Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 27. toukokuuta 2018

Monaco GP / Qualifying: Second career pole for Ricciardo with an epic new track record!

Yesterday was a perfect day to watch the qualifying. I was sitting on the porch of our lakeside sauna. My twin sister was heating the sauna, while I concentrated on watching the qualifying on my cell phone. There´s no better scent in the summer than smoke coming out of the chimney, as the sauna is heated. The weather was as brilliant as it was in Monaco; the sun was shining and there were blue skies and +25 degrees Celsius. For that moment I was able to forget all my worries, and it was all about the shootout for Monaco pole.

Because I had been swimming earlier, I had missed the third free practice session. And what a dramatic session it had been for Red Bull´s Verstappen! With only 10 minutes remaining, the flying Dutchman had crashed his RB14 into the barrier! It had been almost an identical shunt to the one he had had two years earlier. The shunt proved extremely costly for Verstappen, as his RB14 needed a gearbox change, and the team proved unable to fix the car in time for the qualifying. I can only imagine, how devastated Max must have felt, as Red Bull had proved stunning pace, having topped all free practice session in the streets of the Municipality! So Max´s mistake-filled season seemed to continue, and the Dutchman had no choice but to witness his teammate´s outstanding pace in the garage.

All cars came out on the pink-marked hyper-softs right away, as Q1 got underway. Traffic is always a significant factor in the narrow streets of Monaco, so everyone wanted to set a banker lap already at the beginning of the session. Ricciardo continued his ultimate top form in the qualifying. Ferrari turned out to be Red Bull´s closest challenger, but in Q1 Ricciardo was massive four tenths adrift! Mercedes, which had been the team to beat two weeks ago in Barcelona, was now the distinct third-best team. Bottas escaped the drop zone not until at the very end of the first segment, jumping third. In addition to Verstappen, out of Q2 were Toro Rosso´s Hartley, Sauber´s Ericsson, Williams' Stroll and Haas' Magnussen. In turn Williams' Sirotkin stood out of the crowd by being 8th fastest, as well as the other Sauber of home hero Leclerc, who made it 9th in Q1.

In Q2 Mercedes chose to fit both Hamilton and Bottas with the ultrasoft tyres, while everyone else opted for the pink-marked hyper-soft compound. However, Hamilton reported on the team radio, that the tyres were "terrible", so the Mercedes drivers were forced to switch to the softest rubber for their second runs. Once again, Ricciardo shone alongside with the sun and topped the timesheets. Kimi showed top form as well, being only a tenth down on the Honey Badger. Sebastian was third and Hamilton fourth. Renault's Hulkenberg was the first driver to miss out on the last session. Out of Q3 were also McLaren's Vandoorne, Williams' Sirotkin, Sauber's Leclerc and Haas' Grosjean.

Ricciardo smashed the track record again in the final session. The Australian was the only driver to break into the 1m 10s, taking the provisional pole by 0.45s to Hamilton! It was extremely tight between Hamilton, Sebastian and Kimi, who were all within five thousandths of a second! Sebastian improved on his second run to jump Hamilton and go second quickest. The Briton had briefly set the timing screens purple in sector one on his final run, but in the end faded as the lap went on. But the day belonged to the Red Bull ace Ricciardo, whose first time lap was fast enough to make it on pole. The gap to Sebastian was two tenths. Hamilton qualified third and Kimi completed the second row. Bottas had to settle for P5, which is the lowest grid slot for the Finn since the season-opening Australian GP. Ocon made it stunning P6 for the pink Force India. McLaren's Alonso, Renault's Sainz, Force India's Perez and Toro Rosso's Gasly rounded out the top ten.

This was only the second career pole for the smiling Australian. The Honey Badger had made it on pole in Monaco two years ago, but Red Bull messed up his pit stop in the race, robbing him of the victory. This time Ricciardo definitely wants to turn the bitter memory into a glorious victory with a shoey. Teammate Verstappen, on the other hand, will start to the race from the very back of the grid. Overtaking chances are very tenuous in Monaco, so making it on the podium seems almost like a mission impossible for Max. Safety car usually plays a major role, as there´s no room for mistakes in the Municipality. The walls are close everywhere, and you have to keep up your concentration 100 %... Ferrari's only chance to beat the flying Ricciardo is to have more genius pit stop strategy than the Austrian team. But I believe in the red team from all my heart. I'm sure anything is possible in the glamorous Monte Carlo!

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