At his 44th time of trying after coming out of retirement and joining Mercedes in 2010, Michael Schumacher took a magnificent pole position on the streets of Monaco. However, he has a five-place grid penalty hanging over him from the Spanish Grand Prix and will start from sixth place. P1 instead will go to Mark Webber for Red Bull Racing.
The Australian will start alongside Schumacher’s team-mate Nico Rosberg. Qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix saw a stampede to the track with everybody going out early in the session but four minutes in Sergio Pérez caused proceedings to be halted. The Sauber driver tagged the barriers in the Swimming Pool section and badly damaged the left side of his car. Trying to recover to the pits his left rear wheel fell off and the red flags came out. With the cars of Caterham, HRT and Marussia most likely to fill the final six grid slots, and with Pérez unable to set a time, Q1 became largely irrelevant.
Heikki Kovalainen made it hard for several drivers, in particular Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel who had to make last minute runs, but ultimately eliminated were Kovalainen (18), Petrov (19), Glock (20), de la Rosa (21), Pic (22) and Karthikeyan (23). All were well inside the 107% time. Pérez, having not completed a lap was 24th and last and will have to rely on the Stewards’ discretion to start the race.
At the other end of things fastest lap was 1:15.418 set by Nico Hulkenberg. At the start of Q2 it was yellow flags rather than red as Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne limped back to the pits with a damaged front wing. Vergne had snapped to the right at the tunnel exit and went into the barriers in a manner reminiscent of several accidents last year – this despite the resurfacing work done on that section of track.
The surprise elimination was Jenson Button, down in 13th position, eliminated along with Hulkenberg , Kobayashi , Senna , Ricciardo  and Vergne . With the exception of the stricken Vergne, the entire field was lapping within ninth-tenths of the leader. Nico Rosberg was first out in Q3. He, Grosjean, Hamilton and Webber had all saved a set of supersofts, allowing them to have two runs during the final session. Rosberg soon went to the front but the track was getting faster, and all the action happened in the final minutes.
Rosberg was deposed by Webber but with the chequered flag out Michael Schumacher took the top spot. Still out on track Romain Grojean had set a fastest first sector but lost ground in the middle. Schumacher topped the qualifying times for the first time since the French Grand Prix of 2006. “Obviously I saw my time on the dashboard and I thought ‘Well, that shouldn’t be too bad,’” said Schumacher afterwards. The first four were within 0.2s.
Schumacher’s penalty lifts Webber to P1 with Rosberg alongside him. Lewis Hamilton will start third with Romain Grosjean fourth. Fernando Alonso will be fifth and Schumacher sixth. Felipe Massa had his best qualifying performance of the year with seventh, while Kimi Räikkönen finished eighth. Pastor Maldonado qualified ninth but faces a ten-place grid penalty for his collision with Sergio Pérez in FP3. Sebastian Vettel, who didn’t set a time in qualifying, will therefore start ninth in tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix.
Q3 1. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m14.301s 2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m14.381s 3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m14.448s 4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m14.583s 5. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m14.639s 6. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m14.948s 7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m15.049s 8. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m15.199s 9. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m15.245s 10. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault no timeQ211. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m15.421s 12. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m15.508s 13. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m15.536s 14. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m15.709s 15. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m15.718s 16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m15.878s 17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m16.885s Q118. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m16.538s 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m17.404s 20. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m17.947s 21. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m18.096s 22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m18.476s 23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m19.310s 24. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari no time