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Qualifying analysis - the gloves come off at Mercedes

24 May 2014

The Rosberg incident overshadowed everything else in Saturday’s Monaco qualifying, but with the German having been cleared of any wrongdoing, the stage is set for an epic street fight of a race between the two Mercedes drivers, whose championship battle is becoming ever-more intense. We take a team-by-team look at Saturday in Monte Carlo…

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg, 1m 15.989s, P1

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 16.084s, P2

Everything had looked rosy at Mercedes, with Hamilton heading Rosberg narrowly in all of the practice sessions and then Rosberg taking a small advantage in their first runs in Q3. But then the German made that mistake and locked up going down to Mirabeau on his second run and a none-too-impressed Hamilton lost his shot at pole while embarked upon a faster lap. After five hard-fought races in which their rivalry has been intense but good-natured, it looks as though the gloves have now come off and Mercedes will be anxiously monitoring events at the start as the field streams into Ste Devote…

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 16.384s, P3

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 16.547s, P4

Just as they had hoped, Red Bull were a lot closer to Mercedes on a track where terminal speed means little. Ricciardo was an absolute star as he hurled his RB10 around with huge panache and confidence and again beat Vettel. Both know that their greatest chance will come at the start, if they can just split the Mercedes…

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, 1m 16.686s, P5

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 17.389s, P6

Ferrari weren’t anything like as quick as they’d hoped even though they too, courtesy of Alonso, had reduced the gap to Mercedes. But fifth and sixth places is a decent start in those circumstances.

Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 17.540s, P7

Daniil Kvyat, 1m 18.090s, P9

Both Vergne and Kvyat put in heroic performances. The Frenchman was fastest of all in Q1, thanks to a run on the supersofts when the big four were still on softs, and maintained strong form all the way through qualifying to take an excellent seventh on the grid. His Russian rookie team mate crashed at the chicane in Q1 after a bit of a tank slapper under braking out of the tunnel, but kept his head and redeemed himself with a very strong performance for ninth overall which belied his complete lack of street-race experience prior to the weekend.

McLaren

Kevin Magnussen, 1m 17.555s, P8

Jenson Button, 1m 17.988s, P12

McLaren hoped for more than eighth and 12th, but just didn’t have the pace to do better. Magnussen said he was disappointed to miss out so narrowly on seventh place, especially as the car had felt better than its ultimate lap time, while Button admitted that he just didn’t get a decent lap together on the supersoft tyre in Q2.

Force India

Sergio Perez, 1m 18.327s, P10

Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 17.846s, P11

Perez said he was disappointed with 10th place but that he’d locked up going into the chicane and lost crucial time. Hulkenberg by contrast said that 11th was okay because he’d felt that his lap was pretty reasonable.

Williams

Valtteri Bottas, 1m 18.082s, P13

Felipe Massa, No time, P16

Qualifying was a massive disappointment for Williams. They lost Massa through no fault of his own after the silly accident triggered by Ericsson at Mirabeau at the end of Q1. The Brazilian had been 10th fastest in the session but his car was put out of action. He said Q3 would have been a struggle, but was angry to be denied a Q2 chance. Bottas, meanwhile, couldn’t get the heat he needed into the front tyres.

Lotus

Romain Grosjean, 1m 18.196s, P14

Pastor Maldonado, 1m 18.356s, P15

Both Lotus drivers admitted that the E22 just lacked speed this weekend and they struggled with it principally in the slow corners.

Sauber

Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 18.741s, P17

Adrian Sutil, 1m 18.745s, P18

Sauber were another team struggling to generate decent front tyre temperatures, and both drivers felt they compromised by the Ericsson/Massa incident at the end of Q1 when they were ready for the final push to get into Q2. They were separated by a mere four-thousandths of a second, and missed the cut by just over a tenth.

Marussia

Jules Bianchi, 1m 19.332s, P19

Max Chilton, 1m 19.928s, P20

Bianchi was a genuine star of FP3 with a very competitive lap time in the lower midfield, but the team were unable to repeat that when it really mattered. Yellow flags played a part in that, though there was also a feeling that they didn’t quite get the best from the car with either driver.

Caterham

Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 20.133s, P21

Marcus Ericsson, 1m 21.732s, P22, will start from pit lane

Caterham had another unhappy qualifying session, especially when Ericsson got it wrong at the end of Q1 as he stumbled over Massa at Mirabeau. Low front tyre temperatures and resultant understeer didn’t help. Ericsson must start from the pit lane as penalty for his indiscretion.