Lewis Hamilton has eased to pole position for the 2015 Monaco Grand Prix over teammate Nico Rosberg.
Little separated the Mercedes duo throughout the qualifying session, but Rosberg, with a tenth of a second to make up on the second run of his flying lap, aborted when he locked up and lost 0.5 seconds in the second sector.
It was the second lock-up of the lap and it handed his teammate the best seat in the house to take his fourth victory of the season with a time of 1 minute 15.098 seconds.
Rosberg meanwhile, was left to lick his wounds after hoping to keep the momentum built with his effortless pole and win in Spain two weeks ago.
It looked to be another case of insufficient tyre warm-up for Rosberg, with a slow last sector on his penultimate lap likely contributing to his double lock-up and three-tenths deficit.
Sebastian Vettel will start from the second row of the grid after qualifying four-tenths behind Rosberg, but the chilly Monegasque conditions coupled with a Ferrari that is easy on its tyres makes a Scuderia challenge on Sunday a difficult proposition.
Lining up alongside Vettel on the grid will be former teammate Daniel Ricciardo in his much-flattered Red Bull Racing RB11.
Ricciardo was optimistic heading into the weekend that the slowly and twisty Monaco circuit would suit the Red Bull’s relative chassis strengths.
The Australian’s P5, two tenths slower than Vettel and one tenth faster than teammate, appear to confirm his suspicions.
Kimi Raikkonen could only manage sixth fastest of the session. The Finn looked off the pace for most of the afternoon after crashing his Ferrari during free practice three earlier in the day.
Sergio Perez escaped with seventh despite running only once in Q3. The Mexican exhausted his allocation of supersoft tyres after his first run, which was compromised by having to lap bunch amongst the rest of the top ten when rain temporarily threatened to disrupt the session.
Force India, therefore, kept itself ahead of Carlos Sainz^, Pastor Maldonado, and Max Verstappen, with the three midfield runners separated by less than three hundredths of a second.
Q2 — P11 to P15
Fernando Alonso tapped out of qualifying early with a lightly smoking McLaren at the exit of turn one.
The Spaniard pulled to a gentle stop off the racing line and stepped out of the cockpit after his engine failed and triggered anti-stall system, confining him to P15.
Jenson Button, on the other hand, looked feisty and ready to put the 2015 McLaren into the top 10 for the first time this season.
His work was undone, however, by a yellow flag in the first sector, shown when Rosberg harmlessly ditched his Mercedes into the run-off area at turn one.
Twelfth place would have to do for the Briton, which slotted him behind Romain Grosjean’s* Lotus.
Nico Hulkenberg couldn’t make it through to Q1 and qualified in P13, ahead of Felipe Massa in the lead Williams, totally unsuited to the Monaco streets, in P14.
Q1 — P16 to P20
Mercedes’ dominance was confirmed early when Hamilton put a one-second buffer between himself and the rest of the field on his first lap with the slower tyre.
He and Rosberg traded quickest times in race of two, stretching the gap to as large as 1.5 seconds to the next Vettel’s Ferrari in third.
Along with the Ferrari drivers, Rosberg and Hamilton were two of only four drivers who opted not to run the supersoft tyre in Q3.
With the supersoft tyre offering a significant grip advantage and the race likely to be a one or two-stop affair, the rest of the field used a set of soft and supersoft Pirellis.
Monaco’s stern test of car dynamics and downforce sifted Williams, Sauber, and Manor into the knockout zone — the latter in particular languishing two seconds slower than any other team.
Williams presented the most significant surprise, however. One year on from a similarly lacklustre qualifying performance, the light-on-aero white-clad cars looked ill at ease on the twisty street.
Felipe Massa’s last lap was enough to slip through in P12, but a mistake on Bottas’ last lap saw him eliminated in P17 and behind the Sauber of Felipe Nasr.
Marcus Ericsson qualified in eighteenth, ahead of the Manor cars of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi respectively, which will sit on the back row.
2015 MONACO GRAND PRIX: PROVISIONAL STARTING GRID
*Romain Grosjean has taken a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.
^Carlos Sainz will start for pit lane after failing to stop at the FIA weighbridge during Q1.