Kimi Raikkonen has scored his first Formula 1 pole position for nearly a decade in qualifying for tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix. His Ferrari teammate, Sebastian Vettel, joins him on the front row as Lewis Hamilton qualified disastrously down in 14th.
The results of the morning’s final practice suggested that Ferrari and in particular, Vettel, had the advantage going into qualifying. But as ever in Monte Carlo, it wasn’t that simple, as the Red Bulls set the early pace in Q1.
Mercedes were struggling, with neither Hamilton nor Valtteri Bottas threatening the top of the time-sheets. Also struggling was Romain Grosjean, who spun his Haas at Mirabeau and was lucky not to collect anybody else.
In the end though, Grosjean made it through to Q2 while Esteban Ocon, Jolyon Palmer, Lance Stroll, Pascal Wehrlein, and Marcus Ericsson, who dislodged his rear-left tyre at the chicane, all failed to make it through to the the next round.
The second session of qualifying got underway and Kimi Raikkonen was looking quick once again as he headed a Ferrari 1-2 all throughout Q2. Lewis Hamilton, however, wasn’t happy as he was complaining of a lack of grip in his Mercedes and almost collided with the barriers at Massenet.
Grosjean went wide once more, this time at Sainte Devote but recovered from this to make it into the Top 10 shootout. Also through were the two McLarens of Jenson Button (deputising for Fernando Alonso) and Stoffel Vandoorne but the latter wouldn’t take any part in Q3.
Vandoorne crashed at the second swimming pool chicane and, as a result, prevented any drivers from improving their times. This included Hamilton and he was out of Q2 for the first time in four years because of a lack of pace. Daniil Kvyat, Nico Hulkenberg, Kevin Magnussen and Felipe Massa also joined the Brit out of Q2.
When Q3 began Kimi Raikkonen picked up where he left off by setting another 1:12.2 to go top of the timings once more. Nobody could touch the Finn in the early stages, Daniel Ricciardo going closest but still half a second off his time. Valtteri Bottas then went P2 but Raikkonen was looking good for his first pole since returning to F1 back in 2012.
With just a few minutes remaining, Raikkonen again improved his time to a 1:12.178. Sebastian Vettel went to within a tenth, as did Bottas, but it was the other Finn who made it stick.
It’s Raikkonen’s first pole since the 2008 French Grand Prix, and if he converts it to a win tomorrow, it’ll be his first victory in over four years. Behind him, Max Verstappen beat Ricciardo by half a second to claim fourth, Carlos Sainz put in an excellent lap for sixth in his Toro Rosso and Jenson Button achieved ninth on his brief return to Formula 1.
P1: Raikkonen – 1:12.178
P2: Vettel +0.043
P3: Bottas +0.045
P4: Verstappen +0.318
P5: Ricciardo +0.820
P6: Sainz +0.984
P7: Grosjean +1.171
P8: Perez +1.265
P9: Button* +1.435
P10: Vandoorne** (No time)
P11: Kvyat 1:13.516 (Q2)
P12: Hulkenberg +0.112
P13: Magnussen +0.443
P14: Hamilton +0.590
P15: Massa +7.013
P16: Ocon 1:14.101 (Q1)
P17: Palmer +0.595
P18: Stroll +0.792
P19: Wehrlein +1.058
P20: Ericsson +1.175
*Jenson Button has a 15-place grid penalty
**Stoffel Vandoorne has a minimum 3-place grid penalty, pending additional possible penalties for his crash in Q2