F1: Monaco Grand Prix live blog

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, May 25th, 2008

 
 

Before Monaco qualifying McLaren publicly told its drivers that it expected them to “add to the illustrious history of the team at the Monaco Grand Prix.”

And now Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen are smarting after failing to find an answer to Ferrari in qualifying. The red cars beat them to the front row by mere hundredths of a second and they command the race. How will the McLarens respond?

Add in wet conditions, difficult tyre choices and the first race without traction control and you really, really want to be here for the start today. Stick with us to find out… and remember to hit refresh to get the latest posts.

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A great weekend for British motorsport: OK that’s Mike Conway and Lewis Hamilton on the top step. Don’t suppose Dan Wheldon can make it a hat trick this evening…

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Bloopers:

James Allen utters this immortal sentence: “There’s no feeling quite like shaking hands with Prince Albert.” Oh, dear me… Unfortunately we think that BBC Sport has abolished its weekly compilation of unfortunate commentary as part of its redesign, or we’d be over there already.

Mark Blundell’s incisive analysis: “He took Raikkonen off the start line and that was where the beginning of his race started.” Him and 19 others, Mark…

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Post-race: Hamilton’s first words on the team radio: “I apologise for hitting the barrier, but I think I made up for it…”

Anthony Hamilton is choked up… and babbling. He tells Ted Kravitz: “Yeah, well, no, to be honest… I’m absolutely speechless…” Next up is Canada, where Lewis won last year.

Hamilton literally skips out of his car to greet his dad and younger brother Nic, and also Ron Dennis.

Dennis says the following: “It’s just great for the team and for Lewis, a brilliant strategy switch, it really paid off. [Hamilton hitting the barrier] didn’t help did it? [Er, we thought it did, actually.] We had the pace for a one-two. It’s disappointing for [Kovalainen] but his time will come. We switched Heikki [onto dry tyres] a little bit earlier to check for feedback and make sure it was the right thing to do.”

David Coulthard describing his accident says that he hit some spray from Nakajima’s car during a downshift and lost the car, tried to control it, but ran out of road. These, he says, are the hazards of Monaco. Bet it doesn’t happen when he pops out for a pint of milk, though…

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Points: Hamilton (10), Kubica (8), Massa (6), Webber (5), Vettel (4), Barrichello (3), Nakajima (2) and Kovalainen (1). As in, no points for Raikkonen.

Drivers’ championship: Hamilton (38), Raikkonen (35), Massa (34), Kubica (32).

Constructors’ championship: Ferrari (69), McLaren (53), BMW (52). Further down, Toro Rosso have overtaken Honda.

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0.00: Clock on zero and Lewis Hamilton wins the 2008 Monaco Grand Prix and takes the drivers’ championship lead. We were really not expecting to be typing those words. He really does look rather pleased.

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0.50: drivers set to race to the end of the lap they are on when the clock goes to zero. Race will turn out to have been 76 laps long. Raikkonen catching Kovalainen but not fast enough.

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1.30: We’re on what will be the penultimate lap. Raikkonen pushing very hard but Kovalainen not budging. He’s going very fast at present.

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3.00: Hamilton, Kubica, Massa, Webber, Vettel, Barrichello, Nakajima and Kovalainen are in the points-scoring positions. Kovalainen has about 3.5 seconds on Raikkonen.

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3:56: Speculation that Raikkonen over-estimated the dryness of the track and that is what caused his expensive wobble at the tunnel exit.

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5.00: Kovalainen in eighth. Let’s hope to hell he can hold bloody Raikkonen out of the points. If so he’ll have done a great job for McLaren this afternoon, what with that and the tyre experiment.

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5.41: Sutil pictured in tears in his garage.

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6.45: Hamilton sets a fastest lap. If it finishes like this he’ll be three points ahead of Raikkonen with Massa right behind him.

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8.55: Sutil is out of the race while Raikkonen might even get away with scoring points for this. Remember this when wondering why it is that we’re not so fond of Ferrari around here here. If Hamilton takes a full slate of points and Raikkonen scores none, that’ll have a fairly healthy effect on his world championship hopes.

