12.30pm (BST) Hello and welcome to forumula1.com’s live coverage of the qualifying session for tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix. The big news here is that practice timesheets-topper and pre-race favourite Fernando Alonso will not be taking part in today’s event after an accident in this morning’s practice. Alonso locked up and went into the barriers at Massenet, with the front wheel apparently breaking the chassis in two, meaning a lengthy repair job.
12.43pm Damon Hill is on the stewards’ panel this weekend as part of the new policy of having an experienced hand to look at contentious driving issues. Clearly referring to a certain M. Schumacher, he tells the BBC “I’ve had to explain that I might be prejudicial to certain drivers, but I’ve had to maintain an impartiality.” Mischievous. But he is deadly serious on the topic of drivers behaving themselves. “Drivers themselves want to have disciplined drivers around them. There’s an element of self-policing.”
12.49pm The big question is, how on earth are all the new teams going to get out of the way in Q1? At least it’s not raining, which removes an element from the potential for chaos, but still. Timo Glock has already said that when he is on a fast lap, he isn’t going to be looking in his mirrors.
12.51pm “In Q1 it’s going to be a real challenge. They’re just going to have find a gap. All the time you have to push very hard…it’s a real pressure moment for the drivers. We’re focused on trying to get through Q1. We were struggling this morning to get the tyres working, but I think everyone was.” So says McLaren man Martin Whitmarsh, who obviously is worried about Q1.
12.53pm Here comes Fernando Alonso, stalking down the paddock, pointedly not in overalls. He will not be happy, destined as he is to start from the back of the grid on this, the most difficult track on which to overtake.
12.56pm Martin Brundle reckons this will be the ”best qualifying I have ever seen”. It could well be fraught, he has a point. All the drivers are going to need is a bit of luck, a bit of spare road. “They [the drivers] should shut up and get on with it,” continues an irascible Brundle.
1pm Karun Chandhok is first out for HRT to begin the first session.
1.01pm It seems that drivers have decided to get out early. A Virgin, an HRT and Petrov are already out…it would seem to be a no-brainer to go out early, as there’ll be less congestion.
1.06pm Kubica sets a 1.16.629, topping the times from the six or so that are out. Rosberg slots in with the second fastest time. Vettel is out, first of the big guns. And now all 23 are out, trying to get some clear air. Kubica then gets balked by a Sauber, and shakes a hand in the air.
1.08pm Chandhok just had a massive moment into the chicane, coming out of the tunnel. Well held, sir. Massa is fastest, with Vettel and Barrichello following. Schumacher is fourth, and Hamilton looks quick. And goes second quickest.
1.11pm Rosberg finds a bit of space and goes fastest, but Massa quickly reclaims the top spot with a 1.14.7s. It’s a quick pace, and may be detrimental for some big names.
1.14pm. It’s Massa leading as the track goes quiet. Only Webber and Sutil are out at the moment, with the knockout zone as you might expect it. It’s the new boys, minus Kovalainen, and Alonso of course.
1.16pm The Lotuses are not looking too shabby here at all. They are on the edge of making it out of Q1, but have just tried to improve and failed. So maybe it’s too much to ask, even here at Monaco. There’s a yellow flag out, for a brief spin by Kovalainen as he was on his in-lap. But he has recovered.
1.20pm With a minute to go a lot more people are on track. And the flag falls, with Massa top and all the big names safe. Out are the Lotuses, the Virgins, the HRTs and Alonso. In order: Kovalainen, Trulli, Glock, di Grassi, Senna, Chandhok, and Alonso.
1.23pm None of the chaos that was predicted did happen in fact. The highlights were Kubica losing a quick lap behind a line of slower cars, and Kovalainen’s two spins. But Q2 will not, as Mark Webber remarked prior to qualifying, be a holiday either.
1.30pm There’s a queue to get out of the pitlane for the start of Q2. A Toro Rosso, a Renault, Felipe Massa and Mark Webber have ventured out, presumably realising that it will also be advantageous in this session to get an early lap in. A banker, if you like.
1.33pm Petrov “didn’t trouble the racing line at Mirabeau”, remarks Martin Brundle disparagingly. But the Russian isn’t doing too badly, even if he does nearly stack it next time round at Ste Devote.
1.34pm Robert Kubica is looking like a man with a mission. His in-car shots suggest he is wrestling the Renault round the Principality, and his efforts are rewarded with top spot for the moment. Vettel is down in 15th at the moment. He won’t want to be there for much longer, only nine minutes to go. Massa now replaces Kubica at the top.
1.36pm Button just scrapes into the top ten, after being held up by de la Rosa. It wasn’t really the Spaniard’s fault, and he obligingly went off at the first possible place to allow Button to pass. The long wheelbase Macca could be struggling here.
1.39pm Vettel is up into third, and relatively safe you’d have thought. Webber is still quicker than he is, though. Button came in to the pits and is now back on track, for another effort with four minutes remaining.
1.40pm Hamilton can only manage sixth. Probably not enough with three minutes left. Now there’s a yellow flag out after Petrov has put in into the barrier at Ste Devote. But the marshals have done a great job to clear the car.
1.44pm Hamilton’s mechanics tell him to find a tenth in sector one, two in sector two and another one in sector three. A tall order, with Merc-powered Force Indias threatening the top ten and McLaren in particular.
1.45pm Button drags his steed up to ninth, and Liuzzi is eighth in the dying seconds. A good effort from the Italian, whose seat is under pressure from Paul di Resta. It has been tenser, this session. Out go Hulkenberg, Sutil, Buemi, Petrov, de la Rosa, Kobayashi and Alguersuari, in that order. No particular surprises, although on the evidence of that session you’d be surprised if a McLaren was on pole. Massa is looking good, as are the Red Bulls and Kubica.
