By: Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent
- Vettel takes pole for the fifth time this year
- Rosberg impressive after morning crash
- Qualifying red-flagged after Perez crash
On a warm and sunny Circuit de Monaco it was again Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel who grabbed pole position for tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix, Jenson Button took second position for McLaren, and Mark Webber took third for Red Bull.
The final qualification session for the Monaco GP was dominated due to the crash of Sauber driver Sergio Perez. He was off the line when he exited the tunnel, hit a bump and lost control, hit the guard rail hard on the right before he helplessly slammed sideways into the barrier which separates the escape road from the track. It was an accident similar to the one Rosberg had this morning, the German also crashed exiting the tunnel, but he missed the barrier and although his car was badly damaged, Rosberg was unhurt.
It took almost 20 minutes before Perez was extracted from his and transferred to an ambulance, he was unconscious at the time of the accident but the latest news is that the Mexican was alert and awake. He has spoken to the doctors and has apparently injured his leg in the crash and has complained about pain in his head.
Qualifying resumed after the barrier had been repaired, but with just 2 minutes and 26 seconds left on the clock it was impossible to improve on the times already set, and the order of the top ten of Q3 remained the same. Not much joy for the top three of qualifying as Perez’ exact condition remains unknown.
The first qualifying session started without Vitantonio Liuzzi. He had also crashed during the morning practice session after he had lost control of his F111 in Sainte Devote and badly damaged his HRT when he hit the barrier hard. His team mate Narain Karthikeyan also stayed in the garage, as the HRT team suspected there was a problem with the rear suspension and decided to keep both drivers in the garage. The FIA marshals will decide whether HRT will be allowed to participate in the race or not.
Rosberg also spent the first part of Q1 in the garage, the Mercedes mechanics managed to get his car ready in time and with only ten minutes left to go the German was again on his way on the streets of Monaco. Without an installation lap, straight out of the garage, Rosberg immediately clocked the fifth fasted time, a very impressive performance to say the least.
With 24 cars on the track it was difficult to find enough space for a free lap, and it was Hamilton who set the fastest time with 1m15.207 in Q1. He was closely followed by his team mate Jenson Button, Vettel and Rosberg. At the end of Q1 Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari hit the back of the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi, the Japanese driver had slowed down in Rascasse to dive into the pit lane, the Spaniard had nowhere to go and damaged his front wing and thus finished qualifying in 20th position.
Both Lotus drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli tried everything they could, but finished in 18th and 19th place respectively, both one second slower than Sebastien Buemi, who made it into Q2 with a time of 1m16.358s. Also finished for the day were both Marussia Virgin drivers Timo Glock and Jerome d’Ambrosio who took 21st and 22nd position.
During Q2 a number of drivers didn’t want to risk missing Q3 and went out on the super soft Pirellis to score the fastest time possible. Again it was Hamilton who set the fastest time of 1m14.275s, while Vettel was second fastest, just an incredible two-thousands of a second slower than the McLaren.
With only six minutes left, Perez, Vitaly Petrov, Adrian Sutil, Paul di Resta, Nick Heidfeld, Buemi and Kobayashi were in the danger zone. Petrov soon improved his time, and pushed Pastor Maldonado out of the top ten, but the Venezuelan fought back and in his turn pushed his team mate Rubens Barrichello out of Q2. With only minutes to go, Perez now entered Q1 in 8th place with a time of 1m15.842s, but other Sauber driver Kobayashi ended on a disappointing 13th place.
Not a good day for the Lotus Renault team, their car doesn’t seem to be fast on the Mediterranean track, Heidfeld and Petrov tried to improve their time until the chequered flag for Q2 was waved, Petrov was the fastest of the two and landed 11th position, while his German colleague ended in 16th position.
Both Force India drivers also had problems to find the right speed during qualifying, di Resta took 14th place on the grid with 1m16.118s, leaving Sutil behind him with a difference of only three-thousands of a second, good for 15th position.
Q3 promised to be an exiting session, Schumacher was out first on the super soft Pirellis, he didn’t want to take any chances and was the first to put a fast time on the clocks. The others soon followed and it was Button who scored the fastest lap with 1m13.997s, a super fast time and the first lap of the day under the magical 1 minute and 14 seconds time.
Webber then ventured onto the track and tried to attack Button’s time, but he was 0,022s slower than Button. But it was Vettel who stormed to the fastest time of the day, and topped the time sheets with 1m13.556s, which was 0.441s faster than Button’s time. Alonso was fourth behind Webber, Schumacher took fifth place and Felipe Massa who earlier missed the second chicane of the swimming pool section, was sixth with 1m14.887s.
At his point, with just 2m26 remaining in Q3, Perez crashed exiting the tunnel, and the third qualifying session was immediately red-flagged. After a delay of almost half an hour Q3 was resumed, but there was no way anyone could improve their time, and the order remained the same.
Not a good day for Hamilton, as he was not able to equal, let alone improve Button’s time, and scored a disappointing 1m15.280s which give him seventh place on tomorrow’s start grid. A remarkable performance by Rosberg who took eighth place, Maldonado didn’t bother to go out in Q3 and by doing so saved an extra set of tyres, but the unluckiest man at Monaco was without a doubt Perez, who certainly will not start in what would have been his first Formula One race in the streets of Monte Carlo.
Qualifying in Monaco is all about getting the best start position for the race, overtaking is notoriously difficult on the Monte Carlo street circuit, and the further ahead a driver is on the start grid, the closer he is to the finish line. There were a number of incidents with slower cars today, and it is possible the FIA Stewarts could impose penalties on those who have held up other contenders.
Follow the latest news about Sergio Perez’ condition on Motorsport.com, in the next hours we will report about the unlucky Mexican and keep you posted about the latest developments of the Monaco Grand Prix.