With his closest championship rival tripping up in qualifying, Sebastian Vettel has a strong chance of increasing his points lead in Monaco.
And if recent races are anything to go by Mark Webber may find third on the grid a better place to start than second.
It’s an extremely short run to the first corner at Monaco – just 120m. Even so, starting on the pole sitter’s side of the grid is a considerable advantage.
You have to go back to the 2007 Grand Prix to find the last time the driver who started second was not beaten to Sainte Devote by the driver who started third.
Expect Jenson Button to line up with his car pointing towards Mark Webber’s in the hope of holding on to second place when the lights go out.
After that, the opportunities for overtaking are few and far between. The DRS zone at the exit of Anthony Noghes is not expected to do much to aid overtaking – tyres will play a bigger role here.
For Sebastian Vettel, he should have a clear run into the first corner. Happy in the knowledge that his closest championship rival is starting four rows further back, he has a great opportunity to increase his points advantage.
The initial projections of the super-soft tyres falling apart within ten laps proved to be well wide of the mark on Thursday when some drivers easily racked up 20 laps on them. That raises the prospect of teams doing two or even one-stop strategies.
But be wary of taking it for granted: track evolution (that rate at which surface grip increases) at Monaco is often high and as the lap times fall the tyres may go off more quickly. There could be a sting in the tail at the end of the race for anyone who tries dragging a stint out too far.
Lewis Hamilton’s plight in qualifying was probably caused by the team trying to save a set of super-softs to extend his second stint – a gamble that backfired. McLaren face a strategic challenge in their effort to move him up from the fifth row.
Overtaking is near-impossible at Monaco, so they will prefer to avoid any plans that leave him having to pass cars.
On the face of it their choices are between a conservative strategy which will probably consign them to the lower half of the top ten, or try something different in an attempt to jump him past the cars in front of him.
As his fastest time in Q3 was deleted it’s not clear whether he will have to start on the super-soft tyres he used for that lap, or if he will have a free choice.
The latter seems more likely, in which case a credible gamble for McLaren might be to start him on softs. But that could leave him vulnerable if the safety car comes out.
The safety car has not been deployed at all this year. But this race saw four appearances last year, and that will be factored into any strategic calculations.
Here’s how many new sets of tyres each driver has left:
|New super-soft||New soft|
|Paul di Resta||0||2|
2011 Monaco Grand Prix
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