Monaco Qualifying: Schumacher fastest but Webber inherits pole
26 May, 2012
May 26 (Apex) Michael Schumacher will be especially regretting his moment of madness in the Spanish Grand Prix which resulted in a five place penalty for Monaco, because in qualifying around the streets of Monte Carlo the 43 year old powered around fastest of all for the first time since his comeback in 2010.
Schumacher’s name was not among those mentioned as pre-qualifying favourites, but when the pressure was on the five time Monaco winner scorched around in 1 minute 14.301 seconds to deliver his best qualifying lap in two and a half years, outshining his younger Mercedes teammate who looked a good bet for top spot before the session started.
“I’m obviously excited. It confirmed what I have felt for a long time. Sometimes you have to put everything at right moment together. Here it worked out. Thanks to the team, in particular to … the guy who work closely with me. We had a special session earlier this week. I’m grateful to all the trust Mercedes had in me and supported me. I’m able to give back a little bit in qualifying and hope I can give more back tomorrow,” said Schumacher who will be vying to score his sixth win at Monte Carlo, which would tie him with Ayrton Senna as a six time winner here.
Webber was also not on the radar as a possible pole winner, as neither Red Bull’s had shown the kind of dominance around the narrow streets that they showed in the past two years. But when it was all to play for Webber dug deep to end the session second best, a mere 0.081 seconds down on Schumacher.
Nevertheless it was enough for Webber to take top spot as Schumacher’s penalty kicked in to relegate the German five places – sixth on the grid.
Third quickest and promoted to second on the grid was Nico Rosberg who was among the favourites for pole, especially after topping the morning session.
It was two very different stories in the McLaren camp with Lewis Hamilton setting the fourth best time in the session, while teammate Jenson Button simply lacked pace when it mattered – pretty much as he did during qualifying for the Spanish GP two weeks earlier – he failed to make it out of Q2.
Hamilton commented afterwards, “It was very exciting and very tough, it was one of the toughest qualifying sessions for me for some time. I think we struggled in the middle and last sectors, at the low speed corners. I’m fortunate that Michael has the penalty so it puts us further ahead. I think it will be a tough race though, I don’t know what the weather’s going to be like and now we’re hearing tomorrow is going to be nice too. Tyres and strategy play a huge part in Monaco but if we can get a good start then we have a good chance. I have a good feeling about the weekend but I have two good drivers in front of me but I’ll do everything I can.”
Button, who won the 2009 Monaco GP from pole, reflected on his below par showing, “I don’t have the pace. That’s it really. This morning the car felt good, the pace was really strong but we didn’t have it this afternoon when it count[ed]. Monaco is all about qualifying. I proved it last year. It’s the way of Monaco. It’s a great place when you really hook up a lap, but I didn’t have it today.”
Lotus continued to under perform when expectations are high. The E20 was clearly one of the best cars around Monaco and Romain Grosjean will have the Enstone boys scratching their heads. The Frenchman looked the business in all the sessions, yet when it mattered he failed to deliver. On the Soft (yellow band) tyres the E20 was easily the quickest car around Monaco, but somehow they simply could not extract a similar advantage with the red band Super Softs.
Grosjean, who will start from fourth on the grid, explained, “We were looking too much time in sector two, but it’s good to be up front, even if it was a track maybe not best for the car. We are here. The race is long, and a good car on high fuel. Strategy is key tomorrow and sure I can do something.”
Kimi Raikkonen has spent the entire Monaco weekend playing catch-up, from the first day when he missed FP1 as the Lotus team sorted out his steering comfort the 2005 Monaco winner has been on the back foot. In qualifying he had to work extra hard to make it into Q3 when eighth was the best he could deliver – half a second off his less experienced teammate’s best.
Ferrari promised much throughout the weekend, but when crunch time came they fell short. Although it has to be said that Felipe Massa has looked a revitalised force this weekend, and even topped Q2 but in the Q3 it was again Fernando Alonso who led the charge for the reds. Alonso was sixth fastest and will head up the third row, starting from fifth alongside Schumacher. Massa will head up the fourth row in seventh, and will no doubt be boosted by the fact that he managed to make it into the top ten for the first time so far this season.
It has been a classic tale of hero to villain in a short space of time for Pastor Maldonado, who fresh from his Spanish GP maiden F1 win, lost his cool in FP3, apparently deliberately running into Sergio Perez. Report here>>>
Thus his qualifying session was basically over before it began, as a ten place grid penalty is going to be hard to come back from. Nevertheless the Venezuelan behaved himself further and gave a reasonable account of his potential to set the ninth best time, so he will start from 19th on the grid.
However the ramifications were immense because Perez was an early casualty when he slithered into the barrier at the Swimming Pool complex, after what appeared to be a front end failure. The Sauber simply did not turn at high speed and it would be no surprise if this was as a result of Maldonado’s ‘crazy’ move on Perez earlier in the day.
Perez explained, “We are analysing what happened. In the Tunnel I had a lot of understeer, which doesn’t normally happen. When I got to Turn 13 and I went into Turn 14 the car went straight. It’s a big shame because we were so competitive. It was a big opportunity for us today. If it’s a normal race tomorrow, it will be over for us.”
Last year’s winner, Sebastian Vettel, has struggled this weekend in Monaco. The world champion had to dig deep just to make it into Q2 and Q3, then opting not to run a fast lap in Q3 as he and his crew had clearly erred on the setup of the RB8.
Vettel said, “Today was a bit mixed up for me. It was looking very good in the morning. Then we did a step in the wrong direction and ended up with a not very good car in qualifying. Disappointing because Mark showed what the car can do.”
Statistics show that last year’s pole winner (Vettel) also won the race and the the top four qualifiers hogged the top four places at the end of the grand prix. Stats also show that the driver on pole for the Monaco GP has won seven of the last 11 races at the Principality.
McLaren have won 15 times in the past 28 years, while Ferrari have not won in Monte Carlo since 2001…
On the grid on race day there will be five different drivers have won in Monaco in the last five years: Vettel, Webber, Button, Hamilton and Alonso – while seven former winners of the race will be in action on the day – add Schumacher and Raikkonen to the aforementioned quintet.
If there is a sixth different winner on Sunday, it will be a first in the history of Formula 1, and yet how things will pan out race day is anyone’s guess. Watch this space!
Subbed by AJN.
Monaco Qualifying – Saturday, 26 May 2012
|2||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:16.013||1:15.035||1:14.381|
|10||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:15.757||1:15.234||No time|
|11||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:15.418||1:15.421|
|15||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:16.062||1:15.718|
|21||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:18.096|
|24||15||Sergio Perez||Sauber-Ferrari||No time|
- Maldonado drops 10 grid places for causing a collision in final practice.
- Schumacher drops five grid places for causing a collision at last round.
- Perez failed to set a time within 107% requirement – races at stewards’ discretion.
- Monaco Practice 3: Rosberg fastest as Maldonado crashes
- Monaco Practice 2: Button ends day on top in rain affected session
- Monaco Practice 1: Brimming with confidence, Alonso strikes first
- Shanghai Qualifying: Rosberg takes his maiden pole as Mercedes dominate
- Sepang Qualifying: Hamilton takes pole from Button and Schumacher