On Track Review: FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX DE MONACO 2013 – Qualifying

Brought to you by TheJudge13 ‘on track correspondent’: James Parker

Nico Lewis Sebastian  © Formula1.com

Rosberg Dominates The Principality
During a cold and damp afternoon in Monaco, the Mercedes duo of Rosberg and Hamilton ‘monstered‘ the rest of the field in the drying conditions to claim the teams 4th consecutive pole position of the season. Nico Rosberg claimed his 3rd pole in a row in a session that was dominated by intermittent light showers and slippery track conditions. The Red Bulls were the best of the rest with Vettel and Webber taking 3rd and 4th ahead of the Lotus of Raikkonen and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.

Qualifying 1
The rain started to fall over turns 7 and 8 during the opening minutes of Q1. All the drivers were seen queuing up at the end of the pit lane in order to get an early banker in before conditions deteriorated. The first casualty was an unlucky Jules Bianchi, who on his out-lap, grounded to a halt at turn 3. Smoke was seen pouring from his Marussia, the cause identified as an airbox fire, ending  his qualifying.

Conditions were very tricky to begin with, with numerous drivers going straight at the downhill braking zone of turn 5.

McLaren set the early running with Button and Perez enjoying the mixed conditions, but were soon displaced by both Red Bulls who were showing a significant upturn in pace. Half way through qualifying, the track conditions improved with a dry-ish line starting to appear. The question was all about who could make their inters last the longest without burning them out.

As track temperature kept on increasing, Mercedes gave us their first glimpse of the much anticipated 1 lap pace with Hamilton going top on a 1.23.779.

Felipe Massa FP3 Monaco © MirrorFelipe Massa, after a FP3 crash earlier in the day, was firmly rooted in the garage. Ferrari mechanics were working hard to fix the damage with some of Alonso’s mechanics helping. This was not enough however and the small Brazilian did not make it out to set any time in qualifying.

With 5 minutes to go, the other crashee from FP3 – Grosjean jumped into his now repaired car, the Lotus mechanics having found just enough time to glue all the bits back together on his E21. With a set of fresh intermediates bolted on, he immediately jumped up to the head of the standings, before being displaced by Pastor Maldonado in the dying stages with a 1.23.4.

As the seconds ticked down, action was frantic as drivers tried to maximise the growing grip available to them. But for Paul Di Resta it was a disaster, the team chose not to put the Briton on fresh intermediates and the decision backfired, with the Scotsman missing out on Q2 for the first time since 2011 at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Joining the Force India driver in the bottom six was the despondent Massa, Pic (Caterham), the retired Bianchi, Chilton and Guttierez.

The big story however was Pic’s team-mate Van Der Garde however. He managed to scrape through into Q2 for the first time this season – a great achievement.

Qualifying 2
More rain fell in-between sessions leading to drivers staying on the intermediate compound for Q2. Like Q1, the McLaren’s set the early pace, but as the rain started to fall once again, the Lotus pair of Grosjean and Raikkonen rose to top the time sheets.
Giedo Van Der Garde © Caterham F1 TeamAction was slow until mid session, when Van Der Garde was the first man to roll the dice and change on to the red super soft slick rubber. It triggered a flurry of activity in the pitlane as the Dutchman instantly went 6th in the on the timesheet.

At this point both Raikkonen and Alonso were in the drop zone, but with the increased track temperature, the grip started to come to the front runners. Vettel showed his hand for the first time the whole weekend by going top with Raikkonen claiming 2nd with a great lap.

The worried Ferrari team were saved blushes as Alonso got himself into 6th while both McLaren’s had solid laps to get into the top 10.

Both Bottas and Maldonado only managed 14th and 16th respectively and after such a strong showing in Q1 it was a bitter disappointment for the Grove based team. Hulkenberg, Ricciardo and Grosjean were all victims of the last minute shuffle  as track conditions continued to improve benefitting the last runners. One man that will not be disappointed however is Van Der Garde who managed a fantastic run to claim 15th, no doubt helped by the absence of Massa and Bianchi.

