Well that went a long way to restoring our faith in F1, didn’t it? Throw just enough rain at a bonkers, technically demanding track that allows talent to shine through, and you get an hour of edge-of-the-seat stuff.
It was possibly inevitable that two Mercedes would lock out the front row, Nico Rosberg again ahead of Lewis Hamilton, but behind that, every other position looked up for grabs in a quite excellent qualifying hour for tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix.
The action started early in the morning when Felipe Massa wrecked his Ferrari F138 on the barriers before and after St Devote. That meant at least one of the Q1 fall-guy spots was spoken for well before the green light; there was no way Ferrari were ever going to finish that rebuild. The question now will be whether Massa can once again rebuild his confidence. Then, just as Sky went live on air, the splodges on Simon Lazenby’s light grey blazer said it all — rain.
Intermediates were the order of the day in Q1 but that didn’t stop more than a few drivers exploring the escape roads, Rosberg included. Bianchi’s engine let go on the out lap, so that meant four places left on the drop list. Sadly on top of the list was Paul di Resta who’s team didn’t give him a second set of inters when required. Di Resta said it was the worst day of his racing career, so let’s hope that doesn’t mean he slips back in to looking glum for the rest of the season.
One of the bottom four cars then was going to make it through, and that was Giedo van der Garde’s Caterham. He looked absolutely thrilled. His name and a whole bunch of names we don’t normally see anywhere near the top ten populated the top of the time sheets in a tense Q2 as the track dried. First van der Garde, then the rest of the drivers switched to supersofts, with the inevitable result that the more usual suspects made it through to Q1. Well, the usual bunch, plus McLaren, plus Jean Eric Vergne — racing in a Francois Cevert replica helmet (look him up if you’re new to this F1 thing, your girlfriend will thank you for it).
An on-fire Vettel set the early pace in Q3 with a 1.14.3, only immediately to be beaten by Hamilton and then Rosberg. With the rain threatening again in the last three minutes all the cars were back out on another set of supersofts, some of them in better shape than others.
Fernando Alonso, who’s looked beyond committed this weekend, was throwing the F138 from side to side to get some heat and bite in his fronts. Alonso knows, as they all do, that this race can be won from third tomorrow if, as expected the Mercedes once again struggle to match their Saturday pace when it matters.
A good start and some poor tactical calls or pit work is all that it will take to get by the Mercs, but it is Sebastian Vettel who will start with the best chance to take the win from Mercedes. He starts third, Webber, who has won the last two races here, fourth. Behind the Red Bulls is Raikkonen, the only Lotus in the top ten after Grosjean missed the cut in Q2. Disappointing, after the heroics in Q1 that got him and his hastily (re) repaired car ready with four mins on the clock. Romain has looked back in 2012 form this year, fast or in the Armco — he’ll be worth keeping a eye on tomorrow.
Alonso couldn’t manage better than sixth and with Massa starting from the pit lane, it’s not been a good weekend for the form team of this season. McLaren, the most off-form team of the year got both its cars in the top ten, but Jenson Button once again looked flat and frustrated, but maybe that has more to do with the fact that Sergio Perez out-qualified him.
The top ten then: ROS, HAM, VET, WEB, RAI, ALO, PER, SUT, BUT, VER. Your winner is amongst them, folks. Run us through the scenarios and tell us how they’ll finish tomorrow…