Michael Schumacher took his first pole position since July 2006 but Mark Webber will start from P1 in Monaco.
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.