Hamilton takes pole position for Monaco GP

Monaco (SportsNetwork.com) - Days after he signed his three-year contract extension with Mercedes that's reportedly worth $150 million, Lewis Hamilton claimed the pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix after beating his teammate and championship rival, Nico Rosberg, in Saturday's qualifying.

Hamilton, the two-time and defending Formula One world champion, posted a lap time of 1 minute, 15.098 seconds on the famed Monte Carlo street circuit to earn his first pole for the Monaco GP. His lap was 0.342 seconds faster than Rosberg. Hamilton won this race for the first time after starting third in 2008, the year he captured his first F1 title with McLaren.

It's fifth time in six grand prix this season that Hamilton will start on pole. He also scored his 43rd career pole in F1.

"It's been a long time," Hamilton said after winning his first Monaco GP pole in his ninth attempt. "I can't express how happy I am. It wasn't an easy (qualifying) session. I had a lot of things that kind of threw me off the rhythm. I didn't have the rhythm until the last two laps, so I was really happy with that."

During his final lap in the last round of qualifying (Q3), Rosberg locked up his right-front tire in the tight Ste-Devote turn and had to abort his lap. He also locked up in the same area late in Q2. Rosberg had the quickest lap in the first round of qualifying.

"I had a good rhythm starting off in qualifying, which I didn't have all weekend," Rosberg said. "I lost touch a little bit towards the end while trying to go for it. I knew Lewis was going to be quick, so I needed to go for it, but it didn't work out."

Rosberg has won the last two Monaco GPs from the pole. He also started on the pole and won the most recent grand prix in Spain two weeks ago, which moved him to within 20 points of Hamilton for the lead in the F1 world championship standings.

The pole sitter for the Monaco GP has won the race 10 times in the past 11 years, including the previous six. Monte Carlo is one of the most difficult circuits on the F1 calendar. Overtaking here is virtually impossible.

"It's difficult to express how hard this track is," Hamilton said.

In last year's qualifying for the Monaco GP, Hamilton was furious with Rosberg after Rosberg ran wide and had to pull over on to an escape road during his final lap. He held the provisional pole at the time. Hamilton was making his last run but had to slow his pace, as the yellow flags were displayed for his teammate's incident. It prevented Hamilton from a possibility of winning the pole.

Sebastian Vettel from Ferrari qualified third for Sunday's race, 0.751 seconds behind Hamilton. A Ferrari driver has not won the Monaco GP since Michael Schumacher in 2001.

"I'm generally happy with the result," Vettel said. "It was a good session for us. P3 is a good place to start from tomorrow. Hopefully, we can split the Mercedes and therefore have an exciting race."

Red Bull teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Daniel Kvyat placed fourth and fifth, respectively, while Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen took the sixth spot after he was involved in an accident during final practice, held prior to qualifying.

Sergio Perez from Force India qualified seventh. Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz had qualified eighth, but Sainz will have to start the race from pit lane -- in last place -- after he was penalized for failing to stop for a mandatory weighing during Q1.

The Monaco race stewards said that Sainz "failed to stop for weighing during Q1 when signaled to do so by the red traffic light, the car was not returned to the FIA garage and work was undertaken."

Pastor Maldonado from Lotus moved up to eighth on the starting grid, followed by 17-year-old Max Verstappen, who is a teammate of Sainz, and McLaren's Jenson Button.

Lotus driver Romain Grosjean had qualified 11th, but Grosjean was penalized five grid places for an unscheduled gearbox change.

The Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas struggled in qualifying. Bottas did not make it out of Q1. He will start 16th. Massa placed 14th but will move up two spots on the grid due to Sainz and Grosjean's penalties.