Date registered: Sep 2004
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Button pips Raikkonen to the pole!
Button pips Raikkonen to the pole!
Monaco GP - Qualifying
Last gasp effort brings Button the Monaco pole
Arguably the most important qualifying session of the season saw Jenson Button claim pole position for Sunday�s 78-lap Monaco Grand Prix, the fourth of the season for the run-away championship leader.
The battle for the pole around the streets of Monte Carlo, as ever, came down to the wire with Kimi Raikkonen moving into the provisional pole just ahead of the chequered flag. Seconds later Button launched his Brawn Mercedes out of Anthony Noghes and took the flag with a best time of 1:14.902s, a fraction faster.
While the Briton celebrated his latest success, it is notable that his pole position lap was faster than his best efforts in the first and second rounds of qualifying which is a surprise given that the final round of qualifying takes place with the crucial race fuel on board. Still, given his sensational season to date, only a fool would bet against Jenson Button to extend his championship advantage on race day.
Kimi Raikkonen put in a great effort to qualify his Ferrari on the front row of the grid for the first time this year. The Finn lapped the 3.340km circuit just two-hundredths of a second off the ultimate pace with team-mate Felipe Massa surviving a scare early in the session to line up fifth in the second F60. On low fuel, Raikkonen was significantly quicker than Button and with race fuel he was just that fraction slower. With his KERS equipped Ferrari, will be one to watch on the run to Sainte Devote tomorrow afternoon.
Red Bull Renault has the new double diffuser fitted to the RB5 for the first time this weekend with Chinese Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel qualifying fourth, four-tenths of a second clear of team-mate Mark Webber who starts eighth in the sister RB5.
Massa starts fifth in the second Ferrari and was fortunate just to damage his front wing when he spun under braking in the first round of qualifying and made light contact with the barriers on the approach to turn 15. The Brazilian regrouped and made the final round of qualifying but was half a second shy of team-mate Raikkonen at the chequered flag.
Nico Rosberg did a good job in his Williams Toyota and will start the race from sixth position on the grid while Kazuki Nakajima was also running well and lines up tenth in the second FW31 as the team chase some much needed points for the constructors� championship.
Heikki Kovalainen was fastest of all in the second round of qualifying in his McLaren Mercedes and will therefore be disappointed to start seventh. Looking at the drop off in performance with race fuel on board in Q3, the Finn either made a mistake at the critical time, or has more fuel on board than many in the top ten.
Either way, his day was more productive than that of team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Fernando Alonso lines up in ninth position in his Renault ahead of Nakajima in the second Williams. Sebastien Buemi again led the Toro Rosso challenge as the Swiss rookie lines up a solid 11th on his Grand Prix debut at the most demanding circuit of the calendar. Team-mate Sebastien Bourdais was three-tenths slower and starts 14th in the second STR4.
Nelson Piquet was 12th in the second Renault on his second visit to the Principality ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella in his Force India Mercedes. It is the first time this year that both Fisichella and team-mate Adrian Sutil made it into the second round of qualifying although the former had a tough task after his early laps in Q2 were disallowed after he cut a chicane. Fisichella recovered and in fact found an additional half second on his final run. Sutil starts 15th behind the second Toro Rosso of Bourdais.
Lewis Hamilton had high hopes heading into this session but it would end up being a most disappointing afternoon for the defending champion and race winner. Heading to Mirabeau on a hot lap, Hamilton lost the rear end of his McLaren Mercedes and half spun into the tyre barrier. The impact broke the left rear suspension and all Hamilton could do is climb from the damaged MP4-24, forcing a brief halt to the session. The McLaren racer was seventh at the time but found himself bumped down to 16th by the end of the first round of qualifying.
As expected, qualifying was a disaster for both BMW Sauber and Toyota. Both teams have struggled all weekend and it was no surprise to see Nick Heidfeld qualifying 17th ahead of BMW Sauber team-mate Robert Kubica. Jarno Trulli, a previous winner at this circuit, was most unhappy with Fernando Alonso for blocking him on his final run and lines up a dismal 19th in his Toyota ahead of team-mate Timo Glock who spun on his final hot lap.
Later today the FIA will publish the car weights and then we should get a better idea of who is running light and perhaps flattering only to deceive in qualifying, and who should - in theory - be best placed to win the Monaco Grand Prix. Button has the pole, but Raikkonen is looking very strong...
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