Red Bull continued their pole position dominance in Monaco today, with Mark Webber taking the honors again, with his second consecutive pole. He’ll be joined by Renault’s Robert Kubica on the front row, who nearly snagged first slot on the grid himself. Third spot went to Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel. Vettel, who had begun the year as Red Bull’s golden boy, was visibly disconsolate at having been half a second slower than his Australian team mate. Clearly, Webber has raised his game to meet Vettel’s challenge.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa did well to round out the second row. While he’s been overshadowed by his new team mate Fernando Alonso thus far this year, Alonso blotted his copy book in today’s third free practice session, prior to qualifying, by damaging his chassis in a crash. As a result, he was forced to sit out qualifying altogether.
The next four slots were filled by the usual suspects, with the two Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher being bracketed by the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. While Rosberg resumed his trend of outpacing his more illustrious team mate, in this case it was by a mere 0.046s. And the McLarens demonstrated again that their primary weakness is downforce. Their much publicized F-duct device, which helps boost their overall pace at venues with long straights, is of little benefit on the corkscrew layout of Monaco. Hamilton again showed that he’s able to better his new team mate, Button, on outright pace, although in this tightly packed grid, the margin was only by a couple of tenths.
The best of the rest in the top ten were Rubens Barrichello, for Williams, and Force India’s Tonio Liuzzi, who outqualified his team mate Adrian Sutil for the first time this year. Williams and Force India are clustered together, however, in 9th through 12th slots, with Barrichello’s rookie partner Nico Hulkenberg in 11th. While Hulkenberg has been touted as a rising star, thus far in 2010 his vastly more experienced team mate, Barrichello, has been leading the way.
The bottom half of the grid offered few surprises, with the three newbie teams lining up in paired formation, ahead of Alonso, who spent the qualifying sessions in the garage, looking a bit like a puppy who’d just soiled the carpet. Another Monaco bad boy, Vitaly Petrov, also might have had a better result, but he hit a tire barrier in Q2, and his day was done.
Monaco is generally more of a spectacle than a race. There are virtually no overtaking opportunities on the narrow, twisty street course, so teams this year will have to rely on tire management and clever pit stop timing to improve their positions. There will also be the usual dicing for position off the the starting grid, going into turn one. Naturally, these scrums often end in tears.
Ferrari will have to decide whether to start Alonso from last place on the grid, or pit lane. The latter would place him a bit farther behind, but he’d be out of harm’s way should the start turn into a tank-slapping melee.
Alonso’s position must be an especially bitter pill for the Maranello squad, as Alonso had been quickest of all in both of Thursday’s free practice sessions. Clearly, the Scuderia had set their sights on pole.