Mercedes locked up the front row of the grid for the second straight Grand Prix and know that Sunday’s race in Monaco represents their best chance of converting their continued stunning single-lap pace into a victory.
Incredibly, it was Mercedes fourth pole position in a row and a third in succession for Nico Rosberg, who got the better of his teammate Lewis Hamilton in a rain affected qualifying session by 0.091 seconds. The duo is followed by the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in third and fourth, respectively. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso starts in fifth, a place ahead of his fellow world-championship contender Kimi Raikkonen, in the Lotus.
Rain began to fall before the start of qualifying and was intermittent throughout the first two sessions, meaning that the teams were largely forced to go with intermediate tires. But with the track drying rapidly in the final top-10 shootout the slick tires came out and there was enthralling entertainment as the times kept getting lower until Rosberg set his benchmark.
It is tires that have played a crucial part in Mercedes’ inability to turn their raw pace into victories as they gave failed to get the much-criticized Pirellis to stand up to the endurance test. The tight, winding streets of Monaco represents renewed hope, however, with eight of the last nine pole sitters in the principality going onto claim the checkered flag.
“We know that race pace has been our weakness,” Rosberg said, according to the official Formula One website. “We've learnt a lot since the last race, and this track should suit us, but we'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out if this will be enough.”
Rosberg’s emotions contrast with those of championship leader Vettel, who was disappointed to only be in third. “I was a bit annoyed with my flying lap in Q3; I think I may be pushed a bit too hard here and there,” he explained. “Pole was probably possible today, but we are third. I think with the Mercedes in front, it was expected that they would be strong. We have a good race car and should be able to do well from there tomorrow.”
It was a similar tale for Alonso. “Unfortunately, today did not go as we had hoped, even if we tried our very best,” he said. “We struggled to adapt our car to this very special track, so different to all the others. We usually go better in the race, but it’s a different story here because it’s almost impossible to overtake. “
Still, Alonso fared better than his teammate, Felipe Massa, who didn’t even get out of the pit lane in qualifying after the Ferrari mechanics failed to repair the Brazilian’s car in time following a heavy crash in the morning’s practice session. It was a disappointing day too for Romain Grosjean, who also had a smash in the final practice. While the Lotus driver did make it out for qualifying, and did well to get out of Q3, he failed to go any further and will start on 13th.
McLaren did get both drivers into Q3 for the first time this season, with Sergio Perez starting seventh and Jenson Button ninth. The rest of the top 10 is made up of Force India’s Adrian Sutil in eighth and the impressive Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne in 10th.
Where to watch: The Monaco Grand Prix will get underway at 8 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBC, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.