Raikkonen takes Monaco pole


Ahead of today's all-important qualifying session the air temperature is 25 degrees C, while the track temperature is 53 degrees.

For a sport often given over to hyperbole, for once the terms "all important" is warranted, for in the narrow confines of the Principality starting at the very front - or even the very back - is vital, for that is the best way of avoiding the incidents that are part and parcel of the event.

Indeed, look no further than this morning's practice session, when an error of judgement probably no more than a couple of centimetres meant that Ocon clouted the barriers and broke his steering arm as opposed to getting through cleanly and improving his time.

Following Thursday's "wrong direction", Mercedes appeared to be back on track this morning, but were no match for the Ferrari pair.

Like many, the Mercedes is having issues generating heat into its tyres and as a result while Bottas was a convincing third, teammate Hamilton was fifth.

The Red Bulls were fourth and sixth, Verstappen the quicker of the pair, but a late brake-by-wire issue for Ricciardo will have given the team cause for concern.

Once again the Toro Rosso duo were mighty, Sainz and Kvyat finishing seventh and eighth, suggesting that a decent points haul could be on offer.

Magnussen did well to take ninth in the Haas while Vandoorne and Button sandwiched eleventh placed Perez. Sadly however, while the Belgian has a 3-place grid penalty following his Barcelona clash with Massa, Button has a 15-place penalty after Honda opted to change his Turbocharger and MGU-H following Thursday's session.

Behind these, Williams, Renault and Sauber all struggled.

With Pirelli confident the ultrasofts can last the whole race distance, tyre strategy will be a factor not only tomorrow but this afternoon, though it is doubtful anyone will want to qualify on the supersofts as they might elsewhere.

Another area where the tyres could make a difference is Q1, when, as drivers seek to get heat into their tyres, there are sure to be traffic issues. Added to this is the fact that some teams, think Mercedes, need two laps in which to warm up sufficiently.

As one would expect long before the lights turn green there is a queue at the end of the pitlane, Vettel among the early birds, indeed at the very front.

In no time at all there are 15 drivers on track.

Raikkonen posts 14.296 and Vettel 14.361, the Finn having passed his teammate on the out lap.

Palmer goes third, but is 6.6s off the pace, while Hamilton posts 20.080, 5.7s off the pace, such is the tyre warm-up issue and the traffic.

Still in clear air, Raikkonen improves to 13.496 while Vettel posts 13.289.

Bottas goes third (13.821), an acceptable 0.532s off Vettel's pace.

A 14.220 sees Button go fifth but he is subsequently demoted by Perez (13.972)

As work continues on Ocon's car, Verstappen goes quickest with a 13.278, the Red Bull driver quickest in the final two sectors.

As Ricciardo begins his first flying lap, Hamilton becomes the latest to miss the apex at the Nouveau Chicane.

Ricciardo stops the clock at 13.219 to take the top spot, Red Bull 1-2.

Bottas improves to fourth (13.491), splitting the Ferraris.

No sooner has Raikkonen posted 13.117 than Vettel improves with a 13.090 and Verstappen 13.078. This is frantic.

Elsewhere, Ocon has left the Force India garage. On his first lap the Frenchman posts a conservative 20.928.

As Magnussen improves to seventh (13.531), Verstappen goes quickest in S1 however, the Dutchman fails to improve following two poor sectors.

Grosjean spins as he exits Mirabeau and is very lucky not to collect a Toro Rosso (Sainz) - and one or two others - as he attempts to get his car pointing in the right direction.

Ocon improves to 14th with a 14.237 as he leaves Grosjean, Stroll, Palmer and the Saubers in the drop zone.

Massa improves to ninth with a 13.796 only to be demoted when Sainz posts 13.526 to go sixth.

Hulkenberg improves to twelfth (13.893), the top 14 covered by just 0.829s.

With just over a minute remaining, Hamilton is in the pits and in tenth position. But as Larry Olivier said in Marathon Man, "is it safe".

"The car is broken," says Ericsson as he stops at T10. Replay shows that in fact his left-rear tyre departed from its rim.

Despite PBs in all three sectors, Palmer fails to improve and misses the cut.

