Felipe Massa, Ferrari

Monaco GP – Fifth and seventh for Ferrari in Monaco qualifying

Monaco, 26 May – The starting grid for the usually action-packed Monaco Grand Prix will feature a front row made up of Mark Webber (1.14.381) on pole in the Red Bull, with Nico Rosberg (1.14.448) alongside him in the Mercedes. The fastest time was actually set by the latter’s team-mate, Michael Schumacher in 1.14.301, but the German drops five places because of a penalty given out at the Spanish Grand Prix and will therefore start from sixth. He thus splits the two Ferrari’s with Fernando moving up to fifth having lapped in 1.14.948 and Felipe Massa staying seventh in the other F2012 in 1.15.049.

Monaco GP – Monaco delivers the best qualifying of 2012
This afternoon’s qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix was the best team performance of the season so far. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa ended the session setting the sixth and seventh fastest times respectively, but the Spaniard will actually start from fifth, because of the penalty imposed on pole-setter Schumacher after the Spanish Grand Prix. Both drivers ran identical tyre useage programmes: one set of Softs in Q1, two of Supersoft in Q2 and one further Supersoft in Q3.

Stefano Domenicali: “All in all, we can be pleased with the overall result of this qualifying, the first time this season that we have managed to get both our drivers through to Q3, I am particularly happy for Felipe who finally managed to show what he is capable of. As has more than ever been the case this year, all three parts that go to make up qualifying are very closely contested and it only takes the slightest thing to turn things on their head. Tomorrow’s race will have everything going for it, from the first to the last lap. We know just how much the many imponderables in this race can effect the outcome and this time, there’s the additional factor of tyre behaviour over a long run, given that no one was able to check on that during free practice. We must be ready to deal with any eventuality and react to every changing situation. Finally, I want to congratulate Michael Schumacher for his fantastic pole position: I think this result comes at the right time for him and on a track that has played a truly significant role in his career.”

Fernando Alonso: “In Italy there’s a saying, “he who goes slowly, goes well and goes far,” right? Well, that’s what we are doing: step by step we are getting closer. I am happy with this qualifying, the best as a team that we have seen this season. I have had a good feeling all weekend long. Maybe in Q3, we could have shaved a few hundredths off here and there, but I don’t think I’d have moved up any places, given that the driver in front of me is three tenths away. Usually here it falls to the top three on the grid to fight for the win, so I think that our realistic goal is a place on the podium, but we also know that surprises are the order of the day. We saw that again today, with Michael on pole: I was very pleased for him, even though he won’t be able to make the most of it because of the penalty. This afternoon and tomorrow morning I will have to work along with the team to decide on the best strategy. The Softs behave well, but we will start on the Supersofts, therefore we go into it a bit blind in terms of how long they will last: we will find out in the race how they perform. In terms of the championship, it’s a good grid, given that of the immediate rivals, only Hamilton starts ahead of us and Vettel is actually ninth. Michael alongside me on the grid? It’s been a while, so it will be nice to have him close by, but I’ll be concentrating on passing the four in front rather than thinking about the sixth placed man.”

Felipe Massa: “It was a good qualifying and I could definitely have done even better than this seventh place: fifth was within my reach, given what we saw in Q1 and Q2. Unfortunately, in Q3 I did not manage to get a perfectly clean lap because of traffic, but that’s an easy thing to find here. Having said that, I am very happy with how things have gone in this Grand Prix so far. Finally, I am having fun at the wheel of the F2012: clearly the set-up we have chosen here makes it much easier to make the most of its potential. It’s a point to keep in mind for the rest of the championship too. We still struggle a bit in the places where traction is crucial, which can easily be seen by comparing our car, corner by corner with the best ones, however in this area too we have made progress. Michael did a great lap and I congratulate him: a shame that he will then find himself very close to me on the grid tomorrow afternoon. Let’s hope we have a good race tomorrow and that a new championship can really get underway for me!”

Pat Fry: “I don’t think we could have done better in terms of performance. As I said yesterday, we have got closer to the quickest but not to the extent that we can fight for pole position. We still have work to do to close the gap. However, it’s very positive to have finally managed to get both our drivers into Q3. Tomorrow, it will be very important to interpret the race strategy as well as possible because the number of variables in play is greater than usual, given that there is not enough data on tyre behaviour. I think we could witness quite a variety of strategies and we must do a good job of reacting to any eventuality: the Safety Car often plays a role at this track. On top of that, there is always a question mark as to the weather: at the moment it is not forecast to rain, but you never know what can happen here!”

Qualifying session

Q1 MAS 9th 1.15.983 7 ALO 14th 1.16.153 10
Q2 MAS 1st 1.14.911 7 ALO 6th 1.15.128 9
Q3 ALO 6th 1.14.948 3 MAS 7th 1.15.049 5

Weather: air 24/23 °C, track 39 °C; clear skies. Chassis: Alonso 295, Massa 294

Monaco GP – A first for 2012 -Two Ferraris in the top ten on the grid
Monaco, 26 May – Fernando Alonso qualified second for the last round of the championship in Barcelona, so today’s sixth fastest time is not his best performance of the season, but with team-mate Felipe Massa making it through to the final Top Ten shoot-out for the first time in 2012, posting the seventh time of the afternoon, it was overall the best team performance for Scuderia Ferrari so far this year. And what better place to achieve this upturn in form, than at the famous Monegasque street circuit where overtaking is always difficult, whatever the strategy choices and whatever the tyre performance. Given that one of the strengths of the F2012 is its speed off the starting line when the lights go out, there is cause for optimism this afternoon in the Prancing Horse camp.

The Monegasque event always throws up the unexpected and it’s fair to say that not many people in the paddock had considered Michael Schumacher as a favourite contender for pole position. But sure enough, come the end of Q3, the most successful driver in the history of the sport and a five times winner here, had set the fastest time. However, even as he punched the air with delight, the Mercedes driver knew he would be starting tomorrow’s race from sixth place, because of a penalty given him after the last round of the championship in Spain. There is no room for sentimentality in sport and even though Team Principal Stefano Domenicali congratulated the German, the team will be happy that Fernando thus moves up one place to fifth and more importantly, goes across to the clean side of the track, straight ahead of Felipe.

So with the oldest man on the grid demoted to sixth, it leaves Mark Webber starting from pole position for Red Bull, with the second Mercedes of Nico Rosberg alongside him. The second row sees Lewis Hamilton in third place for McLaren and Romain Grosjean fourth in the Lotus. Then we have Alonso and Schumacher sharing the third row, while Felipe finds himself on the inside of Kimi Raikkonen in the second Lotus on row 4. 78 laps of this 3.34 kilometre track always throws up something unexpected. Tomorrow will it come from the tyres, as Thursday’s rain means there is not much data for all the teams to work on relating to the durability of the Soft and Supersoft Pirellis, or will it come from the weather, given the Principality’s microclimate can often confuse the forecasters, or will the Monegasque roulette wheel stop in the Safety Car slot to add yet another possibility to the mix? The answers will start to come through after the lights go out above the grid shortly after 2 in the afternoon tomorrow. With both F2012s starting high up the grid, the Scuderia will be hoping to bring home a good points haul and possibly see a driver on the unique “Royal” podium alongside the start-finish line.