Charles Leclerc has taken pole position for his home Monaco Grand Prix after crashing and bringing out the red flag with seconds to go. The Ferrari driver was two tenths faster than the Red Bull of Max Verstappen after setting his fastest time on his first timed lap.
Leclerc’s mistake which brought the session to an early close happened when he appeared to lose the rear of his Ferrari exiting the Swimming Pool, with him hitting the outside barrier and slipping across the track into the wall. However, the concern will be whether he has damaged his gearbox, with a change dropping him to sixth.
Leclerc admitted that he was now worried about whether the damage sustained to his car will be sufficient to trigger a gearbox change and subsequent grid penalty ahead of the race.
He said, “It’s a shame to finish in the wall, it doesn’t feel the same. But at the same time, I’m incredibly happy about my first timed lap. It’s a big surprise for everyone to be on pole for the race.”
The crash was remittent of Michael Schumacher’s crash in 2006 when the seven-time champion pretended to crash and parked his car at Rascasse in an attempt to secure pole but was later demoted to the back of the grid.
Mick, failed to take part in qualifying after he crashed in third practice. Schumacher lost control of the Haas entering Casino Square making a heavy impact with the barriers hitting the rear tyre against the wall.
Verstappen appeared to be the closest challenger and had set the fastest first sector before the red flag. However, if the likelihood hood of a gearbox change it could promote the Red Bull to pole position after he was two-hundredths faster than the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.
He added “It was unfortunate with the red flag. I felt really comfortable with qualifying. (On my final run), I was 0.15secs up and I knew I had made a mistake on the first run on T10 which cost 0.1secs. So pole was on. But that is if, buts, maybes.”
Ferrari has had their strongest weekend since 2019, proving to be able to fight with Mercedes and Red Bull at the low-speed high downforce circuit. But the story will be whether Leclerc holds on to his pole position. Further repairs will be allowed without penalty, as long as the new parts are the same specification.
Mercedes have appeared to struggle this weekend as Red Bull and Ferrari have looked to have more pace and downforce, Bottas had set a personal best in the first sector before the red flag. Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz was fourth going a hundredth faster than his former teammate Lando Norris.
Norris has been one of the standout performers this season, delivering solid results for McLaren allowing him to sit fourth in the drivers’ championship behind Bottas.
Verstappen has a big opportunity to close the gap to his title rival Sir Lewis Hamilton after he failed to set his final lap because of the red flag leaving him down in seventh. Pierre Gasly will start ahead of Hamilton with the Alpha Tari almost two tenths faster than the seven-time champion.
Hamilton driver looked to struggle and on his final complete timed lap clipped the barrier at Portier leaving him unable to improve when abandoning his final run because of the red flag.
The seven-times champion was seventh in all three parts of qualifying with his best time just under half a second slower than Bottas. Throughout the weekend Mercedes have struggled with getting their tyres into the right window and grip.
Hamilton will start alongside former title rival Sebastian Vettel, the Aston Martin driver also abandoning his final run.
Hamilton said, “Today was a question of tyres not working. Just sliding around. It wasn’t feeling bad on Thursday. I think we were closer to the front on Thursday. But we’ve not gone the right direction over the last day and today was the result of that.”
Sergio Perez was ninth ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi who rounded out the top ten. Esteban Ocon was the fastest of those knocked out in Q2, the Alpine driver missing out by seven-hundredths of a second on his final run and that put him ahead of Daniel Ricciardo.
Ricciardo, Lance Stroll and Kimi Raikkonen all found time on their last laps but were also knocked out. George Russell continued his run of getting through to Q2 this season, the Williams driver was tenth at the end of Q1 but unable to find the same pace in Q2.
Fernando Alonso had his worst qualifying in Monte Carlo since starting last in 2010, the Alpine driver could only manage seventeenth behind Yuki Tsunoda. The Alpha Tauri driver missing out on Q2 by a hundredth of a second. Nicolas Latifi was eighteenth ahead of the two Haas’s Nikita Mazepin and Schumacher
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