Mercedes domination on Saturdays continued in Monaco with Nico Rosberg taking his third straight pole position – and fourth straight for the German marque – to put himself in strong contention for the win come Sunday. Team-mate Lewis Hamilton starts on the front row next to him, further proving that the Silver Arrows are the team to beat in qualifying trim.
World Champion Sebastian Vettel took the challenge to them but could only manage 3rd place, ahead of the other Red Bull of Mark Webber. Kim Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso – both in the title hunt with Vettel – are on row three, with Sergio Perez outqualifying Jenson Button yet again to take 7th, with the Brit 9th after losing power at the end of Q1.
The top ten was rounded off by Adrian Sutil (8th) and Jean-Eric Vergne (10th)
Here’s how the damp, but exciting, Qualifying all unfolded;
With the brief rain shower heavy on everyone’s minds, cars lined up to take to the track. Both Caterhams, Toro Rossos and Marissias led the way, but Jules Bianchi lasted two corners before pulling over with an airbox fire. The Frenchman will start last.
Banker laps became the must-have thing for each and every driver as they tipped-toed round on intermiediate tyres. Several unusual names topped the times as the minutes ticked down, such as Paul Di Resta and eventually Pastor Maldonado.
Romain Grosjean managed to get his Lotus into Q2 after his team got him back on track with 5 minutes to spare, with a fast time to boot – top effort!
The big losers were Di Resta and Felipe Massa, whose Ferrari wasn’t repaired in time to get him out on track after a big shunt in FP3, but one driver who will be grinning from ear to is Giedo Van Der Garde. The Caterham man managed to ride out the chaos to put himself into Q2 for the very first time in his career.
17. Paul Di Resta – 1:26.232
18. Charles Pic – 1:26.633
19. Esteban Gutierrez – 1:26.917
20. Max Chilton – 1:27.303
21. Jules Bianchi – no time
22. Felipe Massa – no time
Another brief shower brought more hazard to the slippery Monte Carlo streets. Cars were out straight away to get some quick times in in case it got any worse. 11 cars were on track immediately – causing plenty of traffic.
Nico Rosberg – as he had all weekend – set the pace, putting in a time nearly 2 seconds faster than everyone else, only to be topped by Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg. Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez and then Romain Grosjean all topped that time in quick succession!
With 5 minutes to go in the session, Van Der Garde switched to slick tyres and was closely followed by the rest of the field. Giedo sat as high as 3rd place with this gamble, but tumbled back down to 15th overall. Another notable drive came from Jean-Eric Vergne, who managed to get in Q1 for the first time in his F1 career.
Both the Williams carried on their poor 2013 form by dropping out, joined by Nico Hulkenberg – who usually excels in the damp – and Romain Grosjean, whose luck couldn’t quite carry him into Q1.
11. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:18.311
12. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:18.344
13. Romain Grosjean – 1:18.603
14. Valterri Bottas – 1:19.077
15. Giedo Van Der Garde – 1:19.488
16. Pastor Maldonado – 1:21.688
For once the final part of qualifying was action-packed, instead of having drivers sat in their garages. The first round of fast laps put the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber out on top by half a second, from the Mercedes pair.
The tension started to build as the clocked counted down, and with the threat of another shower on the cards it seemed pole position would go to the man who would be the bravest. It wouldn’t be Fernando Alonso, who struggled to get temperature into his Ferrari’s front tyres and could only manage 6th place.
McLaren’s joy of getting both cars into Q3 was slightly tempered by Jenson Button reporting a power failure right in the final few minutes and he couldn’t improve on 9th. Sergio Perez has a reputation for being fast here, so 7th is a good starting position to build upon. Adrian Sutil splits the Woking team in 8th place, while Jean-Eric Vergne could only manage 10th in his first Q3.
Despite the improved pace of the Red Bull, it was Mercedes that eventually, almost inevitably, put in some incredible times to take the front row yet again. That’s now four poles in a row for the Silver Arrows, but no race wins to show for it – can they break that streak tomorrow?
1. Nico Rosberg – 1:13.876
2. Lewis Hamilton – 1:13.967
3. Sebastian Vettel – 1:13.980
4. Mark Webber – 1.14.181
5. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:14.822
6. Fernando Alonso – 1:14.824
7. Sergio Perez – 1:15.138
8. Adrian Sutil – 1:15.383
9. Jenson Button – 1:15.647
10. Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:15.703