Ferrari have claimed their second front-row lock out of the season after Kimi Raikkonen secured pole ahead of Sebastian Vettel by just 0.043 seconds.
In a hectic qualifying session, it was the Scuderia that got the car setup perfectly for the hot Monaco track while Mercedes have struggled since FP2.
This was Lewis Hamilton’s first time since 2013 that he could not make it into Q3 due to speed. The Englishman was hampered by poor grip – almost losing the car on several occasions – and his fate was sealed when yellow flags came out for Stoffel Vandoorne’s crash late in Q2.
Valterri Bottas had a better qualifying session for Mercedes and will start from third. Behind him will be Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo and Torro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz.
Raikkonen Ends Pole Drought
It took 128 races and nine years, but Raikkonen finally ended his pole drought with a strong showing at the iconic Circuit de Monaco.
With track position so crucial on the narrow street circuit, it puts the Finn in an enviable position.
“Obviously it’s the best place to start for tomorrow but it doesn’t guarantee anything for tomorrow,” said Raikkonen who last won Monaco Grand Prix for McLaren in 2005.
It also raises the prospect of team orders coming from the Ferrari wall to help Vettel in his championship fight against Hamilton.
Vettel starts the weekend only 6 points ahead of Hamilton but could extend that lead with a strong result in Monaco.
Absent of driver error there’s usually little chance of overtaking on the tight Circuit de Monaco and the likely one-stop strategy for all teams means that Ferrari may be forced to engineer an overtake to put Vettel in front.
“We know what we are doing. We are racing for the team. We have certain rules. We are allowed to fight but we cannot take each other off,” said Raikkonen after qualifying.
Hamilton’s Race Unravels
Lewis Hamilton arrived in Monte Carlo full of optimism off the back of victory in Spain but his weekend has entirely unraveled after a competitive showing in FP1. Since then, the Englishman has been markedly off the pace with Mercedes seemingly unable to find the grip that the other teams can manufacture.
Hamilton finished Q1 in tenth a considerable distance behind the fastest times, but his Q2 was miserable from the beginning. On his first hot lap, the Mercedes flicked out with oversteer over Massenet and Hamilton used all his experience to prevent the edgy car from hitting the barriers.
Hamilton immediately got on the radio to the pit wall complaining: “I’ve got no grip, Bono. I’ve got to come in. Something is just not right with the car.”
When he returned to the track again, the Mercedes again oversteered at Casino nearly causing another collision with the barriers. It gave Hamilton just one lap to get into Q3 but McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne heavy accident at Swimming Pool produced the yellow flags and ended his hopes of a better time.
“I really struggled with the car today and I just don’t think the opportunity was quite there for me. It was a little bit unfortunate with the yellow flag, but it doesn’t really matter now if I could have gone faster.”
“I’m feeling pretty deflated right now but I’ll try again tomorrow.”
The 14th place start for Hamilton puts him in a competitive pack that threaten to hold up his charge. Red Bull’s Verstappen in fourth and Ricciardo in fifth and Torro Rosso’s Sainz in sixth and Kyvatt in 11th seemed to have dialled their cars into the Monaco circuit and will be tough to overtake.
Meanwhile, McLaren had a bitter-sweet result with Button and Vandoorne finishing Q3 in ninth and tenth but a raft of penalties will see them start the race from the back of the field.