Monaco GP | Raikkonen takes first pole in 128 Grand Prix

Pole on the streets of Monaco secured by Kimi Raikkonen, from Sebastian Vettel.

The narrow streets that align the Monte Carlo Harbour, winding up to Casino Square and down to the famous tunnel. Narrow streets where overtaking is hard, not impossible, but qualifying results and track position pay dividends come the race. A race Kimi Raikkonen will lead from the front when the lights go out and the most glamorous race on the Formula One calendar commences, while Lewis Hamilton will start from outside the top 10.

28 of the previous 63 Monaco Grand Prix have been won from pole position. Leading the field into Sainte Devote and onwards up the hill towards Casino Square.

A further 14 winners have come from second on the grid, making the front row accountable for 66.66% of the 63 winners on the streets of the Principality. A front row locked out by Ferrari in 2017, as Kimi Raikkonen secured his first pole in Formula One since the French Grand Prix back in 2008. Ending a 128-Grand Prix long wait for the Iceman to start from the front of the grid. While setting a new record for the longest wait between pole positions.

Lewis Hamilton’s Monaco struggles continued from Thursday as he wrestled with his Mercedes throughout qualifying amidst a pace-lacking run. Ending his day in Q2 when Stoffel Vandoorne found the wall during an otherwise great qualifying for McLaren.

Monaco McLaren

Bursting out into the sunlight from the famous Monaco tunnel. Photo credit: McLaren.

Q1

When qualifying in Monaco got underway, it was Kimi Raikkonen who laid down the first marker of the session as he crossed the line with a 1:14.296.

But while Vettel could come home immediately just five-hundredths of a second back on his team-mate, Mercedes could not reply as they were forced to take an extra ‘slow’ lap in order to generate greater tyre temperatures.

With Mercedes taking on the extra warm up lap, before either Hamilton or Bottas could post their first times Raikkonen and Vettel could both push again. Lowering the benchmark further as Raikkonen found eight-tenths and Vettel a second to move top. Half a second clear of Bottas.

The Mercedes’ lack of pace also welcomed the sleeping power-house of Red Bull to the party, as the constructor struggling in 2017 leapt up the leaderboard with their first flyers. Putting Verstappen into P1 by one-hundredth of a second, before Ricciardo overcome a marginally down first sector to snatch the top spot.

Personal best sectors soon come for Valtteri Bottas as he followed up the Red Bull’s pace with gains of his own. But the Finn’s gains were only enough to move into fourth spot while Raikkonen and Verstappen continued to improve to further pull away.

Button hairpin monaco mclaren

Jenson Button negotiates the tight Loews hairpin during qualifying at the Monaco Grand Prix. Photo credit: McLaren.

Despite Q1 in Monaco being just his first qualifying session in 2017, and being in a Honda-powered vehicle, Jenson Button’s return to Formula One competitive action embarked with a first flyer just three-tenths of a second down on Lewis’ Hamilton’s initial best. Putting the McLaren carrying a 15-place grid penalty up on Felipe Massa, Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean.

Romain Grosjean, coincidentally, found himself facing the oncoming field during Q1 after the rear of his Haas stepped away as he exited Mirabeau. Luckily edging away from the racing line just at the exact moment as to not be collected by the oncoming Toro Rosso with Carlos Sainz left unsighted and unknowing of the spun car thanks to yellow flags yet being waved.

While Grosjean continued on his way after nearly having his session ended, Esteban Ocon had only just left the pits as the last driver to join the action after his late FP3 crash.

Force India’s hard work to get the car ready to race was swiftly replied with some no-so-swift lap times by Ocon as the Frenchman refound his confidence and steadily grew into the run.

Unfortunately, as Ocon approached the end of the session, he caught traffic and headed for the pits while only just inside the Q2 places. Welcoming a late gain from Grosjean to eliminate the Force India.

Stoffel Vandoorne, too, continued to improve throughout Q1 and move into the top six early on with a lap just four-tenths down on Verstappen’s early benchmark. While Jenson Button had a strong Q1 to find himself in P11 with Hamilton ahead just eight-hundredths up the board.

Button nouvelle chicane monaco mclaren

Jenson Button works his way around the Nouvelle Chicane during qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix. Photo credit: McLaren.

Q2

When the second stage of qualifying came around, Valtteri Bottas formed the leader of the queue out of the pits. Closely followed by Raikkonen and Hamilton as the Mercedes team looked to move closer to the front with extra warm up laps again their initial focus.

Without the need for extra warm ups, Raikkonen flew straight into a flying 1:12.780 with Vettel one-tenth behind. Leaving Mercedes a benchmark to beat as Hamilton was forced to back out again at Massanet after nearly losing control in the place Lance Stroll crashed out at during FP2.

Bottas, meanwhile, was up in sector one as the fastest man on track. But as the lap went on, the pace could not hold and Valtteri came home with a lap only fast enough to go P4 behind Verstappen.

Hamilton, though, was struggling. Seeing his first flyer only be good enough for 13th place – 1.3-seconds off Raikkonen – as he reported: “Something’s not right with the car”. Calling to return to the pits and sort the issue, but with only 8 minutes remaining on the clock. Worsened when he came in but to be held at the weighbridge while the FIA checked his car in a random check.

