Qualifying - Vettel on pole in Monaco after Perez shunt 28 May 2011
Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel was in the right place at the right time in a dramatic final qualifying session in Monaco on Saturday afternoon, to take his fifth pole of the season. Just after the world champion had gone fastest, the session was red flagged with 2m 26s remaining when Sergio Perez, who had done a great job to run ninth in Q2, lost his Sauber over the bumps exiting the tunnel.
Perez was wider off line than Mercedes Nico Rosberg had been in the morning, but thereafter his accident followed the trend of the Germans as he crashed first into the right-hand barriers. That crushed the right-hand side of the C30, which then ran down the road and broadsided, on the right-hand side again, into the same chicane wall that Sauber driver Karl Wendlinger had struck back in 1994.
Medical services were on the scene quickly, and the young Mexican was gently removed from the cockpit and placed in the ambulance, conscious and responding to questions from Sauber CEO Monisha Kaltenborn, at 15.08 local time.
At the time of the accident Vettel led McLarens Jenson Button, 1m 13.556s to 1m 13.997s, with Red Bulls Mark Webber next on 1m 14.019s from Ferraris Fernando Alonso on 1m 14.483s and Mercedes Michael Schumacher on 1m 14.682s. Ferraris Felipe Massa was next on 1m 14.877s.
Perezs crash was a disaster for Rosberg, who had only done 1m 17.104s after spoiling the first sector, and McLarens Lewis Hamilton, who had been fastest in Q1 and Q2 and had deliberately held back in search of a clear run. He was on his first fast lap when Perez crashed and thus saw it lost. As the session restart approached, he faced starting from eighth place.
All chance of pole for the Englishman had disappeared, and as eight rivals prepared to do one last banzai lap, McLaren moved into damage limitation mode. Hamilton had to grasp any improvement he could. He got out first when the session resumed at 15.35, but when he ran across the chicane it was all over and qualifying petered out to its unsatisfactory conclusion. The only consolation was that his 1m 15.280s moved him ahead of Rosberg (1m 15.766s) into seventh. After qualifying, however, the stewards decided to delete his best time for the jump over the chicane and he is expected to drop down to ninth on the Monaco grid. Williams Pastor Maldonado, meanwhile, who set the ninth-fastest time with a lap of 1m 16.528s is thus expected to start from eighth.
Hamilton had led the way in Q2 with 1m 14.275s, but Vettel was only two-hundredths slower. Further back, Renaults miserable weekend continued. Vitaly Petrov was the first to be knocked out, taking 11th place with 1m 15.815s. Rubens Barrichello was 12th in the second Williams on 1m 15.826s and Kamui Kobayashi was the last man below 1m 16s with 1m 15.973s for Sauber.
The Force ndia boys had an excellent set-to, which was eventually resolved right at the end in Paul di Restas favour, but only just. He lapped in 1m 16.118s to Adrian Sutils 1m 16.121s. Behind them, Nick Heidfeld struggled for grip in his Renault R31 and only managed 1m 16.214s for 16th, with Sebastien Buemi 17th for Toro Rosso on 1m 16.300s.
Earlier, Hamilton had headed the Q1 times with 1m 15.207s from Button on 1m 15.397s, as Mercedes did a great job to get Rosberg running. Rosberg did an even better job to put his rebuilt car in fifth place. The session weeded out both Lotuses as Heikki Kovalainen improved 1m 17.343s in the closing moments to push Jarno Trulli down to 19th on 1m 17.381s.
Jaime Alguersuari didnt get out at the end to try to improve on his 1m 17.820s (sharp contrast to Toro Rosso team mate Buemis 11th on 1m 16.358s), and the Virgins of Timo Glock and Jerome DAmbrosio (1m 17.914s and 1m 18.736s respectively) rounded out the field as neither of the HRTs appeared and thus failed to qualify. They will be allowed to race, however, based on their practice times.
The stewards are also looking at a Q1 incident in which Kobayashi appeared to block Alguersuari at Rascasse as the Sauber driver slowed to pit, prompting minor contact between the two cars.
For tickets and travel to 2011 Formula One races, click here.
For Formula One and F1 team merchandise, click here.