Fernando Alonso's non-participation aside, there were no unexpected casualties in the opening phase of qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix.

While the Spaniard sat and watched from the back of the Ferrari garage following a morning practice crash that cracked his F10's chassis and precluded his appearance in qualifying, the three newcomer teams tried in vain to break into the 17 places that would guarantee they moved forward into part two.

Some, notably Lotus' Heikki Kovalainen flirted with the lower reaches of the qualifying group but, in the end, none quite had the speed to improve the positions in which they found themselves with five minutes to run. Kovalainen, sitting just half a second off Kamui Kobayashi's Sauber, was clearly trying hard, spinning on successive laps - without hitting anything - as he sought those precious tenths.

Lotus team-mate Jarno Trulli, Virgin duo Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi and HRT's Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok, as expected, filled the remaining places at the exit door, joining Alonso in pondering how they will deal with the traffic on race day.

The issue of traffic in qualifying, meanwhile, proved to be less of a thorn than many expected before the weekend, with little in the way of the hold-ups seen in the morning's free practice session. Although there were a few disgruntled waves from the faster drivers, all made it safely through.

With all 23 participating drivers taking to the track earlier in the session than usual, top spot on the timesheets changed hands with some regularity. Renault's Robert Kubica started the ball rolling, but the Pole was quickly usurped by Lewis Hamilton before Felipe Massa hit P1 for the first time. The Brazilian remained in the mix, scrapping with Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, McLaren's Jenson Button and Mercedes' Nico Rosberg before returning to the top with a time of 1min 14.757secs.

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