Hamilton enters pit lane monaco mercedes

Lewis Hamilton enters the pitlane during qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix. Photo credit: Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

While Hamilton waited, Vandoorne set into his first flying lap. Moving clear of the Mercedes and into sixth place, albeit half a second off the top 5 yet still up on Perez, Hulkenberg, Button and Sainz.

A string of improvements soon hit the front of the board. Coming thick and fast with Verstappen flying in the middle sector for second place – just 8-thousandths down on Raikkonen’s early benchmark.

But Raikkonen was stringing fastest sectors in across the board. Going purple around the track to open a half-second lead at the top to Verstappen. Yet his first sector still a target beatable by Vettel, even if the German could only come home second place as he lost time across the lap.

Hamilton, meanwhile, was still down the order. Coming back and taking more and more laps to get a flyer in – leaving himself in 14th with just 2:30 on the clock.

Laps and laps went by for Hamilton with the car consistently trying to get away from him as he exited the corners. Nearly losing it again and sliding into the barrier, this time at Casino Square, fishtailing his way towards Mirabeau.

One more mistake and traffic left Hamilton with just one shot at the top 10, even after posting a personal best in the first sector.

Hamilton’s final chance at reaching the top-10 shoot-out begun with a first sector just two-tenths of a second down on the overall session best. Leaving him in a good position for the middle sector he attacked with a personal best time.

But disaster. Yellows in the final sector as Stoffel Vandoorne collected the barrier and ended his day meant Hamilton could push no further and was out of qualifying. Forced to back off and accept his fate in a disastrous qualifying for the Mercedes man.

Stoffel had taken too much of a tight line through the second swimming pool chicane. Clouting his front-right tyre in the barrier and breaking his steering arm just as Ocon had in the final practice session. And with no steering arm, Stoffel was left on a steering-less crash course with the kerb and the barrier. Destroying the front corner of his top-10 McLaren.

hamilton rascasse monaco mercedes

Peering through the barriers at Rascasse to see Lewis Hamilton during qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix. Photo credit: Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

Q3

Q3, a session both McLaren’s had made their ways through too but one only Jenson Button would compete in despite the 15-place grid penalty hanging over his head for the MGU-H and Turbocharger changes Honda were forced to implement on him.

And with his starting spot at the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix effectively secured at the back of the grid that would be locked out by Sauber, Jenson remained in the garage come the start of Q3 and would go out for just the one run late on.

While Button watched on, Sainz was straight out. Posting the first time of the shoot-out while on a slow warm up lap with Bottas in tow. Leaving Q2 pace-setter, Kimi Raikkonen to post the first flyer of the session – a 1:12.296, marginally down on his best Q2 effort.

Despite being down on his Q2 effort, however, Raikkonen’s time formed some benchmark for Vettel and Verstappen to beat. Seeing the Red Bull come home eight-tenths down and his team-mate seven even after bettering the Finn’s S1 split.

Moving into Massenet - Red Bull

Moving into Massenet. The run up the hill during qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix. Photo credit: Red Bull Racing.

Now the track fell quiet as the field returned to the pits for a change of tyres for one last time. Handing McLaren the chance to head out onto an empty track for their one run of the session with Jenson Button.

The empty track, though, was not empty as Bottas came out too in order to get in the extra warm up laps his Mercedes required. Seeing his first flyer of the run move his Silver Arrow into second place, two-tenths down on Raikkonen’s provisional pole time.

By the time Bottas crossed the line, the Ferrari’s had rejoined the track in their hunt to secure the front row and take pole in Monaco.

With Raikkonen pushing to secure his first pole in nine years, his first sector could have been better as he failed to improve while Vettel took one tenth out of the benchmark.

Bottas too took time out of Kimi’s benchmark first sector and followed it with a personal best second sector as he pushed on again, while Vettel lost time as he committed less than the Iceman through the swimming pool chicane.

The Iceman, here, was on it. Posting another purple sector time as he gave it his all through the swimming pool and Tabac. Carrying as much speed as he could in his search for pole, and taking an extra tenth out of provisional-best lap time.

With the benchmark moving further away, Vettel’s smooth exit out of Anthony Noghes gave Sebastian an edge over Raikkonen’s scruffy exit. But with the time he lost through sector two, Vettel could take no time from his team-mate and crossed the line 4-hundredhts off pole.

Massenet Vettel Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel points left through Massenet during qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix. Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari.

Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’12.178  POLE
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’12.221 0.043
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1’12.223 0.045
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1’12.496 0.318
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1’12.998 0.82
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 1’13.162 0.984
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1’13.329 1.151
8 Romain Grosjean Haas 1’13.349 1.171
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1’13.516 1.338
10 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1’13.628 1.45
11 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1’13.959 1.781
12 Stoffel Vandoorne* McLaren No time set in Q3
13 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’14.106 1.928
14 Felipe Massa Williams 1’20.529 8.351
15 Esteban Ocon Force India 1’14.101 1.923
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1’14.696 2.518
17 Lance Stroll Williams 1’14.893 2.715
18 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1’15.159 2.981
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1’15.276 3.098
20 Jenson Button* McLaren 1’13.613 1.435

*Jenson Button qualified in ninth place but will start from the back of the grid due to his 15-place grid penalty for an MGU-H and Turbocharger change.
*Stoffel Vandoorne qualified in tenth place but will start from 12th place due to his three-place penalty carried over for hitting Felipe Massa in the Spanish Grand Prix.

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