Monaco Quali Recap: Rosberg leads Merc 1-2 in slippery then grippy conditions

Nico Rosberg (1:13.876) won his third pole in a row for the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix, continuing his single lap domination of the field over the weekend. Teammate Lewis Hamilton qualified alongside the German, with no one quite able to touch the Mercedes duo over the wet and drying qualifying sessions. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber looked ready to try, posting fast times early in Q3, but their final laps could do no more than put them third and fourth fastest, with Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso rounding out the top six qualifiers. In the end, all ten drivers spent most of Q3 on the track, as fast times kept coming in the slippery then grippy conditions.

Felipe Massa did not join qualifying after a FP3 crash damaged his Ferrari more than his mechanics could fix before qualifying began. Q1 saw damp and drying conditions leading to massive drops in lap times as the session progressed. With Massa not coming out and an issue for Bianchi on his first lap, there was little room for the unexpected to be knocked out, though Paul di Resta still allowed for Giedo van der Garde to pull his Caterham on to Q2.

The line between slicks and inters came into play in Q2, with a mad dash to switch to dry tyres in the final few minutes of the session. Alonso had gone in for new inters just before everyone else stopped for drys, only to sneak back in and push his way into the fight for pole. Though many expected the rain to bring space and luck for Pastor Maldonado and Williams, he was the slowest in Q2.

Rosberg continued to show off Mercedes’ single lap quickness, leading both Thursday practices. The German looked set for his third pole in a row, leading (1:16.195) Alonso in the morning session, then again setting the fastest time (1:14.795) in the afternoon, though this time ahead of teammate Hamilton. Grosjean, Massa, and Webber joined those three in the top five in the two practices.

Little early running happened Thursday morning, as is typical on the first day of practice, though times came hot and heavy in the middle of the ninety minute session. Massa had shown nearly equal pace to Rosberg until the former’s teammate stepped up and slid into second fastest. Though the lack of runoff in Monaco usually results in a number of incidents, only Sutil suffered. His rear wing hit the wall at Sainte Devote during a spin near the end of the session.

Grosjean was not so lucky, nor were his mechanics, nearly halfway in the afternoon practice. The Frenchman also lost control at Saint Devote, ruining his left front suspension after completing just ten laps. Raikkonen, his teammate, was not so quick in the first session, but managed to post strong times during race simulation, even as a red flag disrupted the session to reattach some kerbing to the tarmac at the Swimming Pool.

Rosberg (1:14.378) continued to lead in the final practice on Saturday before qualifying. Crashes filled that practice, unlike the first two, and red flags stopped the running twice. Again at Sainte Devote, Massa locked up and flew into the barriers to the left of the turn. He was unhurt, and the incident was soon cleared. Soon after the restart, Sutil again crashed, this time at Massenet. He slid into the wall sideways, and that incident did not cause a red flag. However, the final crash of the weekend before qualifying did. Grosjean also had his second crash, again losing control into Sainte Devote and sliding into the barriers there. Despite this incident, Grosjean remained second fastest, with Vettel, Alonso, and Hamilton rounding out the top five.

Q1:
Rain began falling around a half hour before the first twenty minute Q1 session began. Though it was raining fairly heavily, it quickly decreased to a drizzle, then stopped nearly entirely ten minutes before qualifying began. Van der Garde led the queue of cars onto the track as Q1 began. All drivers were on intermediates in the slippery wet conditions. Bianchi, after smoking while exiting pit lane, stopped at Massenet and got out of his Marussia. The marshals quickly pushed it away and craned it over the fence. The track returned to green with just over three minutes remaining.

Five minutes in, Webber, Alonso, Vettel, Maldonado, and Button were the top five. Pic soon went fourth as the track began drying out and times ticked in furiously. Alonso soon led, with di Resta, Bottas, and Gutierrez all faster than Webber. Hamilton and Vergne then went faster than Alonso, then Webber improved to second fastest. As usually happens with a damp track, times simply continued to improve as grip improved. Times had already dropped twenty seconds from the early tentative laps. Rosberg managed to find an escape road, then reversed back to rejoin the circuit at Mirabeau.

At halfway, Maldonado (1:30.126) led Vettel, Sutil, di Resta, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Bottas, Webber, Hulkenberg, and Vergne as the top ten. Vergne next jumped to fastest, only to have four other drivers go faster yet. As the times dropped, so too increased the number of drivers outside the 107%, though the rain would likely allow any drivers caught out by that rule to still start. Massa and Grosjean remained in the garage, their crews valiantly attempting to loose their drivers upon qualifying.

Red Bull asked Webber if it were time for slicks, but he indicated that inters were still absolutely necessary. Hamilton, then Raikkonen stopped into the pits. Neither changed anything. Soon Vettel and Hulkenberg also stopped, then so did van der Garde.

Multiple drivers continued to stop with five mintues remaining. Rosberg led Vettel, Webber, di Resta, Alonso, Maldonado, Button, Vergne, Guiterrez, and Sutil as the top ten. Hamilton was the quickest of those in the knockout zone at that point, with van der Garde, Chilton, Bianchi, Massa, and Grosjean there with him. Bianchi would be knocked out after his mechanical issue.

Grosjean headed out of the garage with four minutes to go, moments before Hamilton jumped up to provisional pole. Alonso pitted with two and a half minutes to go from seventh, then rejoined with fresh inters. At the top of the timesheets, Bottas slotted into second, with Perez third, only to have Button Better Hamilton. Grosjean’s first fast lap put him fastest of all, leaving Sutil, Vergne, Chilton, Bianchi, and Massa in the knockout zone. Massa would not join the session.

