Monaco Grand Prix – Max Verstappen will start on pole ahead of Fernando Alonso after an incredibly close-fought Monaco qualifying.
The Williams cars of Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant led the way out of the pits into the glorious Monaco sunshine, The majority of the teams sent their cars out together, which did look quite nice on the driver tracker.
There was quite a bit of work that had to be done at the Haas and Mercedes teams in the break between FP3 and quali – Lewis Hamilton having crashed in the final few minutes of the session while Kevin Magnussen was told to stop on track with a hydraulic issue.
The first time on the board was a 1:15.237 from Albon and after the first five minutes it was a Red Bull 1-2 with Max Verstappen in P1 with a 1:13.784 and Sergio Perez just 0.066 seconds behind while Charles Leclerc was over two tenths back in P3.
The Red Flags were out with 11 minutes left in the first part of qualifying when Sergio Perez, last year’s race winner, took too much speed into Sainte Devote and smashed into the barrier on the outside of the corner, leaving him stranded in the middle of the track just after the first corner with a damaged right side.
Just before Q1 was suspended, the top three had changed with the two McLarens jumping to the top of the times, Lando Norris setting a 1:13.485 with Oscar Piastri 0.157 seconds behind and Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu in P3. In the drop zone at that stage were Hamilton, Nyck de Vries, Sergeant, Carlos Sainz and Albon.
The Williams’ were once again the first out when the session resumed and the McLaren’s were quickly demoted before Fernando Alonso took to the top with the first 1:12 second lap of qualifying with a 1:12.886.
With three minutes to go Verstappen’s 1:12.644 was the time to beat ahead of Alonso and Leclerc while Zhou, Sargeant, Perez, Magnussen and Hulkenberg were the bottom five, the Haas cars only having just emerged from the pits for the first time since the Red Flag.
Heading into the final two minutes AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda put in a flying lap to go 0.002 seconds quicker than Verstappen while Norris slotted into P3. Verstappen tapped the barrier at the final corner while Hamilton, who was in the danger zone in P15, messed up at the Nouvelle Chicane so he would need a clean final lap to ensure he continued in the session.
In the end Verstappen went two and a half tenths up on Tsunoda with a 1:12.386 while Albon slotted into P3. Hamilton and Sainz, who’d fallen back into the bottom few cars, both managed to save themselves at the end taking P7 and P4 respectively while Sargeant, the Haas’ of Magnussen and Hulkenberg, Zhou and Perez were the slowest five.
Verstappen was first out when the second part of qualifying started and he wasn’t hanging around, putting in a 1:12.038 as his first timed lap. When everyone else, aside from Tsunoda who locked up and cut the chicane and then pitted for new tyres, had put in their opening efforts it was Alpine’s Pierre Gasly who’d gotten closest to the Dutch driver with a 1:12.169 while Alonso was a further half a tenth back in P3.
With just over seven minutes to go Verstappen improved to a 1:11.908, things weren’t going as smoothly for Hamilton though, the Mercedes racer reporting back that he felt there was something wrong with his right rear suspension.
With two minutes to go, Norris hit the barrier at Tabac but he was able to get back to the pits under his own steam, he was sitting in P9 at that stage. Verstappen, Leclerc and Alonso were the top three, the Ferrari and Aston drivers separated by only 0.004 seconds while Hamilton, Stroll, Bottas, Albon and de Vries were in the drop zone.
Despite feeling his tyres weren’t ready for a push lap, Hamilton was able to save himself once again, jumping into P5, just 0.005 seconds behind his teammate George Russell. The other drivers weren’t able to emulate him so we won’t see Piastri, de Vries, Albon, Stroll or Bottas in the pole fight.
Norris ended in P10 so he’ll be able to take part in Q3 as long as McLaren can get his car fixed up.
Verstappen was first back out onto the track for the final ten minute session and set a leisurely banker time of a 1:12.102 while Alonso, who said he was “pushing like an animal” put in a 1:11.706 to take provisional pole ahead of the Ferraris, who were also in the 1:11.7s.
Norris made it out on track with just over five minutes to go while Verstappen got back on pace to snatch provisional pole from Alonso though only by half a tenth. He didn’t hold it for long though as Esteban Ocon put a stunning 1:11.553 to go P1 with just over three minutes to go.
Leclerc then brought the time down to a 1:11.471 before Alonso went fastest in the first two sectors for a 1:11.449 with less than a minute to go. With Verstappen two tenths down on the Spaniard heading into the final sector it looked like Aston would be getting the pole but somehow the reigning champion managed to put in a stunning final few corners to take P1 by 0.084 seconds.
Leclerc ended the day in P3 but he is under investigation for impeding Norris in the tunnel. Ocon was P4 for Alpine ahead of Sainz while Hamilton could only manage P6. Gasly ended in P7 while Russell was the last to make it into the 1:11s and will take P8 ahead of Tsunoda and Norris.