Defending world champion and current series leader Lewis Hamilton secured his maiden pole position at the Monaco Grand Prix when he topped Saturday’s qualifying times ahead of Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.
It was the 30-year-old Briton’s first success on the streets of his favourite circuit and came at the ninth attempt as he outpaced Rosberg in a tight contest to claim the 43rd pole of his career.
“It has been a long, long time,” said Hamilton.
“I can’t express to you how happy I am. It was not the easiest session. There were a lot of things that throw you off your rhythm and I did not have that rhythm until the last couple of laps.”
Hamilton clocked a final best lap in one minute and 15.090 seconds to wind up three-tenths of a second clear of Rosberg and his fellow German Sebastian Vettel, who was third for Ferrari ahead of the two Red Bulls of Australian Daniel Ricciardo and Russian Daniil Kvyat.
Rosberg said: “I knew Lewis was quick and it didn’t work out for me.”
Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who had crashed during morning practice, was sixth in the second Ferrari ahead of Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India, Spaniard Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso, Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado of Lotus and Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, who was 10th in the second Toro Rosso.
Hamilton struggled to find his best form through the first two parts of qualifying before hitting his rhythm in the final top-ten shootout.
Rosberg was quickest in the first two mini-sessions, but made minor errors under pressure when he twice locked up at the Ste Devote corner.
Hamilton’s success ended Rosberg’s hopes of claiming a hat-trick of three successive poles in the Mediterranean principality and gives him a good opportunity to stop the German recording a third straight win in Sunday’s classic 78 laps race.
It was a disappointing qualifying for Williams, with Valtteri Bottas failing to get through the first session and Felipe Massa missing the cut in Q2.
McLaren were also unable to get into the final session. Fernando Alonso pulled up in Q2 with a technical problem, while teammate Jenson Button was out of the final 10 in 12th place.
Romain Grosjean (Lotus) and Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) also went out in Q2, while Sauber duo Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson, and the Manor drivers Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi, exited after Q1.