Mercedes' Nico Rosberg (in front) and Michael Schumacher
Pole position man Michael Schumacher will start the 2012 Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix sixth after a grid penalty from the Spanish Grand Prix Reuters

In any field and in any space, anomalies make for great entertainment; the sight, sound, taste or touch of that odd texture, spice or colour tends to highlight not only the mundane, lending it some of its own exotic aura but for the brief moment it enters our consciousness and perceptions it strikes a gloriously extravagant note.

The Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix is just such an anomaly - a high-speed, cutting-edge of technology motor race held in the narrow, twisting confines of one of the most glamorous and stylish places on the planet... on roads we are more used to seeing stately Bentleys and Rolls Royces glide to a stop and elegantly dressed women make slow and sensual appearances. Instead, for one weekend every year, Monte Carlo is transformed into a Formula 1 circuit and 24 of the fastest and technologically advanced automobiles in the world engage in a mad dash around the 3.340km road-circuit for the most coveted race win of them all.

The Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco 2012 is no exception and the three Free Practice (FP) sessions and Saturday's qualifying have thrown up drama, excitement, brilliance and glamour in equal doses.

In keeping with an erratic season that has seen five different constructors and five different drivers win the opening five races of the season, the three practice sessions have seen three drivers from three teams head the timesheets. The weather too has played its part, raining when it was not expected on Thursday afternoon.

The race on Sunday promises to be as exciting as any in its 83 year history, maybe even as much as the 1982 race which saw an incredible dramatic final few laps, in which a sudden shower with two laps to go led to race leader Alain Prost spinning out, second place Riccardo Patrese stalling his engine on the final lap and the next two drivers both running out of fuel before Patrese, somehow, managed to re-start the car while rolling downhill to take the race win!

Re-Cap of Free Practice 1

Heading into this weekend's race, Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Mercedes' Michael Schumacher (a former five time World Champion with Ferrari) were under a great deal of pressure from their respective teams after being thoroughly outpaced by their team mates (Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg, respectively) all through the season so far.

Massa responded with a strong showing in the first practice session, finishing sixth. Unfortunately for him Alonso was the fastest, more than half a second ahead. Schumacher meanwhile, closed the gap to Rosberg, finishing 11th to the Chinese Grand Prix winner's 10th.

Aside from those two, the session featured surprise results for the Lotus and Sauber teams, with the unfancied duo of Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez beating McLaren's Lewis Hamilton (who is rumoured to be considering a £100mn five year contract from his team) to second and third respectively while Spanish Grand Prix winner Pastor Maldonado lapped his Williams within 0.013s of the British driver. Defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, was a disappointing ninth, nearly a second off the pace and his team mate Mark Webber an even worse 13th.

For the full timesheet for Free Practice 1, click here.

Re-Cap of Free Practice 2

The second practice session, held shortly after the first, was interrupted by an unexpected shower of rain. The downpour meant the practice session became more about collecting performance data of the cars in the rain rather than posting meaningful times and that McLaren's Jenson Button, who posted a quick time early in the session as the only driver on the faster supersoft Pirelli tyres, finished the session, unchallenged, on top. The Brit lapped the circuit in 1:15.746, the fastest of the weekend up till that point.

Behind Button, who, along with Hamilton, has expressed disappointment at the car's lack of pace and errors by the team's pit crews, Lotus' Grosjean continued his strong showing, with a second consecutive second place finish, albeit nearly four-tenths behind Button. Massa, meanwhile, continued his mid-season recovery, beating team mate Alonso (a rare occurrence, unfortunately for the Brazilian, this season) and finishing third with 1:16.602. The rain meant the times dropped away dramatically after the top two, with Massa almost a second behind Button.

In addition, the message of support from Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo seems to have done the team some good, with Alonso claiming fourth behind Massa, suggesting that should it rain on Sunday, the Italians could well have a race winning car - remember the Malaysian Grand Prix?

The Ferraris were followed by the Williams of Maldonado, the Mercedes of Rosberg and the Red Bull of Webber, with the weather allowing the Sauber of Kobayashi a surprise outing in the top ten. Schumacher finished ninth, ahead of Vettel.

