Who is ahead in the strategy game?

With Bridgestone-shod cars dominating first qualifying on Thursday in Monaco, but Michelin-shod cars taking the first four places on the grid after Saturday's final qualifying session, there are many strategy questions that remain unanswered ahead of today's 61st Monaco Grand Prix

Who is ahead in the strategy game?

Michelin won the race last year by dint of a softer tyre that allowed Juan Pablo Montoya and David Coulthard to outqualify Michael Schumacher's Ferrari, which was subsequently unable to pass them in the race. This time, Ralf Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen, Montoya and Jarno Trulli all line up ahead of the five times champion. That might not be the end of the story, however...

McLaren boss Ron Dennis explained the Michelin gains simply: "Anybody here earlier in the week saw the amount of rain, with the result that the track cleaned up completely. But by Saturday there had been a rubber build-up and the ambient temperature had risen." Both of these are elements better suited to the Michelin tyres.

Bridgestone, however, still seems confident that it's in a race-winning position, which makes one suspect that the Ferraris could be planning to stop just once, while hoping that those ahead are stopping twice.

Schumacher's sector times from qualifying were interesting in that he was quickest through sector one, but only fifth in sector two, which includes the chicane and Swimming Pool section, areas where he normally excels. He was 0.4s slower than brother Ralf there, which also happens to be the section of the circuit most sensitive to fuel load. If he was significantly heavier, though, could he have set quickest time in sector one, which includes the uphill drag to Casino Square? You would think not.

Williams technical director Patrick Head, meanwhile, rules out any chance of his cars 'controlling' the race. "Ask either of our drivers to go slowly to hold up the others and help his team-mate, and I'm sure you are going to get a very short response!" Head smiled. "I don't think we are going to know what's happening in this race until after half distance."

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