All eyes on Grosjean who leaves it late, late, late before posting a 13.786 to go 12th.

Quickest is Verstappen, ahead of Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Bottas, Vandoorne, Sainz, Perez, Magnussen and Hamilton.

We lose Ocon, Palmer, Stroll, Wehrlein and Ericsson.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Monaco, here.

Ahead of Q2 it is Bottas that heads the queue, with the Ferraris and the rest also eager to get back to work.

A mistake in the final sector means Bottas can only manage 21.274, despite being quickest in S1, while Hamilton abandons his lap after a major wobble in Massenet.

Meanwhile, Raikkonen is quickest (12.780), ahead of Vettel, Sainz and Kvyat.

A 13.516 sees Vandoorne go third - yes third!!! - as Perez goes fifth ahead of Hulkenberg.

Another mistake from Grosjean, this time at Ste Devote.

Hamilton can only manage 13th (14.106) while Bottas posts 12.901 to go fourth.

A 12.896 sees Verstappen go third, as Hamilton complains "something is not right with the car". He asks if he can pits so whatever is wrong can be righted.

To add to his frustration, the Briton is called to the weigh station.

Verstappen now splits the Ferraris with a 12.788 as Ricciardo posts 13.011 to go fifth.

McLaren currently sixth and seventh, Vandoorne the quicker of the two.

With 5:52 remaining, the drop zone comprises Sainz, Grosjean, Magnussen, Massa and..., er, Hamilton.

Already top of the pile, Raikkonen goes quickest in all three sectors to raise the bar to 12.231.

Now Vettel goes quickest in S1, while Grosjean posts 13.23 to go sixth.

Vettel crosses the line at 12.449, 0.218s off his teammate's pace.

Hamilton begin the first of his two flying laps and again the car is a real handful, the Briton lucky not to clot the barriers as he turns into the run down to Mirabeau.

He crosses the line at 14.106 to remain 14th, again complaining that "there is so much wrong with the car". "OK," comes the rely, "but you only get one bite of the cherry".

Sainz goes eighth with a 13.397 as Magnussen complains Hamilton held him up.

Hamilton has hit the wall coming out of the Swimming Pool chicane, which means Hamilton has to abort.

Quickest is Raikkonen, ahead of Vettel, Verstappen, Bottas, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Vandoorne, Sainz, Perez and Button.

We lose Kvyat, Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Hamilton and Massa, a number of those compromised by the flags resulting from Vandoorne's crash, which was a carbon copy of Ocon's in FP3.

Q3 gets underway and in moments there are seven drivers on track, Bottas leading the way.

Bottas posts 19.211 while Sainz responds with a 17.659.

A 12.296 sees Raikkonen go quickest, Verstappen going second moments later with a 13.136.

Ricciardo posts 12.998 to go second while Vettel posts 17.823.

Next time around however the German goes quickest in S1, finally crossing the line at 13.002 to go third.

With 5:40 remaining, Grosjean and Button head out for what will be their sole runs.

As they begin the first of their flying laps, Grosjean and Button almost have the track to themselves.

As Button posts 13.912 to go eighth, the Ferraris head out.

Grosjean posts 13.349 to go sixth.

Bottas posts 12.559 to go second as Button posts 13.709 but remains ninth.

Despite a superb second sector he loses time in S3 but still manages to improve, crossing the line at 12.178.

Vettel goes quickest in S1, but in S2 he can only manage a PB. At the line the German posts 12.221, just 0.043s off his teammate's pace.

Bottas improves but remains third while Verstappen remains fourth.

"It's pole Kimi, it's pole," Raikkonen is told. "Yes, good" he calmly replies, "thanks guys."

So, Raikkonen takes his first pole since 2008 (France) and Ferrari its first front-row lock-out at Monaco since... whenever.

Behind the Ferraris, it's Bottas - just 0.002s down on Vettel - Verstappen, Ricciardo, Sainz, Perez, Grosjean, Button and Vandoorne.

Kvyat is eleventh, ahead of Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Hamilton, Massa, Ocon, Palmer, Stroll, Wehrlein and Ericsson.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Monaco, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 27/05/2017
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