MONTE CARLO, Monaco, May 28, 2011 (AFP) - Defending drivers world champion Sebastian Vettel on Saturday secured pole position for Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix after Mexican driver Sergio Perez survived a horrifying high-speed crash that halted the session for more than half an hour.
The 23-year-year-old German, in his Red Bull car, clocked a fastest lap of one minute and 13.556 seconds shortly before Perez's shocking collision with the barriers left his rivals with barely three minutes to respond.
After a prolonged delay, during which Perez was lifted out of the wreckage of his Sauber car by medical crews and the barriers at the chicane following the exit from the tunnel were repaired, the final drama turned into an anti-climax.
Sauber later said the 21-year-old would not race Sunday after doctors found he had suffered concussion and a strained thigh injury.
Team chief Peter Sauber said: "Of course, we are very relieved that Sergio wasn't seriously injured. Up to the accident, he was doing very well in qualifying, and also better than expected, as he had outperformed all his direct competitors."
Current championship leader Vettel landed his first pole in Monaco but his sixth in the last seven races, including last season's finale at Abu Dhabi.
On Sunday he will seek his first Monaco triumph and his eighth victory in 10 races.
Briton Jenson Button of McLaren was second-fastest behind the German ahead of third-placed Australian Mark Webber in the second Red Bull and two-times champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari.
Six-times Monaco winner and seven times drivers champion German Michael Schumacher, 42, of Mercedes, qualified fifth ahead of Brazilian Felipe Massa of Ferrari and Briton Lewis Hamilton in the second McLaren.
Hamilton had been on a flying lap at the time of Perez's accident and the delay deprived him of a chance to challenge for pole. In the final minutes, when the top nine all went out again, it proved impossible to improve times.
Although Hamilton improved marginally in the final dramatic three minutes following a 38 minutes' break, his time was disaqualified after stewards ruled he had jumped the chicane.
As a result the Briton fell to ninth on the grid.Hamilton had earlier said that a wrong strategy choice was responsible for
his problems and knowing how notoriously tough it is to overtake at the circuit he essentially conceded that a win Sunday was mission impossible.
"It wasn't just Sergio's accident and the waiting in the pit lane and so on. I think it was the strategy," Hamilton said. "But the engineers advised that we should do one run at the end of Q3 and I didn't contest it. You always have to take a balanced view with the engineers.
"I definitely didn't take into account - and I know they didn't either - that in Monaco you can't take risks in leaving it right to the end. "You can't overtake here, so I'll just get whatever I can. I won't give up, but there's no chance to win realistically. Sebastian will walk away with it."
German Nico Rosberg, who escaped injury when he also suffered a big accident at almost the same place as Perez during the morning's final free practice session, was eighth in the second Mercedes ahead of rookie Venezuelan
Pastor Maldonado of Williams.
Perez, who had driven splendidly earlier to fight his way through to the top-ten shootout, lost control of his machine as he came out of the tunnel.
His car appeared to hit bumps in the surface of the circuit, lift to the left and then steer right into the barriers before slewing in a half-turn into a barrier at the chicane.
The barriers into which Perez finally came to a halt were the same barriers into which Austrian Karl Wenglinger collided in 1994 - leaving him in a coma for nearly three weeks.
Nicknamed 'Checo', Perez, from Guadalajara, is in his first season in Formula One and has established a reputation as one of the most talented, confident, and likeable, young drivers in the paddock.
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:13.556||1:14.277||1:15.606||18|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull||1:14.019||1:14.742||1:16.087||24|
|14||15||Paul di Resta||Force India||1:16.118||1:16.813||22|
|15||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India||1:16.121||1:16.600||19|
|17||18||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso||1:16.300||1:16.358||17|
|20||19||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso||1:17.820||9|
|Q1 107% Time||1:20.471|