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10:00 Oh, no. Raikkonen has rammed Sutil after losing it coming out of the tunnel and has wrecked his race. Yellow flag with 10 minutes left. The red car has gone right back down the field but what about poor Adrian Sutil? Raikkonen and Sutil both having to pit.

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11:11: Hamilton backs up the field and the race restarts. Sutil keeps Raikkonen behind him but by gosh the boy is under pressure.

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Lap 67: The front of the field has managed to sort itself out into more or less the correct order. Hilarity here as Sutil is informed on the radio that he’s in a Ferrari sandwich with Raikkonen on his tail. Safety car in and we’re switching from a lap counter to a timer in line with the race officials.

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Lap 66: This safety car has knocked a bit more off the race – there’s about 15 minutes left. Kovalainen took a while to get himself in the correct position but he has now. This leaves the rear of Sutil open to a challenge from Raikkonen. Just to remind you, the order at the front is Hamilton, Kubica, Massa, Sutil, Raikkonen, Webber.

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Lap 65: We’re still under the safety car and the lapped cars have been released from behind it to rejoin at the back. It’s our view that, with McLaren’s exploitation of Hamilton’s early mistake and with their great strategy at Istanbul two weeks ago, they’re exhibiting a confidence again that we haven’t really seen since Spygate. Let’s just hope that Ferrari decides to respond on the racetrack this year.

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Lap 64: Great TV pictures from Rosberg in-car camera as it’s winched off the track. He’s shown to have lost control on standing water and launched into the air over a chicane. Rosberg has been marched off for a medical check – but he did walk away from the car.

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Lap 62: Rosberg’s Williams has come to bits at the Swimming Pool, we can only assume because he has hit a barrier. There’s a safety car and shards of carbon fibre all over the place and people are driving round it with the caution of a senior citizen tackling a fast-flowing ford in a Nissan Micra. We’ll be lucky to avoid a puncture somewhere, and what will this do to Hamilton’s lead?

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Lap 61: We hear the race will not go to full 78 laps. This is because a grand prix has to take place in a certain timeframe and this one is over-running. Probably 74 or 75 laps.

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Lap 59: Hamilton has a 39-second lead on Massa who has Kubica right behind him. Sutil is fourth, presumably because Raikkonen has had to pit. Does the boy have a nosebleed? He’s ahead of Webber because Red Bull went onto dry tyres that little bit too early.

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Lap 57: Massa pits and lets Kubica through, nearly losing it coming out of the pit lane.

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Lap 56: Kovalainen has just set a new fastest lap. Classification is Hamilton, Massa, Kubica, Raikkonen, Sutil, Webber, Vettel, Barrichello, Nakajima, Rosberg, Kovalainen, Button, Alonso, Trulli, Glock and Heidfeld.

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Lap 55: Hamilton with a 14.3sec lead on dry tyres. Teams not expecting rain. Kovalainen has tapped Button, who loses a place. Barrichello pits.

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Lap 54: Glock spins and recovers for a third time. Kubica pits, Alonso’s car is fastest out there on the dry tyre. Possibly the wettest part of the track is the pit lane. Sutil has pitted and narrowly misses coming out ahead of Raikkonen. Hamilton pits, changes onto drys… and comes out comfortably in the lead.

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Lap 53: Barrichello has taken Webber, another thumbs-down for dry tyres. Although they are supposed to have come on for Alonso. Hamilton now 36 secs ahead and Brundle has foolishly just said: “Hamilton has this race more or less in the bag.” Let’s hope St Murray of Walker is not looking down on you, mate…

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Lap 52: Hamilton now has 33.7 seconds on Massa.

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Lap 51: Webber struggling on his dry tyres. Sutil still hasn’t pitted which suggests Gascgoyne has a finger to the wind. Kovalainen has been brought in from 12th and put on dry tyres so the team can work out what’s best for Hamilton…

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Lap 50: Piquet is off the track, yellow flag. A thumbs-down for the dry tyres, then. He’s gone off at Ste Devote, unable to brake. Jenson Button has pitted for drys. Kubica glued to the back of Massa.

