Monaco GP – Qualifying

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And its a hat-trick of poles for Nico Rosberg!
And its a hat-trick of poles for Nico Rosberg!

One day I’m going to tell the story of when the husband and me went to the Monaco Grand Prix. Obviously a good time for such a blog post would have been in the build up to the Monaco Grand Prix but the immense logistical operation that was relocating the Power Family to the far-flung and exotic climes of Norfolk rendered any blogging totally beyond me until today.

Suffice to say (by way of spoilers) it involved:

  • A through the night coach trip from Victoria to the South of France a whole bunch of other petrolheads. And slightly alienating other petrolheads in said drive down through France by spotting Audis and French lorries and randomly saying phrases like “vorsprung durch technik my friend” and “norbert dentressangle my friend” (there may have been wine).
  • Having arrived late for our coach picking us up from qualifying bedecked in Ferrari gear, I started ranting quite loudly how annoying it was that Coulhard had got pole before the husband whispered in my ear that half the coach (sitting behind me) were draped in Scottish flags. Awkward.
  • Drinking in a bar post-race with Jim Rosenthal and the ITV F1 team (alas no Murray Walker).
  • Merrily (literally) wandering into the pitlane (not sure to this day it was allowed) and almost tripping over Schumacher’s car. Check out the truly cringeworthy (but I secretly love it!) photo of me posing in front of the race-winning car.
  • Continuing on our merry way and my suggested shortcut took us into a cordoned off area (I had a lot of chutzpah when I was younger!) where Prince Albert and entourage suddenly drove up and swept into some VIP function.
Me and Schumacher's car!
Me and Schumacher’s car (I was a lot younger then!)

Imagine my delight when I discovered earlier that (1) the BBC was not showing qualifying or the race live (no Sky in our cottage) and (2) all internet attempts to watch streaming totally and utterly failed, probably because I’m a total techno-idiot but sometimes you just have to know when to give up and move on.

And so here I am watching the BBC’s qualifying highlights. Lots (but not enough!) footage of yesteryear drivers talking about driving around Monaco to the slightly odd backdrop music of Oasis’ Rock and Roll Star. Surely Daft Punk would have been more appropriate? I could consider this at length but will resist the urge and keep focused! And so for the first time in a very long time, I am watching the Beeb’s qualifying coverage. I am truly dumbfounded that the BBC is not covering Monaco live. I mean of all freaking races. Monaco? Because everyone knows that Monaco is traditionally the best qualifying session of the year. Epic Fail.

Before Senna and Schumacher, Graham Hill was the original Mr Monaco.
Before Senna and Schumacher, Graham Hill was the original Mr Monaco.

Still we are on holiday – huzzah – and mustn’t complain so lets be having you Monaco with your crazy, intense unpredictable racing. And…drum roll…we have an Umbrella Alert. It is raining in Monaco. It might actually be worse weather than in Norfolk. Although Monaco or Norfolk? Quite.

News from the morning first: Its been a lively old FP3 session with several bad smashes including Grosjean and Massa. Actually quite enjoying the insights of Eddie Jordan such as observing that Grosjean seems to get distracted easily (and basically crash) and the tremendous advantages that Massa has driving for a giant team like Ferrari who can throw huge manpower and resources at fixing a totally trashed car (*update – there are some cars that even Ferrari can’t fix in time).

And we have a Kimi feature. In Kimi’s spare time he likes to go rally-driving and race snow-mobiles under the pseudonym of James Hunt. He is properly bonkers but I totally love him. Oooooh Suzi is asking Kimi about his fascination with James Hunt. Apparently he just loves that era as there was less money involved and everything was a lot more relaxed. Thank god we have Kimi racing now otherwise we’d have a grid line-up of twenty two Vettel-bots. Shudder.

Kimi on the Hunt
Kimi on the Hunt

And time for Q1 and it was raining lightly. I’m not sure I can remember a wet qualifying in Monaco. Just checked and even the husband can’t. History books, prepare to re-write yourselves! Ooops Jules Bianchi had a mechanical failure almost right away despite ‘living down the road in Nice’. Does that make a difference?

Alonso went fastest just as we were told his last pole position was in the wet. If I didn’t know what was going to happen, I would have been fancying Alonso (oh not in that way…stop it!). Then Maldonado went fastest. I would dearly love Williams to have a good weekend after their dismal season so far. And the times were just tumbling down as different names topped the timesheets. With 5 minutes to go, Rosberg went top while Hamilton was precariously poised in 17th place. And we were (but of course) following Hamilton on his flying lap and he were fastest by a second. And oh my good Lord somebody put the safety car on standby. Grosjean was out on track. But it was all over for Massa who we learned would not take part in qualifying today.

