Michael Schumacher (1:14.301) won pole for the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix, but will be dropped five starting positions as a penalty for running into the back of Bruno Senna two weeks ago at Barcelona. That allows second fastest qualifier Mark Webber to start the race on pole. Nico Rosberg will start alongside him, with Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean completing the second row, and dropping Schumacher down to sixth and a starting position next to Fernando Alonso. Pastor Maldonado also suffered a grid penalty, losing ten places from his ninth place qualifying position for “causing a collision,” deliberately turning in on Sergio Perez during the Saturday morning practice. Jenson Button fell out in Q2, managing only thirteenth in that session which saw Jean-Eric Vergne hit the barrier exiting the tunnel and becoming a moving chicane as he limped back to the garage.
Three different drivers held the fastest lap for each of the three practice sessions. Alonso (1:16.265) led first in the morning practice on Thursday, the cleanest of the practices, with Grosjean, Perez, Hamilton, and Maldonado completing the fastest five. That afternoon saw a light rain disrupt running, with the track wet enough to be greasy but not enough to allow for proper running on either inters or full wets. Button (1:15.746) set the fastest lap in that session, in the first fifteen minutes of dry running before the rain began to fall. Grosjean, Massa, Alonso, and Maldonado joined him at the top of the timesheets in a session that ended early with a red flag caused by Heikki Kovalainen’s blown engine in the final ten minutes, just as a dry line had begun to form.
The final practice Saturday morning also ended early with a red flag in the final minutes, as Maldonado crashed twice into the barriers at Casino after an apparent deliberate bump into the side of Perez a few turns earlier. Traffic was its usual difficult self at Monaco, particularly in that final session. Rosberg (1:15.159) set the fastest lap in the latter half of the practice, leading Massa, Vettel, Alonso, and Grosjean at the end.
The sun continued to shine brightly, but there were no early takers waiting at the light as the twenty minutes of Q1 began. Soon Raikkonen, Vergne, Glock, and others made their way out onto the circuit with everyone else following in the first three minutes. Pic (1:22.752) set the first time despite being held up by de la Rosa. Maldonado went to the top, with a number of times coming quickly as the group of drivers set their first times. Five minutes in, Alonso (1:17.128) led Vergne, Kobayashi, Ricciardo, and Schumacher.
Red Flag (15:10 remaining):
Perez stopped the session, crashing through the Swimming Pool section after setting the fastest overall second sector time. He came cleanly off the kerbing before, but bounced off the Armco after the steering seemingly refused to cooperate and keep him off the barrier. He attempted to get the car back to the pit, but lost a rear wheel and had to park his Sauber. When the session restarted, Webber, Button, Di Resta, Hulkenberg, Perez, Kovalainen, Vettel, and Massa had yet to set a time.
Rosberg was the first to get back out and set a time, going fourth fastest, however it was teammate Schumacher (1:16.441) who went fastest of all. Hamilton slotted into second, two tenths slower. Soon, Alonso then Maldonado went second quickest. The order did not last long as Rosberg became the first to drop into the 1:15s in qualifying. Halfway through the session, Di Resta became the first man to use the supersoft tyre while Rosberg, Maldonado, Webber, Schumacher, and Kobayashi sat on top of the timesheets. Karthikeyan, Grosjean, Pic, Raikkonen, Glock, Di Resta, and Perez were all in the knockout zone. Massa soon moved up into third fastest. Raikkonen remained in the relegation zone with just under seven minutes to go. Meanwhile, Di Resta’s supersofts put him fifth.
When five minutes remained, both Caterhams were out of the knockout zone, but Petrov soon dropped back into it. The top eight had pitted moments later, as Raikkonen moved up to seventeenth. On his own set of supersofts, Hulkenberg became the next man to go fastest, as Grosjean moved up to second fastest on a set of soft tyres. Raikkonen pitted from seventeenth for the supersofts with three minutes to go as Vettel went back out in sixteenth. All drivers from fourteenth down had gone back out, along with Grosjean and Ricciardo. Kovalainen locked up, but managed to beat Raikkonen’s time. The Finn began his lap just seconds before he’d run out of time to put down two laps. He managed to beat the traffic, moving up to fifth fastest and dropping Vettel onto the bubble. With Kovalainen and Petrov pushing hard, Vettel had to post a fast lap to be safe to move on to Q2. Hulkenberg (1:15.418) led Kobayashi, Grosjean, vettel, Schumacher, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Senna, Massa, and Webber the top ten. Hamilton and Alonso were thirteenth and fourteenth, with Button sixteenth.
