|Felipe Massa waves to crowd|
Ferrari's Felipe Massa, hot on the heels of his convincing victory in Turkey two weeks ago, won the coveted pole position for Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen will line up 2nd ahead of the two McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen. Robert Kubica's BMW will line up 5th.
It's very difficult to pass at Monaco so Ferrari is in the catbird seat for Sunday's race.
After being quickest Thursday and again Saturday morning, the McLaren team looked all set to secure pole position, but both drivers essentially choked in qualifying and came up short when it counted.
Raikkonen seemed to have secured pole position when his final run was too fast for Hamilton to match, but Massa, took the top spot with his final lap of the session.
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso will start seventh in his Renault.
|Top-3 (L to R) Hamilton, Massa and Raikkonen|
Not since 2000, when Michael Schumacher did it, has a Ferrari set the quickest time in qualifying on this track. And as for the last time two Maranello cars were ahead of the rest, one has to go back to 1979 and the pairing of Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve.
This is Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's fourth pole of the season, the third for Felipe Massa. The Brazilian driver's pole tally now goes up to twelve, and the Scuderia's to 199, nine of them at this race.
"An all-red front row: we could not have asked for more from this qualifying session. In the past few weeks, we have said we would tackle this race with a different approach to usual and, at least up until now, we have reaped the rewards of this work that has involved the whole team," said Team Principal of the Gestione Sportiva, Stefano Domenicali.
"While we are well aware of the importance of qualifying at this track, the points only get allocated tomorrow. It will be a very tough race, which will be affected by the weather which is looking very uncertain. We will have to give of our best to build on this afternoon's result."
Team-by-team summary: Saturday, Monaco
The Italian team looked slightly behind McLaren, and Felipe Massa slightly behind his teammate Kimi Raikkonen, until qualifying, which has not been dominated by Ferrari since 1979. "I was laughing all the way around my in-lap as I just can't believe I'm on pole," Turkey winner Massa, who declared on Wednesday that he doesn't like the famous street circuit, beamed. Raikkonen is P2 by a tiny margin, although Massa, the Finn and Lewis Hamilton's McLaren all set near-identical final lap times.
Not many punters would have bet against a Hamilton pole position, raising some questions about whether Ferrari - although undoubtedly better at Monaco than last year - have opted for slightly lower initial fuel loads, which is a more crucial factor than usual here. "I am pleased with how the car felt and our strategy," Hamilton said. Heikki Kovalainen had a starkly mixed morning with his quickest practice time and shunt, but he remained very competitive until Q3, when he settled on the back of the second row. "I don't know where the small gap to the cars in front comes from," the disappointed Finn said.
Nick Heidfeld is enduring a Monaco nightmare, where his difficulty in heating up the tires seems to be a particular handicap. He was amongst the slowest runners in the wet-dry practice, and - for the first time in 28 races - he failed to make the 'Q3' cut in the afternoon with pace that was up to a whopping full second slower than his teammate Robert Kubica's. The Pole, as per usual, is having no such problems -- fifth in practice and on the grid, although he did confirm that Hamilton's car distracted him - but "did not hold me up" - on his last qualifying flying lap.
Nico Rosberg is arguably the star so far of the Monaco 2008 meeting -- second quickest on Thursday, fourth on the damp Saturday morning, second in the low-fuel 'Q2', and finally sixth on the grid. Teammate Kazuki Nakajima made it through to 'Q2' but he is a lot slower here than Rosberg; the definitive Q2 deficit was an enormous 1.2 seconds. "Nico did really well today so I think I should have been better," the Toyota-backed Japanese admitted.
Nelson Piquet was only three tenths slower than his teammate in Q1, but it was embarrassingly still not enough to graduate to the next phase of the qualifying session. Back to back race winner Fernando Alonso stepped up his pace impressively after Q1, and he will start from seventh -- ten full positions ahead of the struggling occupant of the sister R28.
Jarno Trulli emerged from his difficult start to the weekend to be eighth on the grid, while Timo Glock missed the top-ten 'Q3' cut by the merest of margins. "It's frustrating because the weekend had been going well. I don't know what happened," Glock said.
David Coulthard, who had throttle problems on Thursday and an oil pressure problem on Saturday morning, was unhurt after losing control of his RB4 at an incredible 297kph coming out of the tunnel, meaning that he couldn't take part in 'Q3'. The Scottish veteran, who is understood to have visited the medical centre for a check, didn't rule out driver error as he came onto the brakes, and the team also didn't confirm the cause of the crash immediately after qualifying. Many paddock pundits, however, suspect another car failure for the Milton Keynes based team. Mark Webber has had another solid weekend and is ninth on the grid.
Jenson Button must be praying for Sunday's forecast rain, because his pace on the wet track in the morning - although not reflected in the actual final time sheet because of the intermittent dry running - was extremely quick. In the dry, however, the RA108 is a 'Q2' dweller, although Rubens Barrichello - second for Stewart in the last wet Monaco GP back in 1997 - only just scraped into the second segment in qualifying.
Not in a single session at Monaco this weekend has Sebastian Vettel, whose misery is further compounded by his five-position gearbox penalty, been faster than his impressive teammate Sebastien Bourdais, the multiple champion of Champ Car and an F1 newcomer. Both, however, are not happy with the brand new STR3 car, which was not good enough to make the initial Q1 cut. "I'm hoping for rain -- lots of rain!" Vettel said.
Last year at Monaco, Adrian Sutil shone very brightly in a wet practice session, and so it was also in 2008 as he went eighth quickest in the morning. The German then outqualified his experienced teammate Giancarlo Fisichella by an impressive margin, although both are at the back of the grid. Fisichella could only do two instead of the usual three runs in Q1, because his broken gearbox from the morning session was still being replaced.