If you don’t have Sky or access to a mate’s Sky, do watch qualifying for tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix. Not to see Nico Rosberg take pole — or rather deny Lewis Hamilton a chance at pole (we’ll come to that) — but just to witness this year’s low-grip/monster torque turbo hybrids slide, slip and generally get very sideways on what little track there is between the steel and the concrete in the South of France. Blimey.
Though we were denied the chance to see Hamilton (and others) put in his traditional last-gasp flying lap, the session was one of the best of the year. The hybrids might have been three-seconds off last year’s pace, they looked three times faster, just terrifying between the bends and on the brakes. The absence of serious decibels from the car’s exhaust meant you could hear the tyres slip and, yes, the bang when they hit the barriers.
It is (of course it is) all kicking off on Twitter right now about whether Rosberg ‘did a Schumacher’ and, having grabbed pole, just with his first bid, deliberately parked the car in the escape road down to Mirabeau as Hamilton closed him down behind. Hamilton clearly thought so; Alain Prost has been saying all weekend that it would have to kick off at some stage between the two drivers fighting for the championship and maybe today was the day war broke out in Team Mercedes. Hamilton had nothing to say in the press conference. He went on to tell Sky: “I was on the pole lap.” Ouch.
We’ll let you have your say on this one in the handy space below and take you through the rest of the grid. Behind the two W05s are for the first time this year two RB10s. Daniel Ricciardo was closest to the Silver Arrows again but Sebastian Vettel looking ever more like a man who’s getting to grips with his car. Indeed if his Red Bull had the KERS problem Vettel’s radio comments tended to suggest (“You need to sort this problem out!”) then this performance was mighty.
Two Ferraris next, both Alonso and Raikkonen largely ignoring the fact the F14-T is a bit pants and just monstered the track. As did Jean Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso, who starts seventh having looked quick from the get go today. Mind you, he needed to. Teammate Daniil Kyvat once again showed his raw talent. He starts tenth. His position was made all the more impressive for Kyvat almost suffering a Perez/Coulthard/Wendlinger accident at the chicane in Q1, his Toro Rosso strapping on a huge tank slapper coming out of the tunnel before hitting the barrier hard. Incredibly the only damage was to the front wing and not to Kyvat’s confidence.
The speed of the Toro Rossos meant there would need to be some big-name scalps in the Q2 cut and sure enough the sixth row of the grid will be made up of Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India and Jenson Button’s McLaren, both of them out-paced by their less fancied teammates (Perez and Magnussen) who start ahead, inside the top ten.
That hurts at Monaco. Williams didn’t enjoy their day much either, Bottas not making it in to Q3 and Massa not even starting Q2. Never looking like making it in to the top ten, the two Lotus’ were meanwhile at the back of the pack in Q2. Still, at least Pastor Maldonado didn’t trouble the barriers, which must feel like a bonus for Lotus.
Jean Eric Vergne had signalled his ambition for the day with the quickest time in Q1 on the supersofts when Marcus Ericsson — complete with a rather natty Ronnie Petersen tribute helmet — and Felipe Massa tangled at Mirabeau. It was a shame; as Vergne’s time signalled, the session was about to get interesting. Felipe, already safe, had given Ericsson the room, but the gesture seemed to throw the Swede who promptly lost the Caterham, putting both cars in sthe tyre wall. Massa got the Williams out only to stop just before the tunnel. That meant qualifying was over for Massa.
Not making the cut and starting right behind Massa then were the Saubers of Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil, the Marussias of Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton and the Caterhams of Kamui Kobayashi plus Ericsson.
They’ll be seeing the Merc’s in their mirrors very early in tomorrow’s race and the Merc’s will be racing and racing hard. Hamilton is as dark as he’s been since joining Merc and the entire paddock seems to think Rosberg did throw the lap. Pole is the only place to start if you want to win at Monaco. Only one driver has won from anywhere but pole in the last ten years, and that’s Lewis Hamilton.