Starting to become a bit boring, isn’t it? The one lap pace of the Mercedes cars has been proven once again, as Nico Rosberg takes his third pole in a row, and the team’s fourth pole in a row.
None of the previous triumphs in qualifying produced anything remotely close to a win, so the pressure is on the Mercedes duo to finally deliver. Will they be able to? The odds are on yes, as their performance over long runs hasn’t been bad enough to cause concern. In Monaco, that basically means all you have to do is keep the others behind you.
This was perhaps the most hectic qualifying session we’ve seen for a while, as the ebb and flow of rain caused major headaches for everyone up and down the pit lane. The line between dry and intermediate tires was at its blurriest today, and the indecision of some teams caused them to miss out on better qualifying positions. Paul di Resta will be kicking himself for not being able to go out on slicks in the dying moments of Q1, as the pace of his car was more than enough to advance him further. As is the way of Formula One, timing got the best of him and he will be starting way down the order.
But today, as it has been for some time now, was all about Mercedes. Their dominance throughout practice was questioned slightly, as they failed to produce headline times while the track was wet. But when the conditions were right in Q3, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton dug deep and showed everyone why they should be feared. Again, their hopes in the race are infinitely better than they were in Spain or Bahrain, so do not count them out of winning the race, and expect at least one of them to make a trip to the podium.
Red Bull, as usual, quelled anyone’s pre-qualifying hopes of faliure by locking out the second row. They admitted on more than one occasion that they were worried about their qualifying pace. It wasn’t enough to dispel the two Mercedes but it was enough to get them ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso.
I said yesterday that everyone should keep an eye out for Romain Grosjean. He was Mercedes’ nearest challenger for much of the practice sessions, and looked a shoe-in for a top-3 in qualifying. However, another crash in final practice meant the team had just barely enough time to get the Frenchman out in Q1. He immediately showed his skill by going fastest of all on his first flying lap, and he comfortably made it into Q2.
It is as yet unclear as to why he only qualified 13th; his speed in undoubtedly there. Perhaps there was a timing issue and he was unable to cross the line in time for a final lap. Perhaps he locked up in one corner and ruined his chances. I don’t know for sure. What I and everyone else does know, though, is that he has an uphill battle ahead of him if he is to get anywhere near the podium. The one consolation he can take is that he gets to choose his starting tire. Look for a long first stint from him tomorrow in the race.
Mclaren’s day was, on the whole, pretty good. The rain flattered their car, and had it continued, they could have been a threat for the front couple of rows. In the end, the inevitable caught up with them. Both Jenson and Sergio did make it into Q3, thus keeping the team’s trend of having a car in the top-10 for each race this season. As the team said on Thursday, their race pace looks much better than previously expected, so don’t count them out just yet.
Some other names to mention? Felipe Massa will be starting from the back of the field after a crash in the final practice session, while Giedo van der Garde thrilled his team with a commendable 15th place in qualifying. Jean Eric Vergne also made his first career Q3 appearance, and will be starting an advantageous 10th.
The race, on paper, should be fascinating. Will the confines of the principality scupper any chances of a battle for the win? Possibly. But its Monaco. Do we really care?