By Alan Davies, Formula One correspondent
Saturday, May 26, 2012
FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton will “give everything” in pursuit of victory in the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix.
* 2011: Q9, R6
* 2010: Q5, R5
* 2009: Q19, R12
* 2008: Q3, R1
* 2007: Q2, R2
The 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes racer from Hertfordshire will start from the second row of the Circuit de Monaco grid on Sunday.
He clocked a time of 1m 14.583s on Options for fourth place in Q3 but will start third following Michael Schumacher’s grid penalty.
Schumacher had gone fastest in qualifying for Mercedes GP but will start from sixth place.
Mark Webber will line-up on pole with Nico Rosberg alongside him on the front row, with Hamilton third.
"Anything can happen at Monaco and I’ll give everything tomorrow."
“I’ve had a good feeling all weekend, but his afternoon was massively tough: one of my toughest qualifying sessions for some time, in fact,” said Hamilton.
“And there are two great drivers ahead of me who’ll make it even tougher for me tomorrow.
“I’m fortunate to be one place higher owing to Michael’s [Schumacher] penalty, but we struggled a little today [Saturday], particularly with the very low-speed stuff. It was difficult to get the tyres to ‘switch on’ and give us the grip we needed.
“Still, qualifying was so much fun – I really enjoyed it – and the tyres and strategy can play a big part around here.
“If I get a good start, we’ll suddenly be in fighting position for the win. Anything can happen at Monaco and I’ll give everything tomorrow.”
Hamilton’s McLaren teammate Jenson Button failed to make the top 10 shootout, finishing Q2 in 13th place.
However, he will start 12th after 2012 Spanish Grand Prix winner Pastor Maldonado was hit with a 10-place grid penalty for a collision, plus another five-place grid drop for an unscheduled gearbox change.
Button still hopes to finish in the points around the challenging street circuit.
* Wins: 15 (1984, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2008).
* Poles: 11 (1984, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2007).
* Fastest Laps: 10 (1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007).
He said: “I’ve only finished in the points at Monaco three times before –in first, second and third positions. I hope I get another one of those tomorrow!”
On his disappointing performance on Saturday, Button added: “Monaco is all about qualifying – that’s just the way it is – but I didn’t quite have the pace this afternoon.
“The car felt good this morning and we looked strong, but then we couldn’t translate that performance when it mattered.
“It’s strange, because it’s there at certain points of the weekend – even this morning, in P3, the car felt good and I was pretty happy.
1) Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 61pts
2) Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 61
3) Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 53
4) Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 49
5) Mark Webber (Red Bull) 48
6) Jenson Button (McLaren) 45
7) Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 41
8) Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 35
9) Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 29
10) Sergio Perez (Sauber) 22
“I’m hoping that our pace will be better in the race – but it’s very tricky to overtake here.
“The drivers around me are going to be on the same strategy, so it’s going to be tough, but as always we’ll do our best.”
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh pinpointed where the team is losing vital seconds around the notoriously tricky streets of Monte Carlo.
Whitmarsh said: “Our car is reasonably good on the few high-speed corners there are here at Monaco, and it’s pretty decent in terms of traction, too.
* Race distance: 78 laps (161.887 miles/260.520km)
* Start time: 14:00 (local)/12:00 GMT
* Circuit length: 2.075 miles/3.340km
* 2011 winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing)
* 2011 pole: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing) 1m13.556s (163.467km/h)
* Lap record: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2004) 1m14.439s (161.528km/h)
“Under braking, however, we’re slightly struggling because it would appear that we aren’t managing to get quite enough energy into the tyres.
“But it was an incredibly close qualifying session, as we’ve got used to seeing so far this season.
“Lewis, for example, lost a tenth or two at Sainte Dévote on his first run in Q3, but his second run was strong and solid for the most part – and, as a result, he’ll start tomorrow’s race from P3.”
Pole-sitter Webber is the bookies’ 7/4 favourite with Hills, with Rosberg 10/3 and Hamilton 9/2.
Whitmarsh admits it will be tough to challenge for victory, but the weather could play a part.
“Obviously, here at Monte-Carlo, where it’s notoriously difficult to overtake, you’d always prefer to be starting from the front row of the grid rather than heading up the second row – but the Monaco Grand Prix is always a long and gruelling race, and there’s no doubt that Lewis will be aiming to challenge the two cars ahead of him over the 78 laps.
“Moreover, tomorrow’s weather conditions may well be changeable, we’re told, which could make the shape of the race less predictable still.
“And, on this famously daunting street circuit, anything can happen, as we’ve seen so many times before.”
The 2012 Monaco Grand Prix starts at 1pm BST on Sunday.