Sebastian Vettel secured his first ever pole position in Monaco in a qualifying session overshadowed by a nasty accident for Sergio Perez.
The Mexican driver was taken to the medical centre after the heavy impact but was reportedly conscious and talking as he was removed from the wreckage of his Sauber.
Jenson Button starts tomorrow's race from second, Mark Webber third and Fernando Alonso fourth. Michael Schumacher had his best qualifying performance as he took fifth place ahead of Felipe Massa.
Lewis Hamilton's first flying lap in Q3 was ruined by the red flags for Perez's accident and his best effort on the restart could lay claim to only seventh place. Nico Rosberg and Pastor Maldonado will start eighth and ninth whilst Perez, if cleared to race, will start tenth.
The morning practice session in some way set the tone for qualifying in that it was punctuated by two notable accidents, each resulting in a red flag. One was for Nico Rosberg, who hit the barriers coming out of the tunnel, and the other was for Tonio Liuzzi. Both men climbed from their wrecked cars unhurt, but it was a race against time for the mechanics to get the cars repaired for qualifying.
The Hispania mechanics did not get Liuzzi out for qualifying, but the Mercedes crew did manage to get Rosberg's car out before the end of Q1. He jumped straight into fifth on the timesheets with his first flying lap.
Traffic was always going to be a problem in Q1 and so the front-runners just stuck on a set of the prime tyres and continued to circulate for much of the session to ensure a traffic-free lap. Toro Rosso suspected that they would be in danger of dropping out at this early stage and chose to use a set of the option tyres to try and get themselves out of trouble.
This move prompted all but Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari to also use a set of these super-soft tyres. In the end it was Jaime Alguersuari who went out with the six drivers from the new teams. The Spaniard also lightly tagged the back of Kamui Kobayashi during his brief appearance in qualifying, and was hauled in front of the stewards for his misdemeanour. Neither Hispania driver set a flying lap so the stewards will have to make a decision as to whether or not they can race tomorrow.
Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button put in faster laps than Sebastian Vettel in Q1, indicating that Red Bull were perhaps not going to have it all their own way today in qualifying.
Hamilton also set the fastest time in Q2, albeit just two thousandths of a second better than Vettel's best effort. Button was third fastest.
Towards the back, Pastor Maldonado got through to a second successive Q2, and Sergio Perez all got into the final part of qualifying. Vitaly Petrov failed to get through to Q3 for the first time this season and Rubens Barrichello, Kobayashi, Paul di Resta, Adrian Sutil, Nick Heidfeld and Sebastien Buemi were the other casualties of Q2.
Jenson Button set the early pace in Q3 – a 1:13.997. Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa could not beat that time with their first efforts, but Sebastian Vettel obliterated the time on his first attempt with a lap of 1:13.556.
It was when Lewis Hamilton was on his fastest lap that Sergio Perez had his accident. He came out of the tunnel slightly off the racing line, lost control and hit the barrier on the right-hand side of the track – the same section that Rosberg hit in free practice. The Mexican then skidded, on three wheels, sideways into a barrier. Sauber confirmed that he was conscious and talking after his accident.
The incident brought out the red flag with 2 minutes and 26 seconds of qualifying remaining, with Lewis Hamilton and Pastor Maldonado yet to set a lap time in Q3. When the session did restart, after a 38 minute delay, Hamilton was waiting at the exit of the pit lane, eager to get his flying lap in.
Hamilton was followed out of the pits by team-mate Button, and the rest of the remaining participants, all of them after one more attempt to improve their qualifying position. As it was, Hamilton could manage only seventh, Rosberg and Maldonado only eighth and ninth, and the rest of the field abandoned their laps.
Monaco Grand Prix 2011: Provisional Qualifying Result
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:13.556||18||Report|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull||1:14.019||24||Report|
|10||17||Sergio Perez||Sauber||No Time||23||Report|
|14||15||Paul di Resta||Force India||1:16.118||22||Report|
|15||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India||1:16.121||19||Report|
|17||18||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso||1:16.300||17|
|18||20||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus||1:17.343||10|
|19||21||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus||1:17.381||9|
|20||19||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso||1:17.820||9|
|21||24||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing||1:17.914||12|
|22||25||Jerome D'Ambrosio||Virgin Racing||1:18.736||11|
|23||22||Narain Karthikeyan||Hispania Racing||No Time||0|
|24||23||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Hispania Racing||No Time||0|
|107% qualifying time||1:20.471|