|Nico Rosberg starts from the front once again|
Credit: Morio / CC
As mentioned it rained in advance of the qualifying session, and to start with it was definitely a track for intermediate rubber. The drivers earned their money with some serious tip-toeing, facing the perpetual threat of missing the cut due to not being on the right tyres at the right time (as well as of ending their session against the scenery) while times tumbled and the timing screen as it often does at such moments resembling the display of a fruit machine. The track was good for slicks though by halfway through the hour, and in the event the biggest casualties of the elements were Paul di Resta in Q1 and Pastor Maldonado in Q2. And with a dry track and just about all the big names having survived the detour normality reasserted itself.
Thus again it was advantage Rosberg, and no one was able to rain on his parade. His stable mate Lewis Hamilton threatened oh-so briefly to snatch the pole from him, indeed dipped under his time at the last before Nico went even quicker almost immediately. While Sebastian Vettel - who bounced back after a difficult Thursday (something he does with such regularity that it shouldn't really surprise us) - very nearly did the unthinkable and plunder the pole for himself, but a small mistake at Mirabeau kept him starting from third.
|Is Sebastian Vettel best-placed for tomorrow?|
Credit: Morio / CC
On the subject of strategy some reckon that given everything and with Mercedes filling the top two positions there will be deliberate 'backing up' of the pack by whichever Merc is placed second so to allow their stable mate to make a break. Such things are possible, and indeed Ross Brawn used to enact such strategies regularly in his Ferrari days. But I'd be surprised if we see anything like it tomorrow, mainly because it's hard to imagine Lewis agreeing to it (I certainly wouldn't like to be the one who has to suggest it to him), while you'd imagine if Rosberg ended up second he would also be reluctant to sacrifice himself given he's been the faster all weekend (and may also be 'owed one' after Malaysia).
The grid still seems well-poised for an interesting race, as behind the Red Bulls we have Kimi Raikkonen and then Fernando Alonso on the third row, the two drivers who may have the strongest race pace. But as is often the case in Monaco, being able to take advantage of it and avoiding being stuck in traffic is much easier said than done. Some speculate about enacting a one-stopper, but doing so doesn't appear at all easy. Not for nothing Alonso's talking merely in terms of getting ahead of his championship rivals rather than of winning.
But still, for the first time in a long time we sit before a Monaco F1 race day with reasons to think that it will not be the usual procession. Thank heavens for those Mercedes.