Lewis Hamilton takes his first Monaco GP pole position

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer in Monaco
Lewis Hamilton earns Monaco GP pole position
Monaco Grand Prix
Venue: Circuit de Monaco-Monte Carlo Dates: 21-24 May
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Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix for the first time in his career in convincing style.

The world champion beat Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg by 0.342 seconds, with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel third ahead of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo.

The Australian's team-mate Daniil Kvyat was fifth with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Force India's Sergio Perez next.

Hamilton was thrilled to finally achieve pole, having been beaten here by Rosberg for the last two years.

Lewis Hamilton says Monaco GP pole 'a long time coming'

The Englishman was defeated by Rosberg in the last race in Spain and heads into Sunday's race (at 13:00 BST) 20 points clear of the German in the drivers' championship, with Vettel a further 11 behind.

"It has been a long, long time," Hamilton said. "I can't explain how happy I am.

"It was a difficult session. A lot of things threw me off my rhythm and I did not have one until the last two laps.

"It is difficult to express how difficult this track is. It is important to get into a rhythm and improve. It is like climbing a ladder and if you slide back down sometimes it is hard to climb back up again.

"It wasn't easy and that makes it more special."

Pole in Monaco is the most important of the year because of the difficulty of overtaking on the claustrophobic street track in the Mediterranean principality.

Hamilton has looked the in-form driver all weekend, and he carried that form into qualifying.

Rosberg twice locked up and ran wide at Sainte Devote, the first corner - once in the closing minutes of the second session and again on his final run of the top 10 shoot-out as he tried to beat Hamilton's time.

Rosberg lock up
Mercedes achieved a front-row lock-out for the third consecutive year with Nico Rosberg (pictured) second

Hamilton was 0.136secs quicker than Rosberg on their first runs in the final session and improved his time by more than 0.2secs on his final run, although he did not need to, because behind him Rosberg had aborted his final lap following his error.

Rosberg said: "I had a good rhythm starting off but then lost touch close to the end."

Vettel was 0.751secs off Hamilton's pace but could pose a threat during the grand prix, which will be characterised by drivers managing their tyres in the early laps to ensure they go the required distance to make the expected single pit stop at the correct time.

Ricciardo put in Red Bull's best qualifying performance of the season and felt he would have pipped Vettel for third but for a miscommunication with the pits that left him in the wrong engine mode at the start of his best lap. This cost him 0.2secs, he said.

Perez produced arguably the stand-out performance of the day to get the Force India into the top six, by far its best performance of the year.

"Monaco is a track where the driver can make a difference," Perez said. "To make it into Q3 was a very, very special lap and then to beat some cars we were not expecting to beat in Q3 was a mega effort from the team."

However, Sainz will have to start from the pit lane after being penalised for missing a weight check during qualifying.

Monaco GP: Watch Lewis Hamilton's pole lap

McLaren did not achieve their aim of getting one of their cars into the top 10 shoot-out for the first time this season.

Button believed that a yellow caution flag at Sainte Devote on his final run, caused when Rosberg ran wide, cost him a certain place in the top half of the grid.

"That's hugely painful; that would have been easy," Button said over the radio to his team.

The 2009 champion qualified 12th but will move up to 10th because of Sainz's penalty and a five-place grid drop for Lotus driver Romain Grosjean for changing his gearbox.

Team-mate Fernando Alonso suffered a car failure on his first lap of the second session and qualified 15th, but will start 13th, just behind Felipe Massa in the first of the struggling Williams cars.

Massa's team-mate Valtteri Bottas was a big-name casualty in the first knock-out session and qualified 17th, between the two Saubers. All move up a place following Sainz's misdemeanour.

Full qualifying results

Full practice results

It can cost £19,000 to watch the race from the surrounding hotels