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Lap 49: Massa three seconds a lap slower than Hamilton and Kubica. Webber pits and goes onto drys which, given that he has considerably more to lose than either Renault driver, is a brave decision.

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Lap 48: Piquet laps and goes onto drys. Nearly as scary as seeing Sato in your mirrors. Alonso, meanwhile, has cut part of the Swimming Pool chicane which suggests his tyre choice may have been unwise.

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Lap 47: Rosberg giving Piquet a hard time. In qualifying yesterday, when the young Brazilian was showing some signs of having lost his nerve altogether, we actually started to feel a bit sorry for him. Not something we were ever expecting, but Renault are so tough on their junior drivers, and already they’re talking about binning him.

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Lap 46: Piquet is told not to pit – and doesn’t. Rain forecast for six minutes’ time. How much longer can Hamilton hold on? Alonso comes in and goes to dry tyres. This could be dramatic…

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Lap 45: A fastest lap of 1:26.9 from Mark Webber which shows you what wet weather’s done to the times since the high 1:15s of practice and qualifying. Fernando Alonso on the team radio thinks it’s still too wet for dry tyres.

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Lap 44: All we can do is sit here on the edge of our seats and see who’s going to blink first…

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Lap 43: Hamilton now 23 seconds ahead and Massa in traffic. Rosberg has nicked a place on Button while Button was politely letting people past. After you, sir. No, after you.

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Lap 42: Hamilton’s lead is 21.6 seconds, not quite enough for a pit stop, however. Yet. Track seems to be drying but dry tyres would be a hell of a risk. Let’s hope he can hold on for a couple of laps and see which way the, er, wind is blowing.

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Lap 41: Our maxim here at Brits on Pole is never take your eyes off Kimi Raikkonen who is probably fuelled to the end of the race. But with a 57-second gap to the lead even he has a mountain to climb. We’re being treated to the excellent spectacle of people being blue-flagged for Adrian Sutil.

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Lap 40: Order is Hamilton, Massa, Kubica, Webber, Sutil, Raikkonen, Barrichello, Nakajima in the final points position, Vettel, Piquet, Button, Rosberg, Kovalainen, Trulli, Alonso, Glock, Heidfeld.

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Lap 39: Glock has spun and is making a trip to the pits as a result. He’s had to do his second doughnut of the race to get himself back in. Fisichella is retiring from 17th after his busted gearbox has finally given way.

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Lap 38: Back after an ad break and the track is drying as more rain is starting to come down. One unlikely name on the fastest lap roster is that of Adrian Sutil – he’s having a great race. Hamilton’s putting in very fast laps but this might indicate he has to pit soon.

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Lap 36: Kovalainen runs wide at Mirabeau but holds it on the track. Everyone’s attention is currently focused on tyre choices. This problem plotted against how much fuel the leaders have will probably decide the race.

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Lap 35: Rosberg is on the back of Alonso and Vettel on the back of Piquet, who is complaining about his car and not getting much sympathy. Kovalainen has pitted from 10th place and has gone out again on intermediate tyres.

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Lap 34: Massa comes out behind Hamilton and in front of Kubica. Hamilton’s lead is 10.6 seconds and Kubica’s on the Brazilian’s rear bumper.

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Lap 33: The leaders are coming up to the back of the traffic behind Trulli. The Ferrari mechanics are out, presumably for Massa, who is seriously obstructed at this point. And he pits. He’s off his pit box but Hamilton is through so he’s second at best.

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Lap 32: Sutil, whose car is light as opposed to the heavier ones behind him, is pulling away from Raikkonen and Trulli. Those who have not pitted are putting in very fast laps.

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Lap 31: Lewis Hamilton has set a new fastest lap of the grand prix.

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Lap 30: Massa has 16-second lead on Hamilton. Barrichello all over the back of Trulli with Nakajima and Kovalainen coming up for a look too.

