Jenson Button’s rivals failed to keep him away from a crucial fourth pole position of the season at Monaco.
But he’ll have to work hard to keep Kimi Raikkonen behind him – the KERS-equipped Ferrari driver lines up second on the grid.
Lewis Hamilton, however, lines up 16th after throwing away his chances of a good result with a session-stopping crash in Q1.
The session didn’t start well for Felipe Massa, who lost his Ferrari half-way through the swimming pool complex. Fortunately, he only clipped the barrier with his front nose and was able to pit for a replacement.
Lewis Hamilton was not so lucky. He’d gone fourth fastest with a 1’26.264 when he lost the rear of his McLaren under braking at Mirabeau. The left-read made heavy contact with the barrier, wrenching the wheel out of joint – his session was over.
With eight minutes left to run in Q1 the red flags came out to allow the marshals to recover the McLaren. Both the BMWs and Toro Rossos occupied the bottom five, along with Giancarlo Fisichella’s Force India. But Hamilton’s stricken McLaren offered them a hope of reaching Q2.
Remarkably the BMWs remained stuck in the bottom five – and the Toyotas joined them. Timo Glock threw away his hopes of getting into the final part of qualifying by spinning to a halt at La Piscine – and the resulting yellow flags caused problems for several other drivers. Trulli, meanwhile, was left seething after being blocked by Fernando Alonso.
Nick Heidfeld improved but was only able to match Hamilton’s time. It left the pair 16th and 17th, Hamilton ahead by dint of having set the time first.
Drivers eliminated in Q1
16. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, 1’16.264
17. Nick Heidfeld, BMW, 1’16.264
18. Robert Kubica, BMW, 1’16.405
19. Jarno Trulli, Toyota, 1’16.548
20. Timo Glock, Toyota, 1’16.788
Nico Rosberg, who had been fastest at the end of Q1, hit the top of the times early in Q2 with a 1’14.846. Quickly three other drivers joined him on a 1’14.8s: Heikki Kovalainen the fastest of them, followed by Webber and Barrichello.
The next driver to lose control of their car was Nelson Piquet Jnr. He’d clipped the wall on the approach to Rascasse. He rounded that corner without drama, but the car got away from him at the entrance to Anthony Noghes and he sun harmlessly to a halt. Luckily for him, not only was his car undamaged but he was able to get running again before team mate Fernando Alonso arrived on the scene. Alonso reached the top ten, but once again Piquet failed to.
Jenson Button had a scare towards the end of the session, falling to eighth by the chequered flag. Kimi Raikkonen ended the session fastest, with Kovalainen making it a Finnish one-two.
Force India failed to get any further in qualifying, though Giancarlo Fisichella at least beat Sebastien Bourdais. This was despite becoming the first victim of the stewards’ crackdown on corner-cutting, costing him two of his first times.
Drivers eliminated in Q2
11. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso-Ferrari, 1’15.833
12. Nelson Piquet Jnr, Renault, 1’15.837
13. Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India-Mercedes, 1’16.146
14. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso-Ferrari, 1’16.281
15. Adrian Sutil, Force India-Mercedes, 1’16.545
Sebatian Vettel was fastest of the first batch of runners, but it was close – Nico Rosberg and Rubens Barrichello were both within a tenth of a second of his first effort.
Button found himself fourth ahead of the final round of laps and went quickest with a 1’14.902. That knocked back Kimi Raikkonen – whose resurgent Ferrari was only 0.025s off the pole time.
On the second row of the grid are the two drivers who most badly needed to keep Button off pole position – Rubens Barrichello and Sebastian Vettel.
Team boss Ross Brawn reckons Button has 20 laps of fuel on board – we’ll find out the fuel weight details in full in a few hours’ time.
Update: fuel weights for tomorrow’s start published – Monaco GP fuel loads give no comfort to Button’s rivals – especially Vettel
Update: Lewis Hamilton to start from the back of the grid following a penalty – Monaco Grand Prix grid
Top ten drivers in Q3
1. Jenson Button, Brawn GP, 1′14.902
2. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1′14.927
3. Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP, 1′15.077
4. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1′15.271
5. Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 1′15.437
6. Nico Rosberg, Williams-Toyota, 1′15.455
7. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren-Mercedes, 1′15.516
8. Mark Webber, Red Bull-Renault, 1′15.653
9. Fernando Alonso, Renault, 1′16.009
10. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams-Toyota, 1′17.344