Series rookie Daniel Ricciardo claimed perhaps the most important pole position of the World Series by Renault season by pipping points leader Mikhail Aleshin to top spot on the streets of Monaco.
While Aleshin got his job done by putting the lead Carlin car on the front row with the fastest qualifying time in his group, Tech 1 rival Ricciardo pulled out the fastest overall qualifying time, making him the polesitter for the third time this season. The Australian will line up at the head of the field on Sunday, with Albert Costa (Epsilon Euskadi) and Monaco's very own Stefano Coletti (Comtec Racing) on row two.
“I'm a little disappointed, because the track was quicker for the second group, so it was difficult to get the pole position," Aleshin admitted, "However, the main thing is to be on the front row. Tomorrow, I'll do my best to get the win here. I'm not in a position where you can figure the points out or anything like that so, for me, the win is important. It's not yet time to think about the championship.”
With just one qualifying session in Monaco, the drivers were divided into two groups according to provisional championship standings, thus Aleshin went into Group A and Ricciardo Group B.
It took a few laps before significant lap times start to flash up on the timing screens, but Aleshin set the early pace ahead of Coletti. The mano a mano
between the Russian and the local boy was the highlight of the first group, with the two drivers taking turns in provisional pole position. Sten Pentus (Fortec Motorsport) and Brendon Hartley (Tech 1 Racing) got on the pace around the mid-session mark, but it was still the initial pair who held sway.
Coletti then took the lead with a time of 1min 27.999secs, ahead of Aleshin and Hartley, while Greg Mansell (Comtec Racing) appeared in fourth, but the Russian, on his second set of tyres, took over once more, lapping in 1min 27.934secs just as the session was briefly interrupted when Julian Leal (International Draco Racing) left the track at Rascasse.
The session restarted for six vital minutes, and Aleshin took advantage to up the pace again, knocking over half a second off his own time with a lap of 1min 27.332secs, as Coletti secured second. With the chequered flag drawing closer, Aleshin took another three-hundredths of a second off his own best, lowering the target for Group B to 1min 27.011secs and finishing top of his group, ahead of Coletti, Pentus, Hartley and Daniil Move (Lotus Junior Racing).
As with Group A, it took a few minutes before seeing the first quick laps in Group B, and it was Alexander Rossi - replacing Esteban Guerrieri at ISR after his GP3 win in Barcelona - who made an early impression, leading from Nelson Panciatici (Junior Lotus Racing) and Daniel Zampieri (Pons Racing).
Panciatici was the first of the Group B drivers to go below the 1min 28secs mark, with a lap of 1min 27.790secs, sending him to the top of the timing charts at mid-session, ahead of Costa and Ricciardo, but it was Rossi who initiated a wave of significant improvements, taking the lead in 1min 27.510secs, then banging in a time of 1min 26.664secs to make him the provisional polesitter at the moment that Bruno Mendez hit the barrier at Portier.