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Lap 29: Massa at the front in heavy traffic as he comes up to the lapped cars. Hamilton has an 11-second plus lead on Kubica at present. Mike Gascgoyne predicts more rain and a curtailed race accordingly.

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Lap 28: Is Ferrari now going onto a one-stop? Kimi’s been fuelled extremely heavily and may not have to stop again – except for tyres. Order is Massa, Hamilton, Kubica, Webber, Sutil, Raikkonen – what a laugh it was to type that last sentence. Then comes Trulli, Barrichello, Nakajima, Kovalainen, Piquet, Vettel, Glock, Button, Fisi, Alonso, Rosberg and Heidfeld.

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Lap 27: Kubica an 8.7sec stop and he comes back in third. Unexpectedly Raikkonen has pitted with a trashed front wing, going straight on at Ste Devote as Massa did but managing to bust up the car, as Massa didn’t. He’s got to stay on inters as it’s still too wet for the drys.

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Lap 26: A traffic jam is developing behind Sutil. Kubica pits from the lead – is this Massa’s chance?

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Lap 25: Hamilton is pulling away from Raikkonen and pressuring Kubica. He’s about 12 seconds behind Massa. Things are a lot more processional and more like a normal Monaco GP now.

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Lap 24: Trulli and Barrichello are starting to hunt down the wildly out-of-position Sutil. Piquet has run wide and allowed Kovalainen through. He’s up to tenth. Massa threatening Kubica.

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Lap 22/23: The racing line is now dry and the lap times are starting to reflect it – speeding up by 3 secs per lap. Massa is closing in on Kubica. Raikkonen and Hamilton are trading increased lap times, and so maintaining a gap of around two and a half seconds.

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Lap 21: Track is noticeably drier.

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Lap 18: Heidfeld pits for a new front wing and another set of intermediate tyres. It is currently not raining but there’s standing water on the track. Heidfeld emerges in 18th place.

Kubica sets new fastest lap of the race, then Massa, Hamilton, 10 secs behind and half a sec slower, Raikkonen being dropped by Hamilton, Webber, Sutil, Trulli, Barrichello, Nakajima, Piquet, Vettel, Kovalainen, Glock, Button, Fisi (with no second gear, according to Mike Gascgoyne), Alonso, Rosberg and Heidfeld.

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Lap 17: Martin Brundle: “It looks like they’ve lent their grannies the car for the afternoon.” Webber has taken Heidfeld for position and is sixth. Suddenly Adrian Sutil, remember him, takes Heidfeld too. It’s clear his car is messed up and he’s causing a huge traffic jam. He pulls over to let people past, and pits. Barrichello has got into a tangle with Nakajima and Piquet at the Nouvelle Chicane which leaves the Brazilian ahead of them.

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Lap 15: Big news is that Kubica is catching, and mounting a serious challenge to, Massa. But, wait! Massa puts the car into an escape lane at Ste Devote after skidding on standing water and has let Kubica through. The Pole takes the lead on merit. Hamilton third, having kept his nose clean (so to speak) at the Loews pile-up.

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Lap 14: Raikkonen in for his drive-thru. Has dropped to fourth. Hamilton’s got in front of him and is now third. Alonso tries another aggressive manoeuvre and hits Heidfeld on the Loews Hairpin. The whole field is now queued as at traffic lights, reminiscent of yesterday’s GP2 race. Heidfeld was hit in the sidepod and is still running, having driven over Alonso’s nose to get away. The Spaniard pits.

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Lap 13: Alonso with his full wets had a look at Heidfeld at Mirabeau Haute but did not make it stick. He’s like an ice-skater in the tunnel, where it’s dry, however and he’s lucky to stay out of the barrier.

