Kimi Raikkonen surprised with pole, Max Verstappen started fourth in Monaco

Raikkonen takes first pole for nine years, Hamilton starts midfield in Monaco

Kimi Raikkonen stormed to his first pole position since 2008 by beating Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas by less than half a tenth after Lewis Hamilton was eliminated in Q2.

A thrilling and competitive qualifying session saw Ferrari lock out the front row for the second race weekend in three races. Valtteri Bottas only just missed out on second by two-thousandths of a second, with Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo starting fourth and fifth respectively.

Lewis Hamilton was caught out by a late yellow flag in Q2 after struggle to find grip in his Mercedes, he will start 13th on the grid for the Monaco Grand Prix.

Track temperatures topped 50 degrees as qualifying began in Monaco. There was a rush of cars who took to the circuit, with the Ferraris, Red Bulls and Mercedes all out straight away on ultra soft tyres.

As in final practice, it was the second timed lap that was proving the quickest. Ferrari set the early pace with Vettel posting a 1’13.289, with Mercedes only managing high 1’13s, until Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen lowered the quickest times in the Red Bulls.

After crashing in final practice, Esteban Ocon took to the circuit with ten minutes in the session after Force India successfully repaired the Frenchman’s car.

Romain Grosjean spun his Haas at Mirabeau, leaving him vulnerable in the drop zone. As time expired, there was a straight fight between the two Frenchmen of Ocon and Grosjean to make it through into Q2, with Grosjean able to improve enough on his last lap to eliminate the Force India driver.

Jolyon Palmer was also eliminated in P17, almost a second off Nico Hulkenberg’s pace, with Lance Stroll failing to make it through the first session after a suspected hydraulic leak on his Williams.

The two Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson were the slowest in the session, with Ericsson clipping the inside barrier at the chicane forcing him out with a broken left-rear wheel.

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Bottas seeks to double up in Barcelona

Valtteri Bottas seeks to prove his maiden Formula One success at Sochi was no fluke by repeating the feat for champions Mercedes in this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

The unflappable Finn, who has emerged as a serious threat not only to his more celebrated team-mate Lewis Hamilton, but also Ferrari’s championship leader Sebastian Vettel, believes his determination, form and speed justify his optimism.

“Getting that win has definitely given me a lot of confidence that I can do it – because I always thought that I had the ability.

“And now it’s done all I want to do is to go and win again and again,” said Bottas.

Another Bottas win would not be a surprise at a venue that has a habit of producing more different winners than anywhere else – if he is successful, he will be the 11th different winner in as many years.

The Circuit de Catalunya, a track drivers and teams know intimately from days of pre-season testing, is capable of throwing up the most unexpected and unpredictable results.

That was demonstrated last year by Dutch teenager Max Verstappen’s win on his debut for Red Bull.

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Bottas’ recent bright form – pole position in Bahrain and victory at Sochi – has confirmed him as a worthy successor to retired 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg at Mercedes where, temporarily, he has managed to put three-time world champion Hamilton in the shade.

But that does not mean much as the teams, all with upgraded packages, begin the European season with Ferrari likely to set the pace if the weather conditions put the onus on tyre management.

– marginal –

The Italian team has a car that is less demanding on its rubber and operates well across a wider range of temperatures than the Mercedes.

For Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, it is a concern, but not yet a serious worry.

“I don’t think there is a particular pattern yet,” he said. “It is all very marginal with tyre compounds, interaction with the track, the surface of the track and the track temperature itself.

“But, one thing is for sure — we have a very fast race car and a fast qualifying car. We just need to tune it and this is an exciting exercise.”

Tyre suppliers Pirelli will take their harder tyres, not greatly loved by Mercedes on the evidence so far this year, to Barcelona this weekend.

“I think it will be close – in fact more than very close,” added Wolff.

“Ferrari came out of the winter with a good car and it seems to suit Sebastian a lot. So, we just need to stretch ourselves to perform as good as we can and, if we do like we did in Russia with Valtteri, we are able to compete.”

He said the team had no immediate explanation for Hamilton’s uninspired form in Sochi where he struggled with the car.

“Lewis had a difficult weekend in both qualifying and the race,” said Wolff.

“We’ve since been unpicking what happened to understand why we couldn’t get the car in the right window so he could feel comfortable with it.”

Hamilton said he was mystified by his lack of pace as he finished fourth to fall 13 points adrift of Vettel after four rounds of the championship.

“We must give him the tools he needs to do the job in the next races and that will be a big focus for us,” added Wolff.

“Barcelona will be interesting as our pre-season was not spectacular in Spain. It’s a very different track to Sochi and we’ll be running with harder tyres. So, we are taking this season one race at a time…”

Ferrari and Mercedes may be the front-runners again, but Red Bull expect to be close in pursuit with a heavily-updated car while local hero Fernando Alonso has more modest hopes.

After failing to start in Russia, he is just hoping his revised McLaren will be on the grid to take part in his home race this Sunday.

Source – TheJakartaPost