The AMG Mercedes F1 Team’s dominance of the pole position continued as Nico Rosberg emerged fastest in the Saturday Qualifying session for the Monaco Grand Prix at the glamorous street circuit. It was Mercedes’ fourth pole of the season and Rosberg’s third consecutive one. Team mate Lewis Hamilton was second fastest with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel third.
The grid will line up in a Mercedes 1-2 and a Red Bull 1-2 as Mark Webber was fourth fastest ahead of the best of the rest – Kimi Raikkonen fifth for Lotus, Fernando Alonso sixth for Ferrari, Sergio Perez seventh for McLaren, Adrian Sutil eighth for Force India, Jenson Button ninth and Jean Eric-Vergne in tenth for Toro Rosso.
Light rain at the start of qualifying ensured that the initial runs were made on the intermediate tyres but the latter sessions were dry enough which saw the slicks come into play and although Red Bull put up a brief fight with Webber & Vettel holding the one-two positions provisionally, the last runs saw both the Mercedes pip them and claim their own one-two.
A Ferrari Engine blew up for the second race in succession but this time around, it was Kimi Raikkonen’s which let go in a plume of smoke at the 47th lap. Teammate Felipe Massa had the misfortune last time around but he put that behind him and put in a flawless performance and won the first-ever Grand Prix at Valencia’s street circuit. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton didn’t have the pace to challenge the lead Ferrari and had to settle for second place. BMW’s Robert Kubica took the third place ahead of McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen and Toyota’s Jarno Trulli. Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel converted his excellent qualifying performance into a sixth place finish and was followed by Timo Glock and Nico Rosberg in 7th and 8th place respectively.
The race was expected to have a few Safety Car periods but there were none! An early on-track incident involved Nakajima running into the back of Fernando Alonso which took out the Spaniard at his home grand prix in the first lap itself! Adrian Sutil drove into the barriers as a result of brake problems and those were the only two on-track retirements. Kimi Raikkonen’s too was an on-track retirement but that was more as a result of the Engine letting go rather than a driver error. There were a couple of pit-lane incidents and both involved Ferrari! Felipe Massa almost ran into Adrian Sutil as both exited the pit-lane at the same time and that incident will be investigated after the race. The second was a more serious one and it involved Kimi Raikkonen. He and Heikki Kovalainen came into the pits at the same time and in his eagerness to beat the McLaren out of the pits, Kimi lifted off well before the light turned green and brought down the fuel-rig person. The car’s rear wheels hit the mechanic as he was coming down and he was taken into the medical center for medical check-up. This cost Kimi oodles of time and he lost two places after the stop. But of course, the engine failure dealt a bigger blow for the Finn as he picks up no points from the race and Massa overtakes him in the Drivers’ Championship.
As it stands, Lewis Hamilton still leads the Championship with 70 points with Massa in second place with 64 points. Kimi Raikkonen drops into third place with 57 points with Robert Kubica 2 points behind. Ferrari’s lead in the Constructors’ Championship dwindles to 8 points – 121 to McLaren’s 113. The next grand prix is at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium where Ferrari scored a 1-2 last year.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa took the pole position for the European Grand Prix at the new street circuit of Valencia with a neat performance in Q3. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton will start alongside him in P2 with BMW’s Robert Kubica and the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen occupying the second row. P5 went to Heikki Kovalainen ahead of early pace-setter Sebastian Vettel of Toro Rosso. Jarno Trulli, Nick Heidfeld, Nico Rosberg & Sebastian Bourdais complete the top 10.
This was the first-ever Qualifying session at the street circuit of Valencia and all the teams had a learning phase before they could put in a flawless lap. Lewis Hamilton & Felipe Massa were expectedly quick but the surprise P1 holders were Vettel and Trulli who were the fastest cars on the track at some point of time. Q1’s dropouts included the unlucky David Coulthard and both Honda’s of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello and both the Force India’s of Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil. Q2 accounted for local hero Fernando Alonso and his teammate Nelson Piquet alongwith Kazuki Nakajima, Timo Glock & Mark Webber.
The Valencia track is wider than Monaco but it seems overtaking will be at a premium here also and that makes the race all the more exciting. Massa needs a win desperately and Hamilton will want to extend his lead in the Championship, so it will be interesting to see the start of the race tomorrow. Hope those two get into a skirmish and Kubica gets held up behind them, thus paving the way for Kimi Raikkonen to jump into the lead!