Knocked Out in Q1:
18. Heikki Kovalainen
19. Vitaly Petrov
20. Timo Glock
21. Pedro de la Rosa
22. Charles Pic
23. Narain Karthikeyan
24. Sergio Perez
Vergne and Di Resta led the way onto the track for the fifteen minutes of Q2. Vettel was the last man to join, just under two minutes into the session. All the drivers but Di Resta and Grosjean used the supersoft tyres right away. After early times, Rosberg (1:15.022) led Webber, Hamilton, Massa, Alonso, Schumacher, Maldonado, Hulkenberg, Button, and Di Resta as the top ten with ten minutes remaining. Vergne brought out local yellows, then proceeded to ruin a number of laps by slowing returning to the pits with a dislocated front wing trapped under his car. He left the tunnel at an angle, then smashed into the barrier, damaging both the front wing and rear suspension. Massa did manage to use Vergne and teammate Ricciardo as a second chicane, diving between the two of them under the white flags for Vergne’s slow car.
Halfway through the session, Rosberg, Webber, Hamilton, Alonso, Maldonado, Schumacher, Massa, Button, Vettel, and Kobayashi were in the safe zone, white Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Di Resta, Vergne, Senna, and Ricciardo were in the knockout zone. In the top six, only Alonso had gone back out with four minutes remaining. The rest of the field, barring Vergne, was also out, then Maldonado and Schumacher also went out for insurance. Neither Lotus fared well with three to go, as the numbers of the relegation zone were rather illustrious.
Massa threw his Ferrari to the top with two minutes remaining, as Button, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Di Resta, Ricciardo, Vergne, and Senna were still in the knockout zone. Maldonado moved up to third, but he had been safe already. Raikkonen could not improve, but began a final lap. Meanwhile Grosjean had improved to eigth and began a super fast lap before the checkers waved. Raikkonen barely squeaked through into tenth. Senna could not improve, nor could Button, who fell to thirteenth. Massa (1:14.911) led at the end of Q2, with Rosberg, Maldonado, Webber, Schumacher, Alonso, Hamilton, Grosjean, Vettel, and Raikkonen moving on to the fight for pole.
Knocked Out in Q2:
11. Nico Hulkenberg
12. Kamui Kobayashi
13. Jenson Button
14. Bruno Senna
15. Paul Di Resta
16. Daniel Ricciardo
17. Jean-Eric Vergne
Rosberg and Maldonado were first out for the final ten minutes of qualifying. Both sets of Red Bulls and Ferraris remained in the garage as the first times came in from on the circuit. Rosberg’s first time was much slower than those in much of the rest of qualifying, leaving plenty of room for Maldonado, Hamilton, and Raikkonen to all go faster on their first laps. However, Grosjean (1:14.639) put his Lotus well ahead of everyone else’s times with six minutes to go. Rosberg quickly beat him, as Schumacher, then Hamilton slid into third fastest.
Halfway through, Rosberg (1:14.572) led Grosjean, Webber, Hamilton, Schumacher, Maldonado, and Raikkonen as the men who had set times. Vettel and Massa went out at that time, leaving Alonso the only man still in the garage without a time. As half the field pitted, the track was clear for Webber, Raikkonen, Vettel, and Massa. Alonso went out with three and a half minutes to go, as Rosberg informed Mercedes that he damaged his front wing on the kerbing at the chicane.
Massa was pushing hard on his first fast lap, setting his first slow time with two to go. At that point, Vettel went back into the garage, making him the only man not on track. Alonso looked clean and fast on his first lap, slotting into fifth on the first try, with time to go for another. Vettel would not set a time, sitting in the garage in the final seconds. Webber set a competitive first sector, then went fastest of all in the second sector, taking pole with time for yet another lap. Hamilton could not improve, as Alonso pitted. Grosjean had a fastest of all first sector, but lost a lot of time in the second sector. Massa also lost pace in the end, staying sixth. Schumacher was going well and put together a masterful lap to go straight to the top and win pole. He would not keep the position for the starting grid, but was fastest and jubilant about it on his cool down lap.
Final Qualifying Times for the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix:
Driver Team Time Laps 1. Michael Schumacher* Mercedes 1:14.301 22 2. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:14.381 19 3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:14.448 21 4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:14.583 20 5. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:14.639 27 6. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:14.948 22 7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:15.049 19 8. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:15.199 28 9. Pastor Maldonado* Williams 1:15.245 22 10. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull n/t 24 11. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:15.421 17 12. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:15.508 19 13. Jenson Button McLaren 1:15.536 18 14. Bruno Senna Williams 1:15.709 20 15. Paul Di Resta Force India 1:15.718 14 16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:15.878 19 17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:16.885 14 18. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:16.538 13 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:17.404 13 20. Timo Glock Marussia 1:17.947 11 21. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1:18.096 11 22. Charles Pic Marussia 1:18.476 12 23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1:19.310 8 24. Sergio Perez Sauber n/t 2
*five place grid penalty
**ten place grid penalty