Schumacher fastest but Webber on pole in Monaco
26 May 2012 – Michael Schumacher grabbed the top spot a dramatic qualifying session for the Monaco Grand Prix. However, as the German carries a five-place grid penalty from Spain, Mark Webber will start on his first pole position of 2012. Nico Rosberg will join him on the front row, with Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean next up.
Although rain was forecast to affect today’s session, the sunshine remained and a dry track was at the disposal of the 24 drivers. As is always the case in Monte Carlo, the track was particularly crowded in Q1 and a number of cars – including that of Kimi Räikkönen – were unintentionally held up by others. On a last-gasp effort, the Finn and Sebastian Vettel each used up a set of Super Soft tyres to pass into the second phase. It is possible that HRT’s Pedro de la Rosa could receive a penalty for blocking the Marussia of Timo Glock at the Rascasse.
The biggest casualty and surprise of Q1 was Sergio Pérez, who suffered a left-front wheel problem and crashed in the Swimming Pool Complex. It remains to be seen whether the breakage was caused by touching a barrier or from the collision with Pastor Maldonado near the end of this morning’s practice session, for which the Venezuelan was given a ten-place grid penalty. As a result of the qualifying crash, Pérez starts from the back of the grid on the track at which he was left unconscious after a very heavy accident last year.
Toro Rosso were firm Q2 eliminates, as were Force India plus Kamui Kobayashi and Bruno Senna. A second consecutive knockout for Jenson Button was certainly not anticipated but, as the McLaren driver struggled for grip, he could manage no more than 13th position; he will jump up by one spot when Maldonado takes his penalty, but still needs to come from the sixth row in tight and twisty Monaco.
Räikkönen had just snuck into Q3 before Button’s removal, but could manage no more than eighth at the death. Felipe Massa had raised many an eyebrow by setting the fastest time in Q2, but seventh was the best he could manage in the final stages; behind, Maldonado plummets to 19th because of his punishment and Vettel elected not to set a lap time in Q3. The World Champion did begin an attempt, but then returned to the pits and will therefore begin his 78-lap journey of Sunday from ninth place.
The three favourites for the day had been Rosberg, Hamilton and Grosjean; to nobody’s great surprise, they were locked together in qualifying, but only in the final three positions of the top five and just ahead of Fernando Alonso.
Amazingly, Mark Webber was the man at the front courtesy of his best lap time of 1:14.381, bringing back memories of his front row start for Williams in 2005 and previous pole for Red Bull two years ago. Despite the Australian’s stunning performance, it was Schumacher who was eight hundredths of a second quicker and clearly emotional to achieve what would have been a first pole since returning to F1 with Mercedes.
The seven-time Champion last won in Monte Carlo in 2001, which is also Ferrari’s latest Monaco victory in the record books. He starts from sixth on Sunday, with team-mate Nico Rosberg becoming Webber’s closest challenger on the front row.
The 2012 Monaco Grand Prix begins at 2pm local time (BST +1) on Sunday and can also be tracked via the GPUpdate.net Live Report