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Schumacher takes his 69th career pole and his first with Pirelli

Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher has gone quickest in qualifying in Monaco for the first time since 2000, having also taken his first pole position in Monaco in 1994.  Schumacher used Pirelli’s P Zero Red supersoft tyres to set a time of 1m14.301s. With its rapid warm-up time and unique compound, the supersoft is the fastest tyre in Pirelli’s Formula One range, ideally suited to Monaco.

However, a previous grid penalty for Schumacher means that he will start the race from sixth place, while Red Bull’s Mark Webber will set off from pole position. The pole-sitter has gone on to win seven times in the last eight races at Monaco, giving Webber an excellent opportunity to become the sixth winner of the 2012 season tomorrow.

All the teams apart from Caterham, Marussia and HRT started the first qualifying session on the P Zero Yellow soft compound, which was interrupted just under the halfway point by an accident for Sauber’s Sergio Perez that ruled him out of the rest of qualifying. Force India’s Paul di Resta was then the first driver to switch to the P Zero Red supersoft, which is approximately 0.7 seconds faster than the soft tyre. His team mate Nico Hulkenberg set the fastest time in qualifying one.

All the drivers set their fastest times in the second qualifying session on the P Zero Red supersoft tyre, with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa going quickest. The final top 10 all used the supersoft, apart from Sebastian Vettel who went out on the soft tyre but did not set a time. He will be able to start on either compound from 10th place on the grid tomorrow. Mercedes was the last team to come out, with Schumacher setting his pole time in the closing seconds.

With the second free practice session on Thursday affected by rain, the teams only got the chance to have some proper running on the supersoft tyre for the first time during the final free practice session this morning. Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg went fastest with a time of 1m15.159s.

Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “We saw a typical Monaco qualifying today, which was all about avoiding the inevitable incidents, finding a clear lap and getting the most out of the supersoft tyres. Congratulations to Michael Schumacher and Mercedes on a fantastic pole position: his first with Pirelli. With the teams having only had the chance to complete some qualifying simulations on the supersoft tyre in free practice this morning, they had very little data to go on before qualifying, but they adapted themselves very quickly to the conditions: especially Mercedes, which has been consistently quick from the start of the weekend. Tyre wear levels are low, as we expected, so we would envisage most drivers using a two-stop strategy tomorrow with some maybe trying for a one stop. However, the teams that feel confident of having a quick car could opt for a multi-stop sprint strategy. In either case, all the drivers will be able to push at their hardest from beginning to end so it should be a thrilling race.”

Tyres used by the top ten qualifiers:

Schumacher: Supersoft
Webber: Supersoft
Rosberg: Supersoft
Hamilton Supersoft
Grosjean Supersoft
Alonso  Supersoft
Massa  Supersoft
Raikkonen Supersoft
Maldonado Supersoft
Vettel  no time set

MONACO F1 GRAND PRIX 2012