And would you frigging believe it, Grosjean then went fastest. When he doesn’t have lapses of concentration, he is a real prospect.

The session ended with Maldonado, Vergne, Alonso on top. And hilariously (oh I’m so mean) Paul Di Resta went out in Q1. The commentors went into meltdown but honestly dudes no one gives a monkey’s. And being the jerk charming chap he is, naturally Paul was quick to stick the boot in. Paul would do well to observe that great drivers like Senna and Schuey stood by their teams through good times and bad times.

So out of Q1 go: 17) Paul di Resta 18) Charles Pic 19) Esteban Gutierrez 20) Max Chilton 21) Jules Bianchi 22) Felipe Massa. This means that Giedo van der Garde made it into Q2. Giedo you da man! Just deliriously happy for him.

Giedo impressing at the ultimate drivers' circuit.
Giedo impressing at the ultimate drivers’ circuit.

Swiftly into Q2. And quite remarkably, both McLarens were 1 and 2 at one stage before getting immediately squidged down (it’s a technical term!) by the two Mercedes. And Stop Press we were told blue skies had been sighted out at sea.  Literally anyone who crossed the line from this point on topped the times. Both Mercedes were switching onto supersofts and Ferrari immediately scrapped Alonso’s flying lap to bring him in to make the same tyre change.

With 2 minutes to go, Giedo went SIXTH in the Caterham. In a supreme Murray Walker-balls moment, the commentators said ‘imagine if there was an accident now and it wasn’t possible to squeeze in another lap’. Its fair to say Giedo might have been dreaming of the same. Literally at the death, Hamilton, Kimi and Alonso were in the dropzone. And there was a nerve-shredding, fast and furious final minute coming up. With a nanosecond remaining, Alonso, Sutil and Button all just made it. It was a truly stupendous Q2 session.

Sums up the dizzying blur of Q2
Sums up the dizzying blur of Q2

And ending up in the dropzone of doom were: 11) Hulkenberg 12) Ricciardo 13) Grosjean 14) Bottas 15) Van der Garde 16) Maldonado.

Having barely recovered from Q2, we were thrown headlong into Q3. Is Kimi wearing the utterly awesome James Hunt helmet that Bernie tried to block? I need to know this crucial information instead of having to listen to tedious Paul Di Resta interviews where he just slags his team off all the time.

And unlike a lot of qualifying sessions we have seen this year, all the drivers were out and hammering around the impossibly narrow and impossibly glamorous streets of downtown Monaco right from the get-go in Q3. Five minutes to go and the order was Vettel, Webber, Rosberg, Hamilton and Alonso. Just about the worst thing we could have at Monaco would be a Red Bull front row lock-out.

Vettel. So close but no cigar.
Vettel. So close but no cigar.

Alonso had his lap compromised after coming up behind Button and had to pull back to gain space. Not what Ferrari wanted at all. And now Kimi went 3rd. Webber took provisional pole as the clock timed down to 0.00, and then Hamilton took provisional pole and THEN Rosberg went EVEN faster. Could anyone else improve on his time? The answer was a resounding NO and Rosberg took his THIRD pole position in a row. Sorry that’s a lot of capitals! And they line up behind him like this tomorrow:

  1. Rosberg
  2. Hamilton
  3. Vettel
  4. Webber
  5. Kimi
  6. Alonso
  7. Perez
  8. Sutil
  9. Button
  10. Vergne

Of all the podiums in all the world that Mercedes would have wanted to get, it would be Monaco. Not just because it is Monaco but this track gives them the very best possible chance of converting a pole into a win.

Was it just me or did Lewis look a little disconsolate when being interviewed. Yes he’s on the front row but he must be feeling the pain of being out-qualified continuously by his team-mate. A lot of people thought he would own Rosberg, including I suspect, Lewis Hamilton himself. Nico’s star is shining brightly this season. Lets hope Mercedes don’t let him down tomorrow.

Is it wrong to want to napalm all these people if they can't tell you how many times Senna won in Monaco?!!
Is it wrong to want to napalm all these people if they can’t tell you how many times Senna won in Monaco?!!

I feel wrecked after watching that. It was a full-on, feisty and flat-out qualifying from beginning to end. Nowhere does qualifying quite like Monaco. It fries your mind. And we still have all the insanity of the race still to come. And just for the husband here is the place where you proposed in a mad moment all those years ago (it wasn’t during a race…!).

La Rascasse
La Rascasse

Time for bubbles dahlings. When in Monaco (hey I’m there in spirit!) and all that…

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