Nico Rosberg is cleared by Monaco stewards to start the race from pole position
Rosberg secured pole after bringing out yellow flags; Stewards found no evidence of wrongdoing; Hamilton pointedly refuses to clear his team-mate of foul play; Race starts at 1pm on Sunday
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 24/05/14 7:04pm
Nico Rosberg has been cleared to start the Monaco GP from pole position after stewards found no evidence that he deliberately steered off course at the conclusion of qualifying in order to beat Lewis Hamilton.
Fractionally faster than his Mercedes team-mate after their first runs in Q3, Rosberg brought out the yellow flags in the final seconds of the top-ten shootout when he missed his braking point into Mirabeau and slithered down the escape road before reversing back on track.
Hamilton, on a faster final run after being the last driver to cross the line before the chequered flag fell, then had to abort his effort, leaving Rosberg secure in pole.
The controversial circumstances of Rosberg's last-lap incident were then placed under official investigation by the Monaco stewards but, after three hours of deliberation, it was deemed that the German should be permitted to start the race from the front of the field.
'The stewards examined video and telemetry data from the team and FIA and could find no evidence of any offence related to the Turn 5 incident,' a statement declared.
It is understood that Rosberg's decision to reverse his W05 on to the track wasn't discussed in the hearing as the sport's regulations only forbid a car from reversing in the pitlane.
Now the question waiting to be asked - most immediately, at the first corner of Sunday's race - is whether the incident will put Rosberg and Hamilton's friendship into sharp reverse as well.
Few in the paddock believe it will survive the stress of fighting for the title and Hamilton's anger at being blocked in such controversial circumstances was ominously palpable on Saturday night. The stage is slowly but steadily setting for the most compelling intra-team fight in decades.
While Rosberg celebrated wildly on his return to parc ferme, a stern-faced Hamilton appeared to blank his team-mate and the Englishman pointedly refused to answer when asked by Sky F1 if he suspected Rosberg of 'cynicism'.
"Who knows?" he replied. "I'm not saying anything."
Asked later if he would hold clear-the-air talks with Rosberg, Hamilton told the BBC: "I don't know if Senna and Prost sat down. I quite like the way Senna dealt with it, so I'm going to take a page out of his book."
With Hamilton setting the tone for the weekend by comparing his own upbringing to Rosberg's privileged background, the cheery back-slapping which marked Mercedes' early-season breakthrough has now been replaced by a simmering rivalry inside the Silver Arrows camp. The evolving and escalating Rosberg-Hamilton storyline is threatening to dominate the season in much the same way the W05 has tyrannized the rest of the field since the onset of the sport's turbo era.
Rosberg himself insisted that he wasn't guilty of a move reminiscent of Michael Schumacher's deliberate mistake at the end of qualifying in Monaco in 2006 when he parked his Ferrari in the penultimate corner in order to block Fernando Alonso from taking pole position. The German was subsequently sent to the back of the grid by the stewards.
"It will be clear in the data," said Rosberg. "I just braked a little later and locked up.
"It's not the way I wanted it go and I honestly thought it was over when I went off the road. So that definitely takes some of the pleasure away from it, but in the end first is first so I'm still very, very happy about it."
Due to the track's tight layout, qualifying at Monaco is widely recognised as the most important Saturday session of the season. In the last ten years, only once has a driver - Hamilton, in 2008 - won the race after starting anywhere other than pole.
Sunday's race, exclusively live on Sky Sports F1, starts at 1pm UK Time.
Pressed to the point
What Rosberg and Hamilton had to say about the incident in the post-session press conference...
Q: Nico, congratulations - pole for the second year in a row, but perhaps not exactly the way you wanted to achieve it, with that mistake at the end?
Rosberg: "No, definitely not. I thought it was over once that happened, because I thought the track would ramp up and somebody else could beat the time but no, of course, in the end I'm really, really happy that it worked out in the end. To be on pole is fantastic, at home; couldn't be better."
Q: Coming to you Lewis. Nico's mistake, ironically, and the subsequent yellow flags meant that you couldn't improve on your lap. Your feelings?
Hamilton: "Yeah, it is ironic. But it's OK. I was up a couple tenths so it's OK."
Q: Nico, your thoughts on what happened with Lewis and where your mistake left him. You're close friends, you're fighting for race wins, you're fighting for pole, for world championships but there's no question that your mistake disadvantaged him...
Rosberg: "No, definitely, of course I'm sorry for Lewis. I didn't know exactly where he was but once I was reversing I did see he was coming up. Of course that's not great, but that's the way it is."
Q: Lewis, your response to that? When you're last on the track there's always that risk isn't there, you're vulnerable to something like this happening?
Hamilton: "I don't have an answer to it."
Q: So Nico, obviously there's only one real major talking point, tell us in detail what happened on the way down to Mirabeau?
Rosberg: "I just locked up, the outside front, I think it was, or the inside, I'm not sure, and that put me off line. I was still trying to make it but in the last moment I had to turn out because I was going to hit the tyre wall. It was close but I managed to go into the escape road."
Q: And what was going through your mind on that last lap? You, of course, had the advantage, having set the faster time first, so you knew you were knew you were up and you knew...
Rosberg: "Well that's the whole reason why I'm... I know that I have a banker, a really good banker in there so I just try to push that little bit more and went over the edge."
Q: Lewis, give us your thoughts when you were told over the radio, or you saw the yellow flags and knew that it was all over.
Hamilton: "Not really much."
Q: Can you elaborate?
Hamilton: "Not really much! I didn't really think of anything. The lap was done and that was that."
Q: You said you were a couple of tenths up though, so you must have thought you were on target?
Hamilton: "I was on target, yep... I remember starting the last lap and said 'this is it, this is going to be the lap'. I was two and a half tenths up and didn't get to finish it."