Little doubt that Saturday’s qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix was a tad frustrating for Mercedes GP. The team slotted in 6th and 7th on the grid for the start of the race on Sunday. The frustration runs the gambit from 7-time world champion Michael Schumacher to teammate Nico Rosberg and eventually to team boss Ross Brawn.
The frustration concerns a late release of Rosberg’s car from pit lane during Q3 which left the two cars of Schumacher and Rosberg close together on the track. It seems, from Schumacher’s perspective, that Rosberg hampered his hot lap:
“I have to say from my perspective that all of our colleagues drove very fairly. The only car that blocked me was my team mate,” Schumacher told television reporters after the session.
“It’s a shame but there you go. It happened in quali three (the third phase) when there were only 10 cars on the track.”
Ironically the concern over traffic in the week leading up to qualifying was over 24 cars in the Q1 session. It turns out that the most difficult session may have been the 10-car field in Q3 as the drivers fought for pole position. A twist in fate as the top teams and drivers had complained all week about the slow teas such as Virgin, Lotus and HRT. In the end, it was the top teams who couldn’t get out of each others way and cruelly it seems that Mercedes GP couldn’t even get out of their own way:
“I feel extremely frustrated about today because we had a good car all weekend and as a team we didn’t perform well in Q3,” said team principal Ross Brawn.
“There was a problem with Nico’s car getting out of the garage,” he explained.
“The last thing we wanted was to have our two cars on the same piece of track… the plan was to split them but when we came to release Nico’s car we had a problem with releasing it. It left the garage 20 or 30 seconds later than we planned.
“So then we had both cars together and Nico was getting squeezed,” added Brawn. “I think Michael was annoyed after the second or third lap… when I explained to him what happened he was OK, just frustrated…. we cocked up.”
In the end, Mercedes GP had a better car that Q3 exposed and Rosberg was equaling the front runners in Q2 for P1. An impressive start to the qualifying session to be sure. It seemed as if Mercedes GP had opted for the short wheelbase car and the right upgrades for Monaco but then it all went wrong in Q3. Rosberg explains his frustration telling reporters:
“I’m very sorry, I’m in a bad mood because I did terribly,” Rosberg said. “I should have had pole or at least first row of the grid today because in Q2 it was easy for me to be first with just one set of tyres so I should have been on the front row or just right up there.”
“It just went completely wrong in the last qualifying – just didn’t get it together – too many laps with traffic and just made a mistake myself,” Rosberg said.
“Just a disaster and very, very disappointing. So I’m really sorry to the whole team that it went so bad. Difficult race tomorrow, then, starting sixth.”
In the end, they have some ground to make up and with McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton in front of the Mercedes cars, that task is magnified significantly. Much has been made of the relationship at Mercedes GP between Schumacher and Rosberg and the new chassis has added to that fire. I am not sure I believe the rumors but I do believe in Rosberg. I think his ability to offer mea culpa when needed and to put his skills to the task and scrutiny is a sign of a very good guy. Not to mention I think he’s a terrific driver.