Qualifying 3
So on to Q3 then, a session where the track was dry enough for all the drivers to start on the Pirelli Super Soft P Zero. Due to the threatening rain all 10 drivers looked to get in early bankers with a second run to go all out for the best possible position. Early exchanges were dominated by Webber, Rosberg and Hamilton.

Sebastian Vettel © Red Bull RacingVettel, who had opted to be last out for the first runs, went faster than his team-mate by 4 tenths with a 1.14.333. It was a very strong lap that many thought would be difficult to beat.

But the track was evolving quickly, and there was almost no surface water offline as the drivers emerged for their second runs. Webber instantly showed his hand, being the leader of the pack posting a 1.14.1 to topple his team-mate. But the now dry conditions allowed the Mercedes cars to show there true pace and Hamilton followed Webber through to go top with a 1.13.9. Rosberg, the man who had dominated the entire weekend, then blitzed his final lap to go 1 tenth clear of Hamilton.

It was enough to claim a magnificent pole position as Vettel could only manage 3rd on his final lap.

Elsewhere, Raikkonen abandoned his final timed run and therefore will start from 5th behind both Red Bulls. Alonso, who struggled to generate heat in his from tyres all session, could only capture 6th on the grid leaving him with a lot of hard work to do.

7th was a consistent Perez, with Sutil the sole Force India claiming 8th. Button, who experienced some sort of power problem on his final run, could only crawl to 9th on the grid. 10th was an impressive Jean Eric Vergne who enjoyed the mixed conditions in his Torro Rosso

Strategy Prediction
At Monaco, the strategy has to be very flexible in order to maintain track position and react to the high probability of a safety car at some point. But theoretically, a two-stop strategy is quickest:

  • Start on the supersoft, change to the soft on lap 20 and soft again on lap 49.
  • An alternative strategy is a one-stopper, starting on the supersoft and moving to the soft on lap 36.
  • Another approach would be to start on the soft and change to the supersoft on lap 42.

It will be interesting to see how far Mercedes can go in their first stint on high fuel. For them to win it will be key that they make the tyres last and possibly use team tactics to help one car win. This may be Malaysia payback for Rosberg although it is highly unlikely that Hamilton will play the willing lamb to be slaughtered for the sake of paying back Rosberg so expect a hard race into the first corner.

A 2 stop seems the most likely for them alongside RedBull. For Lotus and Ferrari a 1 stop is possible, and track position for both Raikkonen and Alonso after the first stops will be everything if they want a chance to win the race.

Tomorrows Grid













































On the subject of Malaysia, tomorrow will be the first time Vettel and Webber will be together in racing conditions since the controversial Malaysian Grand Prix. Are we going to see more fireworks from the two Red Bull drivers?

13 responses to “On Track Review: FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX DE MONACO 2013 – Qualifying

  1. Mercedes simply must broker an agreement with their drivers for either the second on te grid or the second into the first corner to back up the rest of the field, otherwise they’re looking at P5-8.

    But I’ll be more closely watching webber and Vettel at the first corner… Hehehe.

  2. James Allen reports that Rosberg and Hamilton will be allowed to race, just not into the first corner. That leaves Vettel trying to get inside Hamilton (discounting Webber, because well, Webber) before the first turn, otherwise it’s down to the safety car as Hamilton doesn’t seem to have quite the handle on tires that Rosberg does at the moment. OF course, Alonso has had some incredible starts so it may be down to Vettel defending Alonso. Should be quite the excitement at the beginning! Great report as always. BTW, after today I’m thinking they should can the GP and just have a bunch of qualifying. I was glued to the screen every session.

    • Alonso’s starts are usually great, but the best he can hope for is dispatching Kimi and probably Webber, the start of whom will probably be traditionally crap. But in Monaco it’s not even half a Kilometre to the first bend, so he hasn’t got much time and track to profit from a better start.

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