bianchi only made it as far as the Massenet corner before pulling over with a mechanical problem on his smoking Marussia.
Three minutes into the session, Massa and Grosjean were the only drivers not on the track as Pic and van der Garde set the fastest times. But a minute later Mark Webber laid down a 1:36.529 in his Red Bull.
The racing line was drying with each passing car, and so the times were going to tumble.
Paul di Resta clocked a 1:35.705 in his Force India. Fernando Alonso beat that with a 1:34.947 in his Ferrari. Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) topped that with a 1:33.863, and then Lewis Hamilton did a 1:32.920 in his Mercedes. Next Sebastian Vettel did a 1:31.431 in his Red Bull. Pastor Maldonado cleared that with a 1:30.126 in his Williams.
And so it went, each lap being faster as the track dried with a range of drivers momentarily topping the times. Webber did a 1:27.288. Maldonado got up next with a 1:26.761 but that didn't last as Vettel and Alonso went quicker.
With 6 minutes left the session, Rosberg turned a 1:24.826 in his Mercedes. His teammate Hamilton beat that with a 1:23.779.
With 3 minutes left the session, Grosjean made it out on to the track and set the fastest time at 1:23.738. Maldonado beat that with a 1:23.452.
The top six at the end of the wild Q1 were: Maldonado, Vergne, Alonso, Grosjean, Button and Hamilton.
Massa never got out of the pits.
The six drivers eliminated at the end of Q1 were: di Resta, Pic, Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber), Max Chilton (Marussia), Bianchi and Massa.
Jean-Eric Vergne was the first out in the 15-minute Q2 session. Although the track was even drier now, the drivers were still using the intermediate rain tire.
Rosberg set the first time with a 1:34.439 but that lasted seconds before Webber turned a 1:32.132. But Button dropped into the 1:30s only to be beaten by his McLaren teammate Sergio Perez who clocked 1:29.537 before Rosberg beat that with a 1:27.790.
As in Q1, the track was getting drier and faster every lap. Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber) and then Grosjean topped the times followed by a string of other drivers as the times dropped into the 1:22s with Rosberg on top with a 1:22.119.
With 4 minutes left the session, the drivers started to switch over to the Pirelli super-soft dry slick tires.
Webber set a 1:19.254. Grosjean did a 1:18.603. Webber responded with a 1:17.322. Alonso, who had been out of the top 10, got in with 11 seconds to go.
With the track drying, whoever was out at the last possible moment got the advantage over the drivers who had started their last run a few moments earlier.
Vettel slammed in a 1:15.988 in the final seconds. Raikkonen ended up second ahead of Rosberg, Hamilton, Alonso and Sutil.
The six drivers eliminated at the end of Q2 were: Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber), Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso), Romain Grosjean, Valtteri Bottas (Williams), Guido van der Garde and Pastor Maldonado (Williams).
And so the stage was set for the crucial final qualifying session that would determine the starting order as well as a good chunk of the finishing order for the Monaco Grand Prix.
Raikkonen led the charge out of the pits. And he got the times rolling with a 1:20.269, but Hamilton got serious with a 1:15.790 which Webber beat with a 1:15.134. Raikkonen's second flying lap was a 1:15.224.
Rosberg got on top with a 1:14.919 but Vettel beat that with a 1:14.333 while Webber went second with a 1:14.726. That left Rosberg and Hamilton third and fourth with four minutes to go. Most of the drivers were now back in the pits preparing for one final fast lap dash.
The final minute saw plenty of action as Webber set the fastest time, only to be beaten by Hamilton who was beaten by Rosberg. Webber dropped to third, and that became fourth as Vettel snatched third at the very last possible moment.
Raikkonen, Alonso, Perez, Sutil, Button and Vergne rounded out the top 10.