It is quite remarkable that the driver billed to be the most naturally talented of his generation by many analysts, had never taken a pole position around F1’s most iconic circuit. However, Lewis Hamilton has addressed this oversight today, claiming a maiden Monaco pole position in style, recording two laps which were both good enough for top spot. Nico Rosberg seemed the favorite to win this particular act in the Mercedes inter-team scrap, as Lewis struggled through the opening two segments, but the German could not match his teammate in Q3, with his final attempt to usurp him scuppered by a lock-up into Sainte Devote. In the most important qualifying session of the year, it was Hamilton who hit the jackpot.
Watching an F1 car dance around the Principality is always goosebump-inducing, particularly in qualifying trim. Ultimately, the battle for pole was curtailed prematurely by Nico Rosberg’s disappointing start to his final flyer, but nevertheless, Hamilton’s encore was certainly worth waiting around for. The Briton’s commitment through Tabac and leading into the Swimming Pool chicane was nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Until Q3, Rosberg seemed to be the safe choice to take a third consecutive Monaco pole. The German looked in fine form, setting the benchmark in Q2, with Hamilton a full seven tenths adrift. Fundamentally, Nico lost out today on account of two factors. Firstly, the lock-up at the end of Q2, which surely dashed his confidence into the notoriously challenging braking zone for Sainte Devote, and secondly, a reformed Lewis Hamilton, who had seemingly hit the reset button following a clumsy first two segments.
Pole in Monaco is integral. It does not always signal an impending victory, but with overtaking at a premium and limited parameters to adopt an alternate strategy, the grid has a tendency to dictate the race outcome. Of course, Rosberg will have a chance at the start of tomorrow’s race, but if Hamilton launches well, he should have his teammate covered on what is a short run to the first apex. From there, Nico’s options are limited.
RBR Never Satisfied
For a team which became accustomed to commanding regular front-row lockouts and one-two finishes, fourth and fifth on the grid could be considered a meager return for a day’s work at Red Bull. In relation to their campaign so far, it is somewhat of a mini-victory.
However, it could have been even better for Daniel Ricciardo. the three-time Grand Prix winner narrowly missed out on the best-of-the-rest crown, snapped up once again by the man making it his own this season, Sebastian Vettel. A miscommunication with the pit-wall meant that Ricciardo started his lap with his qualifying fuel map engaged, accounting for the two tenths by which he fell short of Vettel’s time.
On balance, I think Daniel has plenty to smile about after today, despite the disappointment at missing out on third. Red Bull targeted the top five this weekend and qualifying has seen them break into the upper echelon of the grid with both cars. A points haul is on the cards for tomorrow and with Williams mired by a lack of grip today – sitting outside the top ten – the points deficit to third place in the constructors is likely to be eroded.
For much of this season so far, Force India have been rather anonymous. Awaiting the aero upgrade courtesy of the Cologne wind-tunnel which promises to turn the VJM08 into an entirely new creature, the team have opted for a strategy of damage limitation until the test, post-Austria, where the upgrades are expected to land.
With Monaco being a circuit dependent on grip and driver feeling, the deficiencies of the under-developed Force India have been somewhat nullified this weekend and the team have threatened to challenge the top ten throughout practice. In qualifying, Sergio Perez demonstrated his street-circuit credentials by launching the team into Q3, where he managed to secure an impressive P7. Out-qualifying both Toro Rosso’s and the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado in the shootout, the Mexican will hope to take a bundle of points home, which would be a reward richly deserved after his efforts this afternoon.
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:16.143
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 0.218
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.562
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 0.977
5 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1.113
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1.258
7 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1.328
8 Jenson Button McLaren 1.624
9 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1.645
10 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1.663
11 Sergio Perez Force India 1.689
12 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1.813
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1.959
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren 2.054
15 Valtteri Bottas Williams 2.069
16 Felipe Massa Williams 2.099
17 Felipe Nasr Sauber 2.624
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 3.126
19 Will Stevens Manor 4.950
20 Roberto Merhi Manor 6.082
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:15.098
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 0.342
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 0.751
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 0.943
5 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1.084
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1.329
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1.710
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1.833
9 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1.848
10 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1.858
11 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:17.007
12 Jenson Button McLaren 1:17.093
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:17.193
14 Felipe Massa Williams 1:17.278
15 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:26.632
16 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:18.101
17 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:18.434
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:18.513
19 Will Stevens Manor 1:20.655
20 Roberto Merhi Manor 1:20.904
A note to readers – my Monaco Grand Prix Race Analysis will be delayed until Monday, as I am at Brands Hatch tomorrow for a historic motorsport event, featuring some classic F1 cars.