Felipe Massa (Ferrari) has claimed pole position for tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix ahead of Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) with Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) finishing third.
The qualifying session, though, was overshadowed by an accident involving David Coulthard in Q2.
Coulthard will at least start 10th after walking away unharmed from what initially appeared to be another frightening smash.
Coulthard’s right-rear tyre appeared to blow coming out of the tunnel at 175mph, the fastest part of the track, forcing him into a massive shunt into the barrier.
The right-rear wheel eventually worked loose and rolled down the track, whilst Coulthard’s car hurtled down the run off area just past the Nouvelle Chicane.
Mercifully for the Scot, the front-right tyre stayed tethered to the car after it appeared to bounce off his helmet at one point.
Five years ago Jenson Button suffered a similar accident at the same point, and was forced out of the grand prix after suffering concussion.
Coulthard, though, was remarkably quick out of his car and back in the garage within 10 minutes discussing the incident with his mechanics.
His team now face a mammoth task to repair the damage ahead of the race as Monaco is the one venue that does not have spare cars due to the limited space in the garage.
Thankfully, the rain showers that had hit the Principality before today’s final practice session, and again lightly midway through it, held off during qualifying.
It ensured a dry running, and so affording the drivers the ideal opportunity to post flying laps.
And it was Massa who was out in front for the third time this year and 12th of his career to strengthen Ferrari’s grip on this season, and at a track where McLaren were expected to be strong.
Behind Hamilton came his team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, with Robert Kubica fifth in his BMW Sauber, followed by Nico Rosberg in his Williams, Fernando Alonso for Renault and the Toyota of Jarno Trulli.
Behind Coulthard came Toyota’s Timo Glock and Button in his Honda in 11th and 12th, amazingly followed by Nick Heidfeld for BMW Sauber in a lowly 13th.
Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima and Honda’s Rubens Barrichello were 14th and 15th, with the latter due to be investigated by race stewards following an incident in Q1 with Giancarlo Fisichella.
Sebastien Bourdais starts 16th in his Toro Rosso, with Renault’s Nelson Piquet 17th after another poor performance for a man whose job is apparently on the line.
The Brazilian ran off the track at Sainte Devote at one stage, and then almost rammed into a barrier on entry to the tunnel later on, before again missing out on Q2.
Behind Piquet come the Force India pairing of Adrian Sutil and Fisichella, the German out-qualifying his team-mate for the first time this season.
Due to a five-place grid penalty stemming from a gearbox change, Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel will start at the back of the field after initially qualifying 18th.
With Toro Rosso running a new car, and with the gearbox in the old car only two races old – they have to last four under regulations imposed for this season - Vettel will bring up the rear.
Scoring Ferrari's first pole since 2000 at this track, a stunned Massa said: ``I can't believe I'm on pole!
“I’ve been learning how to drive here because every time I come here I’ve struggled. But then I managed to put everything together, and I’ve a great car….it’s unbelievable I’m on pole. But I did a perfect lap, which is almost impossible to do here.”
Reigning world champion Raikkonen, who leads this year’s championship by seven points, missed out on pole by 0.028secs with Massa clocking a lap of one minute 15.787secs.
Anticipating a wet race tomorrow, Raikkonen said: “It will probably be very difficult conditions, so it’s going to be good fun.”
Hamilton felt he and his team did “a solid job,” but added: “We anticipated being quicker and we’re surprised by Ferrari’s pace.
“I had no problems, the car felt good, and I strung together two solid laps, but the time wasn’t there. But we’ve a good strategy, so we will have to hope for the best.”