In the tight and narrow 3.34 km track, Fernando Alonso for Ferrari was fastest in the early practice, however the current World Champion, Sebastian Vettel qualified fastest and started the race from pole position for the fifth time in six races.
McLaren’s Jenson Button started in second position alongside Vettel, while Red Bull teammate Mark Webber took off from third place. The last frantic three minutes of qualifying was halted as Sergio Perez’ Sauber collided with the steel fencing, leaving the young driver in all sorts of trouble.
The 21-year-old Mexican F1 driver was taken to the track medical centre conscious and appeared to be in good spirits. The incident happened as Perez lost control of his car shooting out of the tunnel, the car appeared to go over bumps on the surface of the circuit, lift and then steer right into the fence before skidding into the chicane barrier. Perez, who did not take part in the Monaco race, was discharged from hospital on Monday and will be fit to drive in the Canadian Grand Prix next week.
Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel won the race to extend his lead over Hamilton in this year’s battle for the Driver’s championship with Alonso (Ferrari) finishing second in front of Jenson Button in a McLaren third and Australian Mark Webber fourth. Webber’s early entry into the pits for tyres was botched as his pit crew were under-prepared for his stop and took an unusually long time to send him back out again almost costing Webber the race. The Red Bull pit crew then also miss-cued Vettel’s tyre change by fitting the wrong compound tyre to the race leader.
The Red Bull race plan was to keep Vettel on the softest and fast-wearing rubber compound tyres for his second stint. Seizing the opportunity, pit management gambled on leaving Sebastien Vettel out on the track without coming in for a second pit-stop. Miraculously the tyres hung on for almost 50 laps when by sheer luck, Petrov crashed six laps from home red flagging and suspending the race. Under the rules, the ensuing ‘park ferme’ situation gave the team the opportunity to change Vettel’s tyres while on the grid ready to take advantage of the situation once the pace car resumed proceedings.
Meanwhile, in an earlier incident, Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren came unstuck on lap 34 as he attempted to pass Massa at the hairpin, only for the two cars to collide which sent Massa crashing along the barrier inside the tunnel. Hamilton was given a drive-through penalty for the misdemeanour adding to the additional 20 second penalty for a later incident with Maldonado which caused the Williams driver to retire his ailing car.
In a race marred by crashes, driver penalties and fines, Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado both criticised Lewis Hamilton after the race and demanded heavier sanctions against him providing for a controversial aftermath to an already intriguing Monaco Grand Prix.