Schumacher might be fastest, but it's Webber who has got pole at Monaco

But for a clumsy overtaking manoeuvre a fortnight ago and Michael Schumacher would be celebrating a well-deserved 69th career pole position – the first since his return to the sport – with a scintillating qualifying lap ahead of Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix.

Instead, the German’s five-place grid penalty hands pole position to Mark Webber, with the Australian claiming his first pole position since last year’s German Grand Prix.

The major headline news item heading into qualifying was the not unexpected grid penalty awarded to Pastor Maldonado, who reverted back to the wild and ill-disciplined reputation that he has found impossible to shake. The Venezuelan was involved in a ridiculous collision with Sauber’s Sergio Pérez in the day’s earlier practice session, and was rightly awarded a ten-place grid penalty. No back-to-back wins for Williams…

Pérez would also be at the centre of more drama in the first phase of qualifying. The Mexican brought out the red flag less than five minutes into the session when he crashed at the Swimming Pool on his first flying lap. Initial footage suggested driver error, but closer analysis of replays suggested a steering failure on the left-hand side of the C31 – coincidence or not, the same section of the car that Maldonado hit earlier in the day…

It was the first time Pérez would fail to make it out of Q1 in his career (he was the only driver in the field not to have earned this honour), and despite the best efforts of the HRT, Marussia and Caterham runners, they were all ensured another knockout in the first run. Heikki Kovalainen came closest to making it into Q2, missing out by just five-hundredths of a second.

Vergne crashed out of Q2The second phase of qualifying features more drama, with Jean-Éric Vergne crashing his Toro Rosso in the Nouvelle Chicane’s braking zone, damaging his front wing and right-rear suspension and ensuring he would be slowest of the session.

The session featured a few more shock eliminations, with Jenson Button missing the Q3 cut for the second race running, while Kamui Kobayashi compounded Sauber’s miserable afternoon with the thirteenth-fastest time, which included a brush with the wall at Sainte Devote.

Neither Force India made it into the top-ten, with Nico Hülkenberg going eleventh-quickest, and Paul di Resta fifteenth-fastest. Bruno Senna also struggled to match team-mate Maldonado’s pace, managing the fourteenth-fastest time, while Maldonado would sneak into Q3 in his hastily-repaired Williams.

Schumacher's penalty promotes Webber to his second Monaco pole positionThe final phase of qualifying featured nothing in the way of brushes with the Armco.

Mercedes was able to prove that its final practice pace was no fluke, with Nico Rosberg being promoted to a front-row start alongside Webber, after slipping to third place in the final seconds of qualifying when both Webber and Schumacher went marginally quicker than his 1:14.448 benchmark.

With track temperatures much higher than expected, it forced some drivers to be more aggressive with their tyre selections earlier in the session, which in turn left them in a weaker position to challenge for pole if they made it through to the final stage.

Sebastian Vettel was once such driver – he resorted to a run on ‘super soft’ tyres in Q1 to ensure he wouldn’t be eliminated – and he opted for a single lap on the ‘soft’ compound tyres without posting a lap time. All other runners posted lap times on the super soft tyres, which could put the German in a decent position to capitalise on his alternative strategy.

2012 Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:

Driver Team Time Gap
1. Michael Schumacher* DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:14.301  
2. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:14.381 + 0.080
3. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:14.448 + 0.147
4. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:14.583 + 0.282
5. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:14.639 + 0.338
6. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:14.948 + 0.647
7. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:15.049 + 0.748
8. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:15.199 + 0.898
9. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW34 1:15.245 + 0.944
10. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 no time  
  Q2 Cut-Off – 1:15.322   Time Gap
11. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:15.421 + 0.099
12. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C31 1:15.508 + 0.186
13. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:15.536 + 0.214
14. Bruno Senna BRA Williams Renault FW34 1:15.709 + 0.387
15. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:15.718 + 0.396
16. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:15.878 + 0.556
17. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:15.885 + 0.563
  Q1 Cut-Off – 1:16.491   Time Gap
18. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Caterham Renault CT01 1:16.538 + 0.047
19. Vitaly Petrov RUS Caterham Renault CT01 1:17.404 + 0.913
20. Timo Glock DEU Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:17.947 + 1.456
21. Pedro de la Rosa ESP HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:18.096 + 1.605
22. Charles Pic FRA Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:18.476 + 1.985
23. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:19.310 + 2.819
  107% Cut-Off – 1:20.697   Time Gap
DNQ. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C31 no time  

* Michael Schumacher incurs a five-place grid penalty stemming from his collision with Bruno Senna during the Spanish Grand Prix.
** Pastor Maldonado incurs a ten-place grid penalty for causing a collision with Sergio Pérez during Free Practice 3.

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.