Vergne moved up to second fastest, leaving Gutierrez to the knockout zone. Webber in twelfth, as did Raikkonen in fifteenth had time for a single final lap to ensure they moved on to Q2 after the flag. Sutil managed twelfth, dropping di Resta to seventeenth with Pic. Di Resta could not improve enough to move on. In the end, Maldonado (1:23.452) led Vergne, Alonso, Grosjean, Button, Hamilton, Vettel, Rosberg, Bottas, and Perez as the top ten for Q1.

Knocked Out in Q1:
17. Paul di Resta
18. Charles Pic
19. Esteban Guiterrez
20. Max Chilton
21. Jules Bianchi
22. Felipe Massa

Q2:
The rain had returned between the sessions, leaving drivers to continue their use of inters for the fifteen minutes of Q2. Nearly all of the men vying to move on to fight for pole were out fairly straightaway. Rosberg had to abort his first fast lap, cutting the chicane. Early times had Rosberg, Perez, Button, Raikkonen, Webber, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Vettel, Maldonado, and Vergne the top ten with ten minutes to go. Only Sutil and van der Garde had yet to set times. Vergne soon pitted for fresh tyres, even as Hulkenberg (1:27.474) went fastest. It would not soon last, with Raikkonen, then Perez, then Grosjean taking provisional pole.

Button (1:23.014) led at halfway, with the rain easing more and more. Bottas, Vettel, Ricciardo, Maldonado, Vergne, and van der Garde were then in the knockout zone, though the order would not last long. Soon Alonso and Sutil had pitted, even as they dropped into the relegation zone. Rosberg (1:22.119) led Webber, Button, Vettel, and Grosjean as the fastest five with five minutes to go. Webber pitted, even as van der Garde rejoined with dry tyres. Hulkenberg and Raikkonen also stopped by the garage. Webber put on slicks, then so did most of the field.

Alonso had slid down to fourteenth on his inters, but was on a quick lap that he aborted for dry tyres with just over three minutes to go. Also in the knockout zone sat Raikkonen, Bottas, van der Garde, Sutil, and Ricciardo. Van der Garde, the dry tyre guinea pig, moved up to sixth.

Webber (1:19.254) went fastest as Alonso’s out lap took him straight on at the chicane. Button soon went second, with van der Garde moving up to third. Grosejan next went fastest. With thirty seconds to go, Vergne, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, Alonso, and Sutil were in the knockout zone. Raikkonen looked ready to move up, and move up he did, to second.

Alonso started a final flying lap, having moved up to sixth. He soon dropped to ninth, then tenth, then eleventh as Hulkenberg managed to look safe to move on to Q3. Alonso managed to haul himself up to fifth, even as Hamilton had moved up to fourth. In the end, Vettel (1:15.988) led Raikkonen, Rosberg, Hamilton, Alonso, Sutil, Webber, Button, Vergne, and Perez off to Q3.

Knocked Out in Q2:
11. Nico Hulkenberg
12. Daniel Ricciardo
13. Romain Grosjean
14. Valtteri Bottas
15. Giedo van der Garde
16. Pastor Maldonado

Q3:
Raikkonen led the queue to head out for the ten minutes of Q3, with Rosberg and Hamilton immediately behind. The track continued to dry as all ten drivers joined the circuit within the first minute of the session. Raikkonen’s first lap was rather slow, five seconds slower than Hamilton’s behind him. Rosberg was five seconds slower than Raikkonen, but Webber (1:15.134) soon went fastest of all. He led Hamilton, Alonso, Vergne, Button, Perez, Vettel, Sutil, Raikkonen, and Rosberg after the first flying laps were set.

Raikkonen soon went second fastest, only to have Hamilton, then Rosgberg besting Webber. The Australian then bested his first time to stay fastest. However, Vettel was four tenths faster than his teammate at halfway. Rosberg was third, with Hamilton, Alonso, Raikkonen, Perez, Vergne, Sutil, and Button the rest of the running order.

Most stopped with four minutes remaining for new dry tyres, even as spots of rain fell again. Button soon moved up to seventh, while Vettel remained in the garage until just two minutes remained. Early sector times on the fresh tyres were rather slow, though Raikkonen and Webber looked ready for a shootout, their first sectors on the flying lap just a tenth apart. Rosberg, though, was two tenths faster than Webber.

Raikkonen moved up to third fastest with one more lap, Webber went fastest of all, only to have Hamilton then Rosberg take provisional pole. Rosberg was the last man to cross the line before the flag. Button pitted with no power. Vettel could manage only third fastest, while his teammate lost time and aborted his final lap. So too did Raikkonen. In the end, no one could touch Rosberg’s fast time and he won his third pole in a row.

Final Qualifying Times for the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix:

 DriverTeamTimeLaps
1. Nico RosbergMercedes1:13.87631
2. Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:13.96731
3. Sebastian VettelRed Bull1:13.98029
4. Mark WebberRed Bull1:14.18130
5. Kimi RaikkonenLotus1:14.82231
6. Fernando AlonsoFerrari1:14.82432
7. Sergio PerezMcLaren1:15.13831
8. Adrian SutilForce India1:15.38329
9. Jenson ButtonMcLaren1:15.64729
10. Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1:15.70329
11. Nico HulkenbergSauber1:18.33122
12. Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1:18.34423
13. Romain GrosjeanLotus1:18.60313
14. Valtteri BottasWilliams1:18.07722
15. Giedo van der GardeCaterham1:19.40821
16. Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1:21.68822
17. Paul di RestaForce India1:26.32214
18. Charles PicCaterham1:26.63313
19. Esteban GuiterrezSauber1:26.91712
20. Max ChiltonMarussia1:27.30313
21. Jules BianchiMarussian/t1
22. Felipe Massa*Ferrarin/t

*received a 5-place gearbox penalty due to his incident in FP3

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