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The legend of Michael Schumacher had a new chapter on class added at the prime age of 43 as the fans who thronged Monaco on Saturday to witness qualifying were treated to a lesson in driving by the veteran German as he stormed into P1 right at the chequered flag at the end of easily the most enjoyable qualifying session of the season. Sadly though as a result of 5 place penalty afforded to the driver for having hit Bruno Senna in the last race in spain, he won't start tomorrow's race from the front of the grid with that honour belonging to Mark Webber, who also pulled a rabbit out of a hat to steal P2. Nico Rosberg in the other Mercedes, who blitzed the field at the start of Q3 will join the Australian on the front row tomorrow, while one can't help but feel for an unlucky Felipe Massa, who was clearly one of the fastest men on the track but failed to get a traffic free run in Q3 to make his advantage count. Amongst the usual suspects, Lewis Hamilton was 4th quickest, while Fernando Alonso was 6th. Reigning world champion and last year's Monaco GP winner Sebastian Vettel struggled right through qualifying and despite making it to Q3 opted not to run.
A beautiful summer day in Monaco greeted the travelling Formula 1 circus to the principality as arguably the most important qualifying session on the Formula 1 calendar kicked off on Saturday afternoon. With no driver in the last decade and a half having won this race from beyond the second row of the grid, it was absolutely crucial for all teams that they made the most of their qualifying runs.
There was already some bad news for Barcelona winner Pastor Maldonado as his Williams had been docked 10 places on the grid as a result of deliberately hitting Sergio Perez's Sauber in free practice earlier today.
Q1: With 24 cars having to make the most of only 20 minutes of qualifying time, there was always going to be major concerns about traffic in Q1. The question as always was which team would join HRT, Caterham and Marussia at the back of the grid. That question was answered rather early inadvertantly by Sergio Perez, who lost a rear tyre of his Sauber after banging into the wall of the Swimming Pool complex with his steering unresponsive after going over the kerbs. That meant all the leading runners just had to do a sensible lap, and they could book their place in Q2. There was a short delay when the marshals had to stop the session after 5 minutes to remove Perez's car.
Despite the seemingly routine nature of Q1, Lotus and Red Bull were in a bit of late strife as Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel had not posted good enough times on their early runs and had to dash out on the super-soft tyres to ensure that a rampaging Heikki Kovalainen in the Caterham did not knock them out of Q2. It was a race to the flag with the two world champions winning comfortably in the end.
The Mercedes team produced a strong early showing with both Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher trading fastest laps. Nico Hulkenberg was the fastest man on the track at the end of Q1, and it would be interesting to see if the Force India could maintain that edge over the next two sessions to follow.
Exits: Heikki Kovalainen, Vitaly Petrov, Timo Glock, Pedro de la Rosa, Charles Pic, Narain Karthikeyan and Sergio Perez.
Q2: An exceptionally exciting session, easily the closest Q2 since the three segments of qualifying were introduced, saw all the drivers with the exception of Jean-Eric Verne in the Toro Rosso within a second of each other. Verne damaged his front wing early in the session and did not run again. The rest of the field though went hammers and tongs with Felipe Massa lighting up the track in his Ferrari by setting a scorching lap of 1:14.911, the only time under 1:15.
Vettel lacking from speed, opted to use another set of the super-softs to get himself into Q3 and barely squeaked in. With both Schumacher and Maldonado to serve grid penalties, they needed to qualify as high as possible on the grid. Jenson Button found himself in the drop zone with minutes remaining along with the two Lotus drivers. This changed fast as Grosjean improved and went 8th while Raikkonen climbed up into 10th, however Button failed to move beyond 13th place. The two fastest cars in Q1 - Hulkenberg and Kamui Kobayashi joined Button outside the top 10.
Exits: Nico Hulkenberg, Kamui Kobayashi, Jenson Button, Bruno Senna, Paul di Resta, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Q3: Nico Rosberg was the first man on track to set a flying lap. Rosbergâ€™s banker lap was a shabby one with him lifting off at Tabac. Maldonado took provisional pole position with a quick lap. The Red Bulls and Ferraris were in the pits till quite late, opting to make a late fist of it.
Romain Grosjean, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton all traded fast laps as the session wore on. Mark Webber did a fast lap, but was good enough only for third position. With four minutes remaining Massa and Vettel came out on track. Massa was on the limit on his lap, but could only manage 7th fastest, held up heading into the tunnel. Raikkonen meanwhile went 8th fastest. Fernando Alonso put in a quick lap and ended 6th fastest. Sebastian Vettel meanwhile opted to save his tyres for the race tomorrow and opted not to run in Q3.
His teammate Mark Webber had no such worries and went on provisional pole position. But Schumacher in the dying moments grabbed pole position ahead of Webber with an incredible lap of 1:14.301s.
Top 10: Michael Schumacher, Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Romain Grosjean, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen, Pastor Maldonado and Sebastian Vettel.
Sadly due to his penalty from the last race, Schumacher will not lead the way for tomorrow's Monaco Grand Prix. Instead that honour will belong to Mark Webber, who won this race in 2010, starting from Pole Position. From Schumacher's perspective though it has taken 44 races for him to really register his presence on Formula 1 since his return to the sport and his performance today is some vindication that the 7-time world champion still has what it takes to compete with the best.
Revised Starting Grid:
Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Romain Grosjean, Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher*, Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Hulkenberg , Kamui Kobayashi, Jenson Button, Bruno Senna, Paul Di Resta, Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne, Heikki Kovalainen, Vitaly Petrov, Pastor Maldonado*, Timo Glock, Pedro De La Rosa, Charles Pic, Narain Karthikeyan, Sergio Perez
*Schumacher and Maldonado receiving 5 and 10 place grid penalties respectively
Photo Courtesy: Mercedes
- 27/05/2012 15:59 - Senna grabs a point for Williams in Monaco, Maldonado crashes out on 1st lap
- 27/05/2012 15:58 - Force India record strong double points finish at Monaco GP
- 27/05/2012 15:55 - Lotus have disappointing Monaco GP: Raikkonen 9th, Grosjean registers DNF