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( — Monaco is always about qualifying, and on Saturday afternoon fans enjoyed a real humdinger of a session all the way through as Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton beat the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber to sew up the front of the grid. But it was close.

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In the end Rosberg just shaded his team mate for the second race in succession, to take Mercedes’ fourth consecutive pole position, with 1m 13.876s to 1m 13.967s. Vettel’s effort to make the front row just failed, with 1m 13.980s, as Webber’s best was 1m 14.181s.

Behind them, Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen just pipped Fernando Alonso by two-thousandths of a second, with 1m 14.822s for the Lotus and 1m 14.824s for the Ferrari. Sergio Perez was McLaren’s leader in seventh, with 1m 15.138s, as Force India’s sole survivor Adrian Sutil took eighth on 1m 15.383s. Jenson Button was ninth in the other McLaren on 1m 15.647s, and Jean-Eric Vergne completed the top 10 after a great run for Toro Rosso on 1m 15.703s.

Drizzle over lunchtime set the scene for two of the best Q1 and Q2 sessions ever as the times rattled on to the screen with the rapidity of machine-gun fire. First one then another driver would go quickest as the conditions improved throughout.

Q2 had started with intermediate tyres, before a wholesale switch to supersofts with five minutes left. Webber set the pace, then Button, Perez, Rosberg, Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, Lotus’s Romain Grosjean, Raikkonen, Perez, Button, Rosberg, Webber, Grosjean and Webber again took turns, but right at the end Vettel banged in 1m 15.988s to beat Raikkonen’s 1m 16.040s as the Finn slipped ahead of the Mercedes duo.


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