Despite rain-slicked streets around Monaco this morning, the sunshine did its job to dry and warm the circuit before the 750-hp machines made their qualifying runs.
Though the McLaren-Mercedes cars of Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen looked to be the cars to beat following Thursday and Friday practices, it was the Ferrari of Felipe Massa that grabbed pole with a 1:15.787, just pipping his teammate Kimi Raikkonen for the coveted spot.
The Ferrari front row is a surprise and relegates the McLarens to the three and four spots, though it’s quite possible Hamilton made his attempt with more fuel on board, a strategy that could play out in his favor come Sunday.
BMW-Sauber must consider its qualifying efforts a disappointment. A red flag following David Coulthard’s crash robbed Nick Heidfeld of a shot at the top 10. As a result, the German failed to make it out of the second (of three) qualifying sessions, which meant he couldn’t be any higher in the grid than 11th. Tomorrow he will start 13th. This brings to an end 28 straight races where Heidfeld qualified in the top ten. His best race result in Monaco came in 2005, when he and Williams-BMW teammate Mark Webber captured the second and third steps of the podium.
Robert Kubica, meanwhile, might have had the pace to get the job done, but admitted distraction at having to run his flying lap behind the McLaren of Hamilton.
Said the Pole, “The last lap I had Lewis Hamilton in front of me, but he didn’t hold me up. But when you have a car in front of you, there is always a kind of risk.” He reckons he lost about .3 seconds to the distraction, which would have put him on the second row, at least. Kubica’s only Monaco result came last year, when he finished a strong 5th.
The first turn at Monaco–Ste. Devote–is often an “anything goes” affair, where most drivers understand that the chaos of 20 cars trying to fit into a space for one car is perhaps their greatest chance to get ahead. So there is hope yet for the BMWs, Kubica especially. And of course, there is always the chance of rain…