Formula 1: Sebastian Vettel on Pole for Monaco Grand Prix 2011

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Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull-Renault’s holding Formula 1 World Champion – current leader of the 2011 Drivers’ World Championship – put in a scintillating flying lap in Q3 at the Monaco Grand Prix 2011 to grab Pole Position for Sunday’s big race.

German ace Vettel set a time of 1:13.556 some 0.441 seconds ahead of Britain’s Jenson Button, who put his McLaren round the streets of Monte Carlo in 1:13.997.

Last year’s Pole sitter, Mark Webber, who had been somewhat quiet in practice for this year’s race, put his Red Bull onto the second row with a time of 1:14.019, which was a little margin ahead of Fernando Alonso’s best time of 1:14.483. Alonso, who showed great pace all week, will be a little disappointed not to have got his Ferrari closer to the front of the grid.

But Saturday was more about accidents.

In the morning, Nico Rosberg narrowly missed a huge impact when last-minute quick-thinking saw him use his remaining half a front tyre to steer his out-of-control Mercedes – which had already hit the armco at more than a hundred miles per hour – just away from the barrier he would otherwise have hit head on.

Rosberg had lost control of his car braking from the tunnel towards entering the chicane. He hit the armco at tremendous speed, before sliding towards the barrier as more passenger than driver, but just managed to flick the front-end and the car away from the onrushing protruding wall, before his car jumped over the “sleeping policemen” at the exit of this chicane, and whistling past a huge impact. His car slid 100 metres or so further up the road, before losing speed and resting into the barrier running alongside the track.

Later, in Q3, Perez would prove less fortunate, as he hit the same barrier after getting out of shape into the chicane immediately after exiting the tunnel, for what looked a serious accident.

Perez’ accident put a dampener on the session, as the driver was taken away by paramedics before his car – what was left of it – was lifted from the track during a half hour delay to the end of Q3. His team, Sauber, said that the driver was conscious in his car after the accident. The driver was later reported to be suffering only from concussion, after the impact barrier, and the Mexican’s evasive driving on only two wheels, combined to make an horrific-looking accident result only in benign consequences.

However, as a precaution, Sergio Perez will not be allowed to race on Sunday.

Even more important, potentially, for the Mexican, was the decision of the drivers and the FIA to remove the humps at the back of the chicane which Rosberg’s car had earlier leapt off while sliding like a sled towards the barrier. Had Perez taken off before his sickening impact, the result of his crash could have been far worse. This quick thinking and reaction by all concerned, including race director Charlie Whiting, who okay’ed the change to the circuit between P3 and Q1, could well have saved Perez from a serious injury.

It seems likely that this section of the track, having seen two major incidents in one day, will come under further scrutiny before next year’s race.

Once the final qualifying period restarted, none of the drivers were able to use the one out lap and one flying lap in the time allowed to get close to the gauntlet Vettel had thrown down. Lewis Hamilton had missed his first flying lap of Q3 as he found himself caught behind Massa as the Ferrari was pulling out of the pits for the out lap. Hamilton and Nico Rosberg both got out of shape on their one and only attempt to get on the front row at the very end of qualifying 3 resulting in a disappointing result for the pair.

Hamilton could only place seventh best, but was later demoted two positions as a result of missing a chunk of chicane on that last-gasp flyer.

Rosberg, who had been third-best before Saturday morning’s big accident, was only able to qualify in seventh place. He did so, however, having performed admirably in Q1 on his first flying lap in the replacement Mercedes car; his first fast lap since his big spill on Saturday morning.

At the other end, the two Hispania drivers, Karthikeyan and Liuzzi, were unable to post a qualifying time, but stewards have allowed them into the race as a result of their achieving a time within 107% of the best in the final practice session.

But it was once again Sebastian Vettel who led the pack at the end of Q3, this time from Jenson Button and his team-mate Mark Webber.

Sunday’s race will surely see tyre choices and pit lane strategy come into play on this circuit where overtaking is all but impossible. The men on the first row of the grid, Vettel and Button, both of whom have it in them to win this race – and a World Championship – are surely the most likely winners of the biggest race in Formua 1 this year.

Another fascinating race around the streets of Monte Carlo awaits the drivers, teams and fans of Formula 1 motorsport.

The FIA Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix 2011 will start at 14:00 CET (13:00 BST) on the afternoon of Sunday 29th May 2011.

Monaco Grand Prix 2011 – Qualifying Positions

Pos Ctry Name No Constructor Time
1 GER Sebastian Vettel 1 Red Bull-Renault 01:13.56
2 GBR Jenson Button 4 McLaren-Mercedes 01:14.00
3 AUS Mark Webber 2 Red Bull-Renault 01:14.02
4 ESP Fernando Alonso 5 Ferrari 01:14.48
5 GER Michael Schumacher 7 Mercedes GP 01:14.68
6 BRA Felipe Massa 6 Ferrari 01:14.88
7 GER Nico Rosberg 8 Mercedes GP 01:15.77
8 VEN Pastor Maldonado 12 Williams-Cosworth 01:16.53
9 MEX Sergio Perez 17 Sauber 01:15.48
10 GBR Lewis Hamilton 3 McLaren-Mercedes 01:14.28
11 RUS Vitaly Petrov 10 Renault 01:15.82
12 BRA Rubens Barrichello 11 Williams-Cosworth 01:15.83
13 JAP Kamui Kobayashi 16 Sauber 01:15.97
14 GBR Paul Di Resta 15 Force India-Mercedes 01:16.12
15 GER Adrian Sutil 14 Force India-Mercedes 01:16.12
16 GER Nick Heidfeld 9 Renault 01:16.21
17 SUI Sebastien Buemi 18 Toro Rosso-Ferrari 01:16.30
18 FIN Heikki Kovalainen 20 Lotus-Renault 01:17.34
19 ITA Jarno Trulli 21 Lotus-Renault 01:17.38
20 ESP Jaime Alguersuari 19 Toro Rosso-Ferrari 01:17.82
21 GER Timo Glock 24 Virgin-Cosworth 01:17.91
22 BEL Jerome d’Ambrosio 25 Virgin-Cosworth 01:18.74
23 IND Narain Karthikeyan 22 Hispania-Cosworth No time
24 ITA Vitantonio Liuzzi 23 Hispania-Cosworth No time

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