F1: Webber fends off Kubica for pole as Alonso misfires
By Andy & LJH
Saturday, May 15th, 2010
Barcelona victor Mark Webber bested a commanding performance from Renault’s Robert Kubica to take pole at the Monaco Grand Prix, and with it a golden opportunity to win back-to-back races.
But Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, the driver perhaps most hotly-tipped to front the grid after two timesheet-topping performances in Thursday practice, did not participate.
The Spaniard spectacularly binned his car at Massenet in the third and final practice session this morning leaving his mechanics with no possibility of repairing the chassis. He is due to start tomorrow’s race from the pitlane in the spare car.
The first stage of qualifying saw the usual suspects eliminated – with Lotus’ Jarno Trulli nearly making an exception and promoting himself to Q2, only to be beaten back by Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari in the closing stages.
Competition was fierce among the midfield teams in the second session to take the extra slot in the pole shoot-out opened up by Alonso’s error, Rubens Barrichello and Vitantonio Liuzzi taking advantage as Kubica continued to run with the leaders.
Jenson Button looked in danger of failing to miss the cut, but eventually set a time that put him through in ninth.
The third session session saw Kubica continue to put in the best performances, while Button believed he was impeded by Felipe Massa. “There are only 10 cars out there so it should be easy to stay out of each others way but he was clearly blocking me,” he said.
Massa said: “I didn’t do anything on purpose, definitely.”
Just as it appeared that Kubica was going to seal an unlikely pole position Webber put in a pair of laps to beat him. The Polish driver retained second ahead of Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, while Massa gave a taste of what might have been expected from Alonso by taking fourth.
Neither the McLarens nor the Mercedes were able to live with the leaders’ speeds, Lewis Hamilton qualifying fifth ahead of Nico Rosberg, Michael Schumacher and Button in that order.
Webber said: “It’s fantastic to be on pole and the team has done a very, very good job – I will wake up happy in the morning. It is a long race, I know that. The track here changes during the GP, it is a very, very narrow track and we will come across backmarkers.
“I am optimistic I can have a nice clean race and do the best job possible. The team has given us good momentum and we can give it a good crack from there. We have some reasonable opposition around us as is normal in F1.”
Kubica was not too downcast at missing the top spot: “Second on the grid at Monaco is a great result for us. The car has been great all weekend and I think we got the most from it today. When you come so close to pole you are always a bit disappointed to miss out, but I think we can be very happy with our performance.”
Hamilton did not believe he could have qualified higher than he did: “I put everything into those three qualifying sessions, especially on my last flying lap, when I literally got every last drop of performance from the car – there was absolutely nothing left.
“Today, I touched all the barriers I could possibly touch and used all the road I could possibly use, so I’m happy with my performance. But it’s clear that the Red Bulls have more downforce than we do, particularly in the middle sector, and it’s evident that we need to find a decent step in performance to keep up with them in future.
“But we’re definitely getting there, and it’s very close on the grid ahead of me. It would have been great to have been on pole, but the race is tomorrow, I’m on the inside line for the start and it’s not over ’til it’s over.”
Button felt his tyre choice had not been the best: “In Q1 my car felt pretty good on the harder tyres, but we didn’t run them in Q3, which was a little bit of a shame as it was probably the better option. Like everyone else, we ran the softer tyre at the end, and I struggled on it – there was a lot of movement at the rear and understeer in the low-speed corners. It didn’t feel great, to be honest.
“Our race pace has looked great all weekend, so it’s frustrating to be where we are now, because the likelihood is that we simply won’t be able to deploy that pace in the race. To sum it up, then, I’ll just say that today was a tough day.”
Qualifying times for the Monaco Grand Prix
Times shown are the fastest for each driver in the latest session in which he competed.
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:13.826 (Q3)
- Robert Kubica, Renault: 1:14.120 (Q3)
- Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 1:14.227 (Q3)
- Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 1:14.283 (Q3)
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:14.432 (Q3)
- Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP: 1:14.544 (Q3)
- Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP: 1:14.590 (Q3)
- Jenson Button, McLaren: 1:14.637 (Q3)
- Rubens Barrichello, Williams: 1:14.901 (Q3)
- Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India: 1:15.170 (Q3)
- Nico Hulkenberg, Williams: 1:15.317 (Q2)
- Adrian Sutil: Force India: 1:15.318 (Q2)
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 1:15.413 (Q2)
- Vitaly Petrov, Renault: 1:15.576 (Q2)
- Pedro de la Rosa, Sauber: 1:15.692 (Q2)
- Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber: 1:15.992 (Q2)
- Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso: 1:16.176 (Q2)
- Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus: 1:17.094 (Q1)
- Jarno Trulli, Lotus: 1:17.134 (Q1)
- Timo Glock, Virgin: 1:17.377 (Q1)
- Lucas di Grassi, Virgin: 1:17.864 (Q1)
- Bruno Senna, Hispania: 1:18.509 (Q1)
- Karun Chandhok, Hispania: 1:19.559 (Q1)
- Fernando Alonso, Ferrari: Did not participate in session