Rosberg Monaco 25May13
Nico Rosberg - Credit: Octane Photographic
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Rosberg Leads Front-Row Lock-Out in Damp Monaco Qualifying

Nico Rosberg claimed his third-successive pole position in Monaco today in an unpredictable, rain-affected qualifying session.

Lewis Hamilton will join his teammate on the front row of the grid for tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix as Mercedes enjoyed their second qualifying 1-2 of the season.

Sebastian Vettel leads an all-Red Bull second row, while Kimi Raikkonen took fifth and Fernando Alonso had to settle for sixth place.

Sergio Perez, in seventh, out-qualified McLaren teammate Jenson Button, who could only manage ninth. Adrian Sutil splits the two in eighth, whilst Jean-Eric Vergne starts tenth.

Further down the grid, Giedo van der Garde was one of the drivers of the day. The Dutch rookie excelled in damp conditions to get his Caterham out of Q1, and then out-qualified Pastor Maldonado to finish fifteenth.

Paul di Resta failed to escape Q1, and qualified only seventeenth.

There was rain falling as qualifying got underway so intermediate tyres were needed as the cars headed out for the start of the qualifying session.

Within a minute the first driver was out of the session, but Jules Bianchi could blame an engine problem for his failure, rather than a mistake in the tricky conditions.

Of the three drivers who had heavy shunts in Free Practice 3, Adrian Sutil was able to get out on track early in the session. Romain Grosjean emerged from the pits with four minutes of Q1 remaining, but Ferrari could not get Felipe Massa out of the pits in time.

Out on track, the lap times tumbled throughout Q1 as the racing line continued to dry. Pastor Maldonado finished the first stage of qualifying at the top of the timesheets, just ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne, just to illustrate the levelling effect of the rain.

Bianchi and Massa made up the bottom six by virtue of not completing a lap. Paul di Resta, who qualified seventeenth, Charles Pic, Esteban Gutierrez, and Max Chilton, also bowed out of qualifying at the end of Q1.

The rain continued for Q2, and intermediate tyres were still the tyres to be on. However, the lap times continued to fall as the cars were removing the water from the racing line quicker than the rain could replace it.

Giedo van der Garde, who was already in unchartered territory having got his Caterham into Q2, was clearly feeling adventurous. He became the first driver to switch to slick tyres with about five minutes of the session remaining.

The rest of the field quickly followed suit, just as Van der Garde jumped up to sixth on the timesheets.

With everybody on the Pirelli super-soft tyre, the times tumbled towards the end of Q2. Sebastian Vettel was the fastest in the session, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg – normal service had been resumed.

Nico Hulkenberg just missed out on a place in Q3, qualifying eleventh just ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. After all their efforts in the run-up to qualifying, the Lotus team might have hoped for more than the thirteenth place achieved by Romain Grosjean. Valtteri Bottas was fourteenth.

Geido van der Garde was fifteenth and Pastor Maldonado went from fastest driver in Q1 to slowest in Q2.

It was super-soft tyres all round for as Q3 began, and all ten drivers hurried out on track to avoid any further rain.

There were some stellar laps in the first half of Q3, and Sebastian Vettel had provisional pole position at the five-minute mark with a 1:14.333 lap.

That lap from Vettel seemed to be the cue for everybody to go back into the pits for new tyres. There were still spots of rain around, but the drivers were treated this very much like a dry qualifying shoot-out.

Mark Webber was first to beat that time – a 1:14.181. But then Lewis Hamilton went with a 1:13.967. Nico Rosberg then trumped that time with a 1:13.876.

Vettel improved on his time, as did Webber, but neither could dislodge either of the Mercedes cars from the front row. Fernando Alonso, who struggled to get heat into his final set of tyres, could not do any better than sixth.