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Nico Rosberg has set the fastest time heading into qualifying at Monaco. In ideal conditions for Saturday morning practice, the Mercedes led Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel as both Paul di Resta and Pastor Maldonado crashed in the closing stages. The Williams impact at Casino Square halted the session three minutes early.
This year’s Monaco battle is set to be as intense as the 2011 edition, with a number of different constructors vying for the top spot. Although the weather was good this morning, rain is still a possibility for qualifying and could spice things up even more. Following the showers of Thursday, drivers targeted high running in this hour-long period.
Already tipped as a contender by many on the run-up to the weekend, Romain Grosjean continually delivered fastest sector times and is certainly well-placed for Lotus, although team-mate Kimi Räikkönen is suffering from less rear end grip after missing almost the entire opening practice two days ago. They finished fifth and 12th, but are expected to be significantly higher up later on today.
Ferrari are also strong contenders as they strive for their first Monaco Grand Prix win since 2001. With Fernando Alonso fourth quickest, team-mate Massa enjoyed his strongest session of the year so far and was seen to deliver a particularly impressive line through the Swimming Pool Complex; he ended the session second, within a tenth of Rosberg’s leading lap time of 1:15.159 once the Super Soft tyres were rolled out.
Due to the trouble in the final minutes, Lewis Hamilton and both Red Bull drivers were deprived of a proper clean lap. Also yet to show their full hand are Williams, as Maldonado and Bruno Senna were almost certainly carrying high fuel loads for this final practice.
Just moments after Sergio Pérez narrowly avoided the back of Nico Hülkenberg at final corner Anthony Noghes, the other Force India of Paul di Resta crashed at the Nouvelle Chicane; out of shape in the braking zone, the Scot’s car speared left and hit the end of the Armco nose first. Thankfully, a photographer standing nearby escaped injury and di Resta was able to creep back to the pit lane with a damaged car.
Shortly after, Maldonado turned across the bow of Pérez at the Portier, possibly damaging his Williams’ right-rear wheel. On his following lap, the Venezuelan clipped the inside barrier at Casino Square, braking his front wing and bouncing across into the outside Armco which took off his left-rear wheel. Much damage now needs to be repaired ahead of the all-important qualifying session.
Just four thousandths of a second quicker, Narain Karthikeyan moved ahead of HRT team-mate Pedro de la Rosa for 23rd place and the field is separated by just under four seconds.
Monaco Grand Prix qualifying begins at 2pm local time (BST +1) and can also be followed through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report
Mercedes Grand Prix
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|3.||S. Vettel||Red Bull||01:15.209||20|
|10.||M. Webber||Red Bull||01:16.219||19|
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