For the full timesheet for Free Practice 1, click here.

Re-Cap of Free Practice 3

The final practice session on Saturday, ahead of the qualifying session, also served up some drama, when Maldonado crashed his Williams after clipping the inside wall in Casino Square and forced the session to be red flagged and ended, with three minutes left to go.

At the top of the table though, there was, again, a new face - Mercedes' Nico Rosberg. The young German was a surprise presence, given the best he'd managed until then was sixth in the rain-hit second session. Incidentally, the weather played spoilsport on Saturday as well, staying away when it was expected. Rosberg lapped in 1:15.159, raising the ante from Button's time in the second session by six-tenths of a second.

The story of the weekend so far was certainly Ferrari's Felipe Massa, who was suddenly oozing with confidence and making World Champion Alonso look rather ordinary. The in-form Brazilian lapped second and was only a fraction of a second slower than Rosberg. Red Bull's Vettel, who had a rather poor time of it in the first two sessions, registered a late improvement, finishing third to Alonso's fourth. The times, though, were breathtakingly close, with the top four drivers covered by a mere 0.051s!

Behind them, Grosjean was fifth, ahead of the McLaren duo of Button and Hamilton and Rosberg's team mate Schumacher, who was not doing himself any favours with slow lap times. Sauber's Sergio Perez and Webber rounded out the top ten.

For the full timesheet for Free Practice 1, click here.


Come qualifying, though, and it was whole different ball game. Seven time World Champion (and multiple records holder) Schumacher uncorked some of the magic that once made him the most feared and successful driver in the history of the sport, with an absolutely last-second lap that gave him his 69th career pole position, a close 0.081s ahead of a came-from-nowhere Mark Webber.

Unfortunately for Schumi, a five place grid penalty he carried over from the last race in Spain means he will have to start the race from sixth on the grid... but it didn't really matter. The victory was his and he'd answered his critics. Webber himself admitted as much, saying he thought the session was "Michael's day".

Meanwhile, the fact that Schumacher's team mate Rosberg finished third is indicative the Silver Arrow is in good trim and given the extreme difficulty in overtaking around the streets of Monte Carlo, this bodes well for both Webber and Rosberg; not so much for Schumacher, who later insisted he would fight for the race win.

The Red Bulls and the McLarens have been, in recent seasons, the fastest cars on the track and Webber's second place finish and Hamilton's fourth suggests there is still a good challenge to come from both teams. However, the poor performances from their team mates - Vettel finished 10th and Button 13th - suggest all is not well within the team. There could be a shift in priority, during the race, for both teams, depending on where each driver finds himself as the race runs.

Ferrari failed to excite the imagination, yet again, after strong showings in the practice sessions. Alonso restored team order by beating Massa to sixth place but both drivers will want better results on Sunday. Lotus too failed to recreate their practice times, with Grosjean fifth and Raikkonen ninth.

For the full timesheet for Qualifying, click here.

For the full revised grid (after penalties for Schumacher and Maldonado), click here.

Live Coverage

The race, for those in the UK, will be available via live stream on SkyGo. You can also follow the race live and get real-time information and feeds at the Formula One Web site. You can also follow the race, via text updates, at BBC Sport.


Expect temperatures to remain in the low 20 degree Celsius range, according to Weather2, although the humidity should be rather high - approximately 74 percent to 78 percent between 10 am in the morning (local time) to 1 pm in the afternoon (local time). The air pressure, however, is expected to be fairly constant, at about 1016mb. Cloud cover will remain at 27 percent to 28 percent through most of the day and we are likely to see a sunny morning, followed by some rain towards the afternoon.

The circuit, laid out as it is inside the town, is mostly flanked by buildings and man-made structures, so wind speed is usually not a problem. However, it could become a factor as the cars go through the harbour section on the back part of the lap, where they will be exposed to the breeze coming in off the sea. Wind speeds are expected to touch approximately 10km/h.

The race is expected to start 2 pm (local time) and 12 noon BST.