Lewis Hamilton puts 'worst' behind him in Monte Carlo

Briton hits a practice low but still completes Mercedes front row for Monaco GP

Monte Carlo

There is much more than personal honour at stake for Lewis Hamilton as he starts this afternoon's Monaco Grand Prix second on the grid behind Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, to whom he lost out again in a tense and hugely dramatic final practice.

Hamilton was expected to wipe the floor with the son of the 1982 world champion, but lately the young German has had the upper hand. In Spain a fortnight ago, when Hamilton could only finish 12th as Rosberg managed sixth, the Briton admitted that he had been struggling with his car. It was the same story here.

"I definitely didn't think I'd be on the front row after struggling all weekend," he said. "The three practice sessions were a disaster! The set-up of the car was good, but I just couldn't get the best from it and get the heat into the tyres. That meant I couldn't brake late, I had understeer as a result, and after struggling through the first corner I was forever playing catch-up over the rest of the lap.

"I think it's just because I'm still learning a new car. I've always had pace here but this is the worst time I've ever had in Monaco, so to be second on the grid is good. So long as I'm able to extract the maximum from the car, hopefully you'll see the true pace in the next few races."

Rosberg, meanwhile, sat savouring a hard-won third successive pole. "It definitely could have been easier," he smiled, referring to the first and second sessions, which had been run respectively on a wet and then a wet-but-drying track, before the third and crucial run was dry throughout.

"The conditions were all over the place, especially in Q2, but I'm very happy. If there's any place you want pole more than usual, it's here."

His father, Keke, won here for Williams exactly 30 years ago, but Nico just smiled at the "nice statistic" and added: "I finished 70 seconds behind the winner in Spain, where I also started first, so there are some question marks remaining. I'll make the best of it, but who knows what will happen."

The first corner here is one of the narrowest in Formula One, which will ratchet up the tension at the start, with the two Red Bulls lining up behind the two Mercedes on the grid. It is tailor-made for drivers to break team rule No 1: don't collide with your team-mate; and racing rule No 1: get round the first corner.

Another son of an grand prix father, Johnny Cecotto Jnr, failed to observe the latter in Friday's GP2 race, triggering a multi-car pile-up. That led to him being belatedly banned – from yesterday's second GP2 race – after poor stewarding in Malaysia and Spain had let him off far more worrying breaches of driving etiquette.

F1 drivers are more mature than the hot-headed young Venezuelan but, even so, Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Lotus's Romain Grosjean, the villain of Monaco and Spa first-corner shunts in 2012, were reminded in yesterday morning's final free practice session that getting even a few millimetres off-line can make the difference between getting away with risk and succumbing to it. Monaco takes few prisoners.

Grosjean redeemed himself at one stage in the second qualifying session by vaulting from last to first after his car was finally repaired, but Massa's car could not be readied in time to participate at all in qualifying, condemning him to a start from 22nd and last on the grid, with the prospect of a horrible and frustrating slog this afternoon.

Hamilton could sympathise with that after his torture in Spain, but tyre degradation is unlikely to be such a major factor here, where one-stop strategies are possible and tyre wear is much less critical.

Said Hamilton yesterday: "Nico and I will talk about the start tonight and how important it is to position ourselves in the smart way. We'll see who gets into the first corner first and who is quicker in the race, then see how it goes."

Victory here would confirm the wisdom of Hamilton's decision to leave McLaren for Mercedes, though the further modified McLarens of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez both made it through to Q3 to line up seventh and ninth, making them firm contenders for points.

A win for Hamilton would boost ticket sales for the upcoming British Grand Prix. And it would silence the critics who have again been blaming his lifestyle for his failure to best Rosberg.

"I'm not sure what my on-track fortunes have to do with having a dog," he responded, referring to his bulldog, Roscoe, who accompanies him to European races. "And I can't say I'm doing anything different in the car. But if people don't like my lifestyle, that's their problem."

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
Life and Style
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice