McLaren untouchable as Raikkonen and Coulthard hit trouble
All things being equal, McLaren should own Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix, after Fernando Alonso just pipped team mate Lewis Hamilton to take the teams first pole position of the season.
Hamilton was fractionally quicker until he encountered Mark Webbers Red Bull on the approach to Portier. The Australian moved off line as they went through the tunnel, but Hamilton had lost a precious tenth or two and had to settle for the 1m 15.905s lap he had recorded earlier as he came up with 1m 15.968s.
Meanwhile, Alonso was fast coming up on Nico Rosbergs Williams, but squeezed in a strong 1m 15.726s lap to settle the issue. When Felipe Massa came up short with 1m 15.967s for Ferrari, that was all she wrote.
But what of Kimi Raikkonen? Well, those who caught what happened to him in Q2 could have been forgiven for thinking that they were watching a replay of Michael Schumachers infamous Rascasse parking technique from 2006. But the Finn was not trying anything on; hed walloped the barrier exiting the Swimming Pool, and had damaged the front suspension on his F2007.
That left him without the required steering lock needed to make it around the tight Rascasse. As he sat, stricken on the outside of the corner, exactly as Schumacher had the previous year, Massa came upon him and decided to go to the left; for a moment a double nightmare loomed for the Scuderia, but Raikkonen was reversing his way out of trouble, and the Brazilian was able to go round the front of his team mate.
Raikkonen crept sheepishly to the pits, where his damaged mount remained. There was, however, a small sliver of a silver lining in his cloud; instead of being 16th on the grid he got moved up a place when the stewards decided that Red Bulls David Coulthard had impeded Heikki Kovalainen after administering a mighty chop to the Renault driver in Noghes at the end of that session. The Scots 1m 16.319s lap left him eighth until they ruled that his action was improper and dropped him to 16th. Then the stewards had a rethink, and put Coulthard 13th, which dropped Raikkonen back to 16th.
The Scot's penalty was either way good news for Jenson Button and Honda; the Englishman got a reprieve for Q3 after missing out to team mate Rubens Barrichello by three-thousandths of a second.
Back to Q3. Giancarlo Fisichella boosted Renaults fortunes with fourth place in 1m 16.285s, and Rosbergs final lap brought him 1m 16.439s and fifth after an excellent showing. Webber clung to the third row with sixth fastest 1m 16.784s, and then came the BMW Saubers, which, for once, disappointed. Nick Heidfeld had a messy lap, with slides in the Pool and at Noghes, for 1m 16.832s, and Robert Kubica did 1m 16.955s for eighth. Behind them, the Hondas took the fifth row, with Barrichello on 1m 17.498s and Button on 1m 17.939s.
After the rearrangements, Alex Wurz was the man who just missed the cut in Q2 after lapping his Williams in 1m 16.662s, which leaves him on row six with Toro Rossos Tonio Liuzzi. The Italian was the star of Q1 with fourth fastest time of 1m 16.720s behind Hamilton, Alonso and Raikkonen, but was only sent out right at the end of Q2 and could not better 1m 16.703s in the time available.
Jarno Trulli was yet again Toyota's flagbearer. While Ralf Schumacher again failed to escape Q1, the Italian lapped his TF107 in 1m 16.988s for 14th, ahead of the unfortunate Kovalainen, whose altercation with Coulthard cost him dear. He had to do with 1m 17.125s, which left him ahead of only Raikkonen until the stewards intervened.
The first faller in Q1 was Anthony Davidson, who took his Super Aguri round in 1m 18.250s for 17th ahead of Scott Speed (1m 18.390s), Adrian Sutil (1m 18.418s), Schumacher (1m 18.539s), Takuma Sato (1m 18.554s) and Christijan Albers, who didnt record a time in his Spyker.
So thats the provisional grid, but dont forget the 80 percent chance of rain showers that are forecast all day Sunday.