For the second Sunday in a row Mark Webber finds himself on pole position at circuit where overtaking is notoriously difficult.
But the challenges of strategy and traffic – not to mention 78 laps avoiding Monaco’s unforgiving walls – means a win for him tomorrow cannot be taken for granted.
Pole position is the place to be at Monte-Carlo. Start from there and you’re unlikely to be beaten into turn one.
It hasn’t happened since 2002, when David Coulthard, starting second, beat pole sitter Juan Pablo Montoya into the first corner. So Mark Webber is looking pretty secure.
This is the first race of the year where the pole sitter lines up on the right-hand side of the track. It’s the inside line for the first corner but it’s also closest to the racing line, where the track is cleaner and grippier.
Last year that allowed Rubens Barrichello, who started third, to pass Kimi Raikkonen for second place at the start of the race. That will give Robert Kubica reason to be wary about Sebastian Vettel.
First-corner crashes are always a worry at Monaco. That will be especially so this year with four extra cars on the track and every driver carrying a full fuel load for the race ahead.
The tarmac run-off at the inside of Sainte Devote will at least give drivers room to avoid any accidents. But drivers who use it when they don’t need to can expect a drive-through penalty – as five of the drivers in this afternoon’s GP2 race discovered.
Read more: Monaco Grand Prix grid
Strategy and tyres
Once again, every driver in Q3 opted for the softest tyre compounds available which, this weekend, is the super-soft.
The remaining drivers have the choice of starting on either compounds of tyre. That might be tempting for those who are struggling to make the super-soft tyre last, but doing so would leave them vulnerable if the safety car comes out early – which is not unlikely in Monaco.
While their rivals could get their mandatory pit stop out of the way and switch to medium tyres, those who started on the medium tyres could only switch to super softs to achieve the same result – and they would probably not be able to reach the end of the race on those tyres.
In the dry races this year we’ve seen most of the drivers rush into the pits within a few laps each other, because pitting before the driver in front of you gives you a good chance to get ahead.
A botched or mis-timed pit stop could be enormously costly here at Monaco.
Monte-Carlo is rarely the scene of exciting wheel-to-wheel racing. But it is a punishing circuit and, as with Lewis Hamilton’s failure in the closing stages at Spain, you can never take the finishing order for granted.
Webber would do well to remember no to repeat the example of his countryman Jack Brabham, who crashed out of the lead at the last corner of the last lap of this race 40 years ago.
A theme of the weekend has been traffic – and expect that continue in the race, especially if we see high reliability and no safety cars.
Last year field spread meant the tail-enders were 25 seconds behind the leader after two laps. With the HRT drivers some five seconds off the pace, the front runners could hit traffic as early as lap 14.
For a driver trying to pass a slower rival, every backmarker presents an opportunity.
Read more: When backmarkers strike in Monaco
A tough day for Alonso
The final big question ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix is where Fernando Alonso will finish. He may well be the fastest driver on the track, but he’ll start from the pit lane.
He could be the only driver on the grid for whom starting on medium tyres might make sense. That could at least allow him to gain track position in the event of the safety car, and we saw in Barcelona how well the Ferrari preserved its tyres.
Michael Schumacher raced from last (22nd) to fifth in a Ferrari here four years ago. But he was able to gain a lot of places via the refuelling stops – not an option that’s open to Alonso.
What do you expect to happen in the Monaco Grand Prix? Where will Alonso finish? Have your say in the comments.
Read more: Alonso to miss qualifying after crash
2010 Monaco Grand Prix
- FIA admits “lack of clarity” and vows to change rules after Monaco controversy
- From the stands: David Entrican watches the Monaco Grand Prix at Monte-Carlo
- Schumacher’s Monaco penalty will stand after Mercedes withdraw appeal
- 2010 Monaco Grand Prix – the complete F1 Fanatic race weekend review
- Should slower cars let the front runners pass when racing for position? (Poll)
- This time Vettel denies Webber a perfect result (Monaco GP stats and facts)
- Alonso’s mammoth stint and McLaren’s smart move
- Monaco Grand Prix fastest laps
- The FIA’s badly-written rules leave Formula 1 looking stupid once again
- Monaco Grand Prix in pictures
Image (C) Red Bull/Getty images