It was another action packed qualifying session for tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix and with some big names starting down the order, the possibility of rain and a Red Bull on pole position for the first time since 2013 the foundations have been laid for what looks to be an unmissable Monaco GP. Read on to see my assessment of the biggest winners and losers in the most important qualifying session of the year.
The Honey Badger put together a mesmerising 1.13.622 in his first Q3 run to take his maiden pole position in Formula One. After being unlucky last time out in Spain, Ricciardo has looked on top form since FP1 on Thursday and the speed he carried through the run along the harbour front was nothing short of incredible. A fine run on supersoft tyres in Q2 means Ricciardo will start tomorrow’s race with strategy on his side (barring any rain of course) and if he can get off the line cleanly and lead out of turn one there’s every possibility that Red Bull could take back to back race wins for the first time since 2014.
After a tough start to the season both Hulkenberg and Perez, who seems to be becoming something of a Monaco specialist enjoyed a strong qualifying to 5th and 8th respectively, although Perez will move up to 7th courtesy of Raikkonen’s five place grid penalty. Luck certainly hasn’t been on Force India’s side in the first half of 2016 but a double points finish in tomorrow’s race will go a long way to hunting down Haas and Toro Rosso who sit above them in the constructors championship. Force India are currently 12 points behind 5th placed Toro Rosso, and will be hungry to regain the position in the pecking order they fought so hard to achieve at the end of last season.
In a similar fashion to Force India, it was also a great qualifying for their closest rivals for 5th, Toro Rosso. Sainz will line up in 6th, and Kvyat 8th (after Raikkonen’s penalty) and the Russian will be hoping for a repeat performance on last season where he drove the Red Bull to 4th at the checkered flag. Kvyat has looked much closer to Sainz this weekend as he fully re-beds himself in at Toro Rosso and like both Force India’s, both Toro Rosso cars should be targeting the top ten a minimum in tomorrows race.
In the post qualifying press conference Hamilton stated that he thought pole was there for the taking, and whilst it would have taken a monumental effort to overcome Ricciardo, the three time champ was on course for provisional pole until a scruffy final sector relegated him to 3rd on the grid. I guess we will never know just how much missing out on his first qualifying run in Q3 hurt Hamilton but on raw pace alone, but like last season he looked to have the slightest of edges on Rosberg. Advancing from 3rd on the grid tomorrow will be a tough ask, and Hamilton will need to be wary of another poor start with the Ferrari of Vettel lining up alongside his Mercedes.
The midfield is incredibly tight, and 0.2s made the difference between Q2 and Q3 for the McLaren drivers. For the second race in a row Fernando Alonso dragged his McLaren into the top ten however Button again failed to make it out of Q2. Of course, I think it is widely regarded that Alonso probably has the edge on Button when it comes to single lap pace, and indeed JB does look much closer, if not sometimes stronger than Alonso in the races. But in a race as difficult as the Monaco GP, scoring points on pure pace alone looks to now be a difficult ask for the 2009 World Champion.
Renault and Jolyon Palmer
Renault have surely got to be disappointed with their efforts in qualifying. For all the promise of the upgraded engine, Magnussen was still 0.5s behind the 15th placed Haas of Romain Grosjean in Q2 and with Palmer being out qualified by the Sauber of Marcus Ericcson, the returning manufacturer looks set for a difficult race on Sunday. Renault seem to have made little to no progress since the start of the season back in Australia and if anything, it looks like they are now closer to Sauber than the likes of McLaren, Force India and Toro Rosso who the team aspire to be challenging in the midfield.
F1’s golden boy was brought back down to earth in Q1 after clipping the barriers and bringing out the red flag. Verstappen will now start from the back row of the grid so we can at least expect to see a great deal of overtaking in the race tomorrow.
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