Australian Daniel Ricciardo has confirmed Thursday's expectations by flying to pole position for Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix. Featuring an upgraded Renault power unit and the ever solid Red Bull chassis, he proved quicker than Rosberg and Hamilton. The latter came away after an engine scare that reduced his number of laps in the crucial final part of qualifying.
The session kicked off with Mercedes and Ferrari out first. It soon proved pointless, as Felipe Nasr had a spectacular engine blowout on his out lap. The Ferrari engine went as he powered through the tunnel, eventually stopping around the swimming pool and causing a red flag with 16 minutes left on the clock.
Needless to say, as the track went green again, a big queue of cars was charging onto the race track, wary that Monaco is a very tricky circuit as one runs a high risk of getting caught in traffic.
Interestingly, the first timed laps resulted in Haas and Renault topping the timesheet, with Ferrari and Mercedes seemingly requiring an extra lap on the ultra softs to get the up into working temperature. The next lap provided a slightly more familar ranking, with Hamilton fastest, 0.042s ahead of Rosberg and another 4 tenths ahead of Vettel.
Both Red Bulls and Alonso waited until another 8 minutes into the session to get out on track. Ricciardo did well to record the 4th fastest time on his first attempt, but half a lap down on him, Verstappen on the other hand didn't make sure a solid impression. As he went through the second chicane around the swimming pool, he touched the inside barriers, breaking off the right hand steering arm and sending him straight on in the barriers on the exit of the chicane.
That effectively brought another red flag, with Alonso the only man still in competition having completed no timed lap. He went on with it as soon as the track was cleared, taking first place in the pitlane queue to be first out on track. 6:16 minutes were left on the clock at that time, with the Manor and Renault drivers, along with Ericsson at the time looking like the most likely suspects to risk getting eliminated.
Alonso then completed two flying laps without traffic, setting a time 1.2s down on the then fastest man, Sebastian Vettel. That soon dropped the Spaniard down to 15th again, triggering him to complete another flyer after a cool down lap. He eventually slotted into 8th.
Q2 was incident free but dominated by cars queuing up in the latter part of the track to find some free space ahead. The situation was compounded by the ultrasoft tyre compound which didn't offer the ultimate performance on the first flying lap, but instead are best on the second or even third flyer.
Still, after a series of times in the 1:25 range, times tumbled down to Hamilton's 1:14.056, 4 tenths ahead of Rosberg, Ricciardo and Vettel. Replays showed later that in one of his early laps, he touched the barriers in the same location as Verstappen did, albeit much less violently, and subsequently also without any damage to his car.
Williams were on a different running strategy and opted for three consecutive flying laps in the second half of Q2, but they eventually had to bow out, not coming closer than 11th and 14th.
At the end of the session, Rosberg did return to the track to record a small improvement, as well as Ricciardo, who managed to improve his own time using super softs, contrary to everybody else's ultra soft tyres. This can potentially provide a vital advantage for the Australian, as he is set for a much longer first stint than anybody else in the top 10 of the starting grid.
Q3 started with drama yet again, with Hamilton unable to get out of the pitlane, having queued to be one of the first out on track. Rosberg was still sat in the box at the time when Hamilton's engineers came running down the pitlane to recover him and his car. They eventually got the car back in the box with 8:20 left on the clock.
Meanwhile, Ricciardo was on his way to set the fastest lap of this weekend up until that time, completing a lap in 1:13.622. Rosberg's first flyer was 3 tenths down, with Vettel and Raikkonen around a full second down on the Red Bull driver.
2 minutes after that stunning lap by Ricciardo, Hamilton came out on track, having the track for himself as other prepared for a second run. Hamilton however set a first flyer 7 seconds down, with the next lap compromised by a low revving engine in the uphill section after Ste. Devote. Still, Hamilton made the best of his only chance and moved up into third in very difficult conditions.
Ricciardo's lap meanwhile wasn't improved anymore, even though Rosberg improved to close the gap to less than two tenths.
|1||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing||1:14.912||1:14.357||1:13.622||21|
|2||6||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG||1:14.873||1:14.043||1:13.791||24|
|3||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG||1:14.826||1:14.056||1:13.942||21|
|5||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:15.333||1:14.989||1:14.726||25|
|7||55||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||1:15.467||1:14.805||1:14.749||23|
|8||11||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:15.328||1:14.937||1:14.902||28|
|9||26||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1:15.384||1:14.794||1:15.273||23|
|NC||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing||1:22.467||-||-||3|