Martin Whitmarsh thinks that if anybody can win in Monaco without starting on the front row then it is Lewis Hamilton, who will start the race down in ninth place after having his Q3 lap time deleted for cutting a chicane.
McLaren team-mate Jenson Button starts on the front row, alongside pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel.
“First of all, I want to say on behalf of everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes that we hope Sergio is okay,” said Whitmarsh. “That's more important than anything else.
“Moving on to our own performance in qualifying today, Jenson put in a great lap quite early in Q3 – and, although he'd doubtless have liked to have a go at improving it, when the track reopened it had become slower so it wasn't possible for him to do so.
“Lewis hadn't yet set a time in Q3 before the session was temporarily stopped, and P7 was the result,” added Whitmarsh, speaking before Hamilton received the penalty. “He's understandably disappointed, because he's been in fantastic form all weekend and was looking very good in Q1 and Q2 today. It's fair to say that he fancied his chances of bagging pole position today, in fact.
“Instead, as I say, he'll start from P7 – which, on the tight confines of this notoriously tortuous circuit, presents quite a challenge in terms of recovering from a disappointing qualifying position. But he loves this circuit – and, if there's one man who's capable of making that recovery, it's Lewis.
“Jenson will start tomorrow's race from the front row. He's won here before, in 2009, and he'll definitely be aiming to do so again this year.”
Hamilton was on his first flying lap when Sergio Perez had his nasty accident and his one flying lap after the session was restarted was compromised by cold tyres and cold brakes. The 2008 Monaco GP winner suspects he could have been on pole:
“I hope Sergio is well – my prayers and thoughts go out to him and his family,” Hamilton said, speaking before he learned of the grid penalty. “He was driving so well this weekend – you could see that from the onboard footage – but it was a very heavy shunt. You never want to see another driver get injured, and it's at the back of your mind when you go back out, but you need to stay professional.
“After the restart in Q3, I had no temperature in my tyres or my brakes, so I didn't manage to pull a great lap together. With hindsight, we probably should have put a banker in.
“I felt I'd been driving well all weekend and I had the pace to be on pole – I'm certain of that, in fact. I'll do my best from my grid slot – and, while it'll be tough to win from there, I won't give up. I'll keep pushing. My job will be to get as many points as I can tomorrow.”
Button was pleased with the lap that got him second on the grid and thinks that, with a good strategy, he is in with a reasonable chance of victory tomorrow.
“Today's result in qualifying takes a bit of a back seat after what happened to Sergio in Q3 this afternoon,” he said. “We all know this circuit can be dangerous, and I know what it feels like to go off at that particular corner, but I'm very happy to hear that he appears not to have been seriously injured. I've got no doubt that he'll already be telling the doctors that he wants to race tomorrow.
“As for my performance, I was very happy with my Q3 lap: I knew there was more to come from the car after my Q1 and Q2 runs, when I had a bit too much understeer. While second isn't the easiest place to get away from here, it's still nice to be up at the front.
“I think we'll see a different Monaco Grand Prix from what we usually see – strategy will be important, and I think it will make the race more exciting than normal because we should be able to push for victory despite not starting from pole.
“Our car feels good here, and that's given me a lot of confidence: I'll be pushing in the race tomorrow.”