Lewis Hamilton bounced back from a difficult run in the second stage of qualifying to secure his first pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix on Saturday with a scintillating final lap in Q3.
The defending Formula 1 world champion managed to edge out Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by three-tenths of a second at the end of qualifying as the German team once again locked out the front row of the grid.
Thanks to falling temperatures, Ferrari was unable to put up much of a fight to Mercedes for pole position, allowing Hamilton to storm to the top of the timesheets with a best lap of 1:15.098.
Qualifying kicked off with most of the drivers heading out on the prime soft compound tire for their first Q1 runs. Hamilton set the early pace for Mercedes, only for Rosberg to hit back and edge out his teammate by six-hundredths of a second for P1. Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were nine-tenths adrift of the mercedes duo, but had done enough to secure a place in Q2 without running again.
Despite establishing itself as the third-fastest team in 2015, Williams failed to get both of its cars through to Q2 as Valtteri Bottas finished 17th in the standings, splitting the Sauber duo of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson who qualified 16th and 18th respectively. Once again, Will Stevens out-qualified Roberto Merhi in the battle at Manor as both posted a time good enough to line up on the grid tomorrow.
With a set of tires already saved, Mercedes and Ferrari moved onto the super-softs at the start of Q2 to ensure that its drivers advanced through to the pole position shoot-out. Vettel put his fresh tires to good use to top the timesheets for Ferrari with his first flying lap, but Rosberg once again responded by going three-quarters of a second faster.
Hamilton’s lap was less impressive, slotting into third place with a time that was identical to Vettel’s, and he lamented a poor run when speaking to his engineer. The Briton went out for a second run, but still could not get close to Rosberg’s time, giving the German the advantage heading into Q3.
McLaren’s hopes of reaching Q3 after a strong showing in practice were soon dashed when Jenson Button was left P12 after being forced to bail on his flying lap due to yellow flags, whilst teammate Fernando Alonso suffered an engine issue that left him P15. Romain Grosjean missed out on Q3 for the second race in a row, qualifying 11th, whilst Nico Hulkenberg and Felipe Massa completed the dropzone in P13 and P14 respectively.
With rain hanging in the air at the start of Q3, all of the drivers in the top ten moved quickly to get out on track and post a lap time in case of a later downpour. After taking two laps to warm up their tires, the Mercedes drivers began their fight for pole, with Hamilton drawing first blood by going 0.136 seconds quicker than Rosberg in the opening salvo.
The rain continued to linger but failed to affect track conditions, giving Hamilton and Rosberg a chance for a second run to try and improve their times. With fresh tires fitted, Hamilton was the first to get out on track, opting once again to take two laps to warm up ahead of a final flying lap.
In spite of the falling temperatures, Hamilton managed to produce a superb lap to improve his time and leave Rosberg with a mountain to climb. However, after poor first sector and a lock-up at turn one, Rosberg failed to improve his time, leaving him second on the grid and handing pole position to his teammate.
Sebastian Vettel also failed to improve on his final lap time, leaving him third on the grid ahead of ex-Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who will line up fourth on the grid tomorrow. Daniil Kvyat followed his teammate in fifth place, whilst Kimi Raikkonen’s tough weekend continued as he limped to sixth overall in Q3.
Despite not running again in the latter stages of the session, Sergio Perez qualified an excellent seventh for Force India, whilst Pastor Maldonado enjoyed his best qualifying of the season to finish ninth between the Toro Rosso drivers of Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen.
In the fight for supremacy at Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton has claimed an important victory with pole in Monaco. Given that this Nico Rosberg’s favorite circuit and that ten of the past eleven races have been won from pole position, the omens are certainly good for the defending world champion.
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