1.49pm It was a bit of an impact for Petrov at Ste Devote, and will need a bit of an effort to repair the left rear suspension I reckon. Meanwhile Heikki Kovalainen is musing over his efforts, which saw him the fastest of the first lot to be eliminated. “It was a strategy goal, I decided to go for it, it just went out of control. I cooked the tyres, I had a go, but I didn’t hit the wall so the car is ok and I had fun. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.”
1.53pm Q3 has started, with an incongruous Vitantonio Liuzzi on track first of all. Robert Kubica is also out early, as is his wont. Rubens Barrichello has done well unobtrusively to get his Williams into the top ten, and it will probably be a battle between him and Liuzzi for ninth. Unless of course a McLaren falters.
1.55pm Kubica does a 1.14.2, which is incredible. He looks fast.
1.56pm Button does not look quick, frankly. He also has traffic in Felipe Massa, who blocks him at Anthony Noghes. Massa could get a penalty, is the received wisdom. It wasn’t much, but stranger things have happened.
1.58pm Kubica is going faster still, but Mark Webber goes even faster than him. Kubica isn’t beaten yet, and embarks on another lap. Vettel is off at the chicane, again with no answer to an inspired team mate.. Hamilton is doing his level best but is only fourth at the moment. Kubica finds another tenth, but rather unbelievably Webber is in the 1.13s.
2.00pm And it’s over. Webber has pole, Kubica has second, Vettel third, Massa, Hamilton, Rosberg, Schumacher, Button, Barrichello and Liuzzi.
2.02pm Webber has something special about him at the moment, there’s no doubt. And consistency, for once. He has beaten a fantastic Robert Kubica performance, and is four tenths up on Vettel, which will be the most satisfying aspect one would think. That, and the fact that Monaco does not inspire overtaking. Webber will be confident of the win tomorrow.
2.04pm Christian Horner pays tribute to a close rival. “Kubica is very quick here. Webber’s confidence is high…[but] it’s down to everything. It’s down to performance of the car, and it’s six out of six [poles] for us. This is the most important of those six, and it’s important we convert it tomorrow. Sebastian didn’t get into a rhythm he was happy with, he aborted one of the laps towards the end.”
2.10pm. Jenson Button is not particularly happy, with the direction he and the team chose for setup or with Felipe Massa. “The car in Q1 felt pretty good. But we didn’t run the hard tyres in Q3. I struggled on the softs…and I had understeer. I’m a long way back and it’s a bit frustrating. It’s a pity we chose to go in that direction. [As for Massa] I don’t know what he was thinking. He wasn’t looking in his mirrors. Very annoying that he got in the way because it was obviously slowing me down.”
Mark Webber, on the other hand, is content. ”On the penultimate lap, I brushed the Armco pretty hard. I finished that lap and then on the next lap tidied up the details. It all came together and to get pole at Monaco is a nice feeling.”
Kubica is not too unhappy with second. “It has been a good effort for us. We did two approaches. I had first go with a bit more fuel and we couldn’t do better. The final lap was not ideal and I knew Mark was in front, so the second half of the final lap my tyres were gone. When you are so close it would be better to be first but you have to be happy.”
Vettel, who came out of nowhere to take third, is not downhearted, at least in public. “All in all a good result. It counts lot to have driveability. A lot of things can happen tomorrow.”
Stefano Domenicali is not being drawn on whether Felipe Massa blocked Jenson Button. “It’s not easy to make a straightforward judgement on these things,” says the Ferrari chief. Felipe Massa himself is not remorseful. “A guy in front of me backed off, so I backed off,” explains the Brazilian. We wait to see if he will be penalised or not.
Nico Rosberg says he “should have been on the front row or pole. It was a disaster. I want to say sorry to the whole team.” Strong words from the German.
“All our colleagues have done a good job, from my point of view,” says Michael Schumacher on the subject of traffic, before dropping a bombshell. “It was only my team mate who hindered me once, in Q3,” he adds. It’s high passion down at Mercedes, and the spice has been added to an already piquant driver relationship.
“I had fun today,” says Lewis Hamilton. “I really really enjoy driving round this track. Clearly the Red Bulls have quite a bit more downforce, but I’ve used all the road I could use and I’m happy with my performance.”
“We didn’t have it in the car to compete,” adds his boss Martin Whitmarsh. “I think here it’s a very special set-up, we weren’t firing the tyres up. It was quite difficult for us.”
Well that’s all from me. Check back tomorrow for a full report on the Monaco Grand Prix.
Here are the full times.
Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:15.035 1:14.462 1:13.826
2. Kubica Renault 1:15.045 1:14.549 1:14.120
3. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:15.110 1:14.568 1:14.227
4. Massa Ferrari 1:14.757 1:14.405 1:14.283
5. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:15.676 1:14.527 1:14.432
6. Rosberg Mercedes 1:15.188 1:14.375 1:14.544
7. Schumacher Mercedes 1:15.649 1:14.691 1:14.590
8. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:15.623 1:15.150 1:14.637
9. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:15.590 1:15.083 1:14.901
10. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:15.397 1:15:061 1:15.170
11. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:16.030 1:15.317
12. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:15.445 1:15.318
13. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:15.961 1:15.413
14. Petrov Renault 1:15.482 1:15.576
15. de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1:15.908 1:15.692
16. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:16.175 1:15.992
17. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:16.021 1:16.176
18. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:17.094
19. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:17.134
20. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:17.377
21. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:17.864
22. Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:18.509
23. Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:19.559
24. Alonso Ferrari No time