Michael Schumacher sent out a clear message today by claiming the fastest time in qualifying for the 2012 F1 Monaco Grand Prix. However while the German was rightly delighted with his efforts, he won't start from pole after picking up a five-place grid penalty last time out in Spain, following the coming together with Bruno Senna.
The record breaking multiple F1 world champion left it until right at the end to post the best time of Q3, a 1 minute 14.301 second effort, that eclipsed Mark Webber's provisional pole time by 0.08secs, in a session that was split into three distinct phases, with fast times coming thick and fast at the start, and then again at the end after a lull when it appeared that no-one could improve.
Schumacher's Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg set the ball rolling, swapping times with a rejuvenated Romain Grosjean before annexing top spot on a 1m 14.572s. There then followed a fallow period where the likes of Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso all came up short. Just as it appeared that Rosberg would be claiming his second career pole in an anti-climactic end to the session, Webber popped up to knock the German off top spot. Lewis Hamilton also appeared to be on course for pole, only to lose time and come in third, which became fourth on the timesheets when Schumacher posted his late time.
With Schumacher set to drop to sixth though after that penalty, Webber will start from P1, with Rosberg in second, followed by Hamilton, Grosjean and Alonso.
Behind, Massa made it into Q3 for the first time this season and will start seventh, ahead of Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel. Vettel opted not to set a time in Q3 having used up all of his tyres to get through to the top ten shoot-out. Spanish Grand Prix winner, Pastor Maldonado had qualified in front of the 2010 and 2011 F1 world champion, but after colliding with Sergio Perez in FP3 and picking up a ten-place penalty, he plummets to 19th.
Jenson Button meanwhile was the high profile casualty of the second phase of qualifying. The Briton was unable to pull out an improvement on his final flying lap, leaving himself only 13th fastest and facing a second tough grand prix after similarly missing the cut in Spain two weeks ago. He will gain a place as a result of Maldonado's penalty, along with Nico Hulkenberg and Kamui Kobayashi, who both finished ahead. Bruno Senna, Paul di Resta and the Toro Rosso's of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne also went out in Q2, finishing in positions 14 through to 17, read 13 through to 16 after Maldonado takes his penalty.
The Caterham's of Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov will start 17th and 18th, and while the former came close to making it through Q1, ultimately he didn't quite manage it.
Timo Glock led the way for Marussia in 21st, with HRT's Pedro de la Rosa managing to get in front of the sister car of Charles Pic to secure 22nd. Narain Karthikeyan was slowest, although well within the 107 per cent. At least he set a time though, something Sergio Perez failed to do after he crashed for the second year in succession. Perez's first Q1 exit since graduating to the top flight came as he headed into the Swimming Pool section, after appearing to get his line fractionally wrong. His Sauber then hit the outside barrier with his left front corner, before then losing the rear on the same side as that too slapped the wall. Conspiracy theorists were quick to suggest that there may have been some hangover from the FP3 contact with Maldonado, but the result is the same - Perez will start from the back after asking for dispensation from the stewards.
To see the full times from qualifying for the F1 2012 Monaco Grand Prix - CLICK HERE