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Lap 11/12: Kovalainen is 14th by virtue of attrition. After Alonso comes Nakajima, Barrichello in the last points position, Piquet, Sutil, Trulli, Vettel, Kovalainen, Fisi, Rosberg, Glock and Button. Alonso has managed to force his way past Webber and Massa has a three-second lead on Raikkonen

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Lap 10: Safety car comes in. Order is Massa, Raikkonen, Kubica, Hamilton, Heidfeld, Webber, Alonso. Hang on – Raikkonen’s been given a drive-thru for not having his tyres on the car in time before the race. That’s unlike Ferrari. The safety car’s only been in half a lap and Massa’s already up the road.

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Lap 9: Alonso has hit a barrier and wrecked a wheel. Bourdais has hit the back of Coulthard after the Scot hit the barrier. Thought to be caused because it’s now too wet for the inters. Safety car and they’re both parked up at Massenet, before being craned out. Alonso pits and there’s a suspicion of broken back suspension but he gets back out with full wets on. Experience, that stuff which Hamilton doesn’t have so much of, may count here.

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Lap 8: Massa has a big lead, then it’s Raikkonen who seems very uncomfortable, Kubica and Alonso. Kubica is all over the back of Raikkonen. Hamilton’s car is back on track but looking very wobbly. He’s rejoined in fifth so, if he is right about the tyres and this is just treated an early pit stop, he could be laughing.

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Lap 7: Disaster for Hamilton who has hit a barrier at the wettest extreme of what the inters can do and wrecked his right rear. He destroys the tyre but preserves the rim and can drive back to the pits. Clear driver error. He’s pitting for new tyres, still inters rather than full-wets, and picking up a big dollop of fuel. He has, crucially, switched to a one-stopper.

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Lap 6: Coulthard, thanks to the clumsiness of the youngsters, has got himself back up to his pre-penalty qualifying position. Leaders lapping a shocking 10 seconds ahead of the fractious midfield.

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Lap 5: Glock pits. Cars are nose-to-tail processional. Mike Gascgoyne interviewed and saying it is expected to get drier. Glock is revealed to have spun, knocked his own nose-cone off and done a doughnut to get into shape.

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Lap 4: Rosberg forced to pit as his nose is hanging off. Raikkonen three seconds behind Massa. Raining steadily. Rosberg emerges at the back of an extremely slow field. Glock seems to have had a pranglet, possibly with Trulli – the pair are running sixth and seventh. He’ll have to come in.

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Lap 3: Massa has a 1.3sec lead and Hamilton is opening up a bit on Raikkonen. Rosberg’s front wing has had a horrible bash after he caught Alonso on the Loews Hairpin.

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Lap 2: Button in the pits for a new nose cone after clipping Heidfeld trying to get past. Over the back wheel and lost his nose… This is quiet as we wait for the tyres to hit the spot. Order is Massa, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Kubica, Alonso.

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Lap 1: Hamilton has taken Raikkonen at the start and made it stick. Massa got away perfectly and still leads. Kovalainen has started and is at the back of the field. No-one has come to grief yet. The first three are scampering away from Kubica who is backing up the field in fourth. Rosberg and Alonso seem to have touched and Webber has gone backwards a place or two. Jenson Button has also gone backwards.

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Parade lap: Kovalainen has stalled on the grid and is going to have to start from the pit lane at best. It’s not McLaren’s weekend, is it? Tyre-wise, most of the field starting on inters.

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Grid: it’s raining. James Allen on ITV1: “Rain tends to turn Monaco from the processional to the epic… conditions like this make it a lottery.” All the experts are saying that tyre choices are impossible.

Apparently Schumi is at the race, possibly glad that all this isn’t his problem. Will anyone try to start on dry tyres?

Fisichella has also been moved to the back of the grid.

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Pre race: It’s raining. Martin Brundle says: “I did 158 races in these things and I would not want to be on the grid today.”

David Coulthard has a five-place grid penalty following his accident in qualifying yesterday.

Heikki Kovalainen says he was disappointed with his qualifying performance and just couldn’t get the extra hundredths of a second out of the car. He says fuel strategy and pit stops will be crucial. He says there is a dry line on the track and he’s really looking forward to the adventure. Brundle packs him off to go and talk to his garage about his tyres.

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