2009 Monaco Grand Prix – Qualifying and Preview

The McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen of Finland li...
Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Big predictions of change going into this weekend’s Grand Prix in Monte Carlo and, certainly, Ferrari and McLaren appear back on the pace. Appearances can be deceptive, however, as Monaco’s street circuit presents entirely different challenges to the cars and drivers. Slow speed, continuous cornering and feathered throttles suit the McLaren equipment but the KERs systems have thrown a spanner at the form book by upsetting the balance of the cars. Lewis Hamilton illustrated this disastrously by losing the back end and knocking off his nearside rear wheel to go out of the first segment of qualifying; 7th at the time but ending up 16th on the grid.

All the more tragic for Lewis as teammate Heikki Kovalainen showed the McLarens are back (at least, here in Monaco) with the Ferraris also ascendant. Massa drove into 5th but team mate Smilin’ Kimi Raikkonen zapped his way onto pole position with a great 3rd hot lap in the final session – pipped only by an truly wonderful last-minute performance by Jensen Button. Once again, Brawn has shown his team is no flash in the pan. Birthday-boy Rubens Barrichello (37 today) couldn’t quite pip the Ferrari so tomorrow sees the former World Champion Raikkonen sandwiched between blossoming Button and Barrichello.

Nico Rosberg for Williams signalled his confidence as his fiery drive took him well up the field to clinch 6th place on the grid. However, both BMW and Toyota were well of the pace and start in a last-place train which suggests they can be discounted. Monaco is always seen as a procession with little opportunity to pass; it all comes down to race strategy in terms of fuel, tyres and stops. Hamilton considers his race winning odds as near zero. True perhaps, but there may still be chances for the field to change even if the current World Champion is out of the running.

Which leaves the abysmal commentary on the BBC by Jonathan Legard to compound the misery of Hamilton’ crash. Come on Auntie ! Use Johnny H., DC or even Murray Walker – who made a brief appearance in their qualifying build up and still seems to be able to impress with his encyclopedic knowledge of the sport. The former radio muppet continues to annoy with his stream of inane drivel which lacks information and states ‘facts’ that a 5 year old could muster simply by reading the on-screen data and shots quicker.

Oh well. Set fair then for an interesting but technical race tomorrow. The grid looks like this:

1 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes
2 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari
3 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes
4 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault
5 Felipe Massa Ferrari
6 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota
7 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes
8 Mark Webber RBR-Renault
9 Fernando Alonso Renault
10 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota
11 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari
12 Nelsinho Piquet Renault
13 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Mercedes
14 Sebastien Bourdais STR-Ferrari
15 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes
16 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
17 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber
18 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber
19 Jarno Trulli Toyota
20 Timo Glock Toyota

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