Nico Rosberg claimed a contentious pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix after appearing to benefit from his own mistake during Q3.Lewis Hamilton was unable to improve his time and had to settle for second place.
It drew immediate comparisons with Michael Schumacher’s actions in 2006, when he deliberately stopped his Ferrari at Rascasse in an attempt to prevent Fernando Alonso from taking pole position.
The build-up to qualifying had seen remarkably few incidents on the track, even when rain fell on Thursday’s second practice session. But the pressures of qualifying produced the first significant mistakes of the weekend.
The first befell Daniil Kvyat, who is competing at Monaco for the first time. The Toro Rosso driver spun on the drop down towards the harbour chicane and knocked his front wing off against the barrier on the right.
Kvyat managed to secure a place in Q2 after having the damaged wing replaced. But Marcus Ericsson wasn’t so lucky.
He was attempting to move up from last in the running order when he came across Felipe Massa at Mirabeau. The Williams driver moved to let him through but Ericsson lost his car under braking and the pair made contact, running gently into the barrier.
Massa’s misfortune meant that although he’d lapped quick enough to get into Q2 he was unable to take part in it. And several drivers who might have bettered their times and made it through – such as Adrian Sutil – missed the chance.
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Drivers eliminated in Q1
Q2 began the same way Q1 had – with the two Mercedes drivers sat at the pit lane exit, waiting for the light to turn green.
The pair traded fastest sectors and fastest lap times throughout the session. Rosberg headed the times initially but on their final efforts Hamilton moved ahead by a tenth of a second with a 1’16.354.
The Red Bull drivers couldn’t match that pace. Vettel was third-fastest, seven-tenths of a second slower, despite his MGU-K malfunctioning early in the session.
With Massa left on the sidelines, the other Williams didn’t fare much better. Valtteri Bottas only outpaced the two Lotus drivers to move him ahead of his team mate.
Kvyat made amends for his mistake in Q1 by gaining a place in the final ten. Team mate Jean-Eric Vergne joined him.
But only one of the Force Indias made it through. Nico Hulkenberg missed the cut by less than a tenth of a second, knocked out by team mate Sergio Perez, having struggled with tyre locking at the chicane.
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Drivers eliminated in Q2
|11||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1’17.846|
Pole position was decided in unusual circumstances, if not entirely unfamiliar ones for Monaco. Rosberg dipped under the 1’16 barrier with his first flying lap, and Hamilton fell short of his mark by less than six hundredths of a second.
That was the lap time that won pole position for Rosberg, but the moment he won it came on his next flying lap. Heading towards Mirabeau, having made a scruffy start to his lap and with Hamilton not far behind, Rosberg failed to get his car turned in at Mirabeau and dived into the escape road. The yellow flags came out immediately and Hamilton, arriving on the scene moments afterwards, had to back off and surrender his last chance of getting pole position.
Not everyone had to abort their final runs. Daniel Ricciardo claimed third ahead of Vettel, who was still working around his MGU-K problem.
The Ferrari pair were next, Fernando Alonso over seven tenths of a second quicker than Kimi Raikkonen.
But the focus after qualifying was inevitably on the escalating rivalry between the Mercedes drivers – and whether Rosberg’s mistake was really all it had seemed to be.
Top ten in Q3
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-Renault||1’16.384|
|4||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1’16.547|
|7||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso-Renault||1’17.540|
|9||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso-Renault||1’18.090|
|10||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1’18.327|
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Image © Daimler/Hoch Zwei