Charles Leclerc certainly had the feel for the streets at home with a fine touch and judgment to secure pole for the Monaco Grand Prix. He has every chance to get rid of the curse that has ruined his luck here. Better still for the Monegasque Ferrari driver, qualifying ended with the track reminding his rivals that the slightest mistake is punishable, with a session-ending two-car crash preventing title rival Max Verstappen from Red Bull did better than fourth on the grid. .
Leclerc overtook his teammate Carlos Sainz for second, with Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez in third, but only after the two had gone off on their final flying laps.
Perez had been pushing hard but lost the rear and crashed into the barrier at Portier. That left him sideways on the track and Sainz was helpless as he came around the corner and hit the Red Bull. A red flag was immediately issued, ending the session.
Mercedes struggled, with its really tough car, stiff suspension and low ride height on the bumpy circuit. George Russell and Lewis Hamilton are in sixth and eighth places.
Qualifying left the seven-time champion once again lamenting his bad luck. Hamilton has suffered some unfortunate safety car calls this year and here he was on a new set of soft tires and on course to improve on his last lap when the session was stopped. Hamilton knows he has a long road ahead of him on Sunday.
“I hope the weather plays into it and creates chances, it would be nice to have some luck for once,” he said. “I’ve been having that [bad luck] all year. At some point it’s bound to stop.”
In a race where grid position is everything, Perez’s crash was the costliest for team-mate Verstappen, who was running his final lap and also improving when the session was stopped. Starting from fourth place with an almost impossible overtake, he faces an afternoon in which Leclerc is in a position to once again retake the championship lead.
Pérez raised his hands at the mistake. “The rear tire had no grip and I lost it,” he said. “It was a shame what happened and I’m sorry for Carlos and the rest of the guys, but this is Monaco.”
The day, however, belonged to the hometown boy, who was looking to get over his losing streak in Monaco. He hasn’t been able to finish any of his races here, two in F2 and three in F1, and with the form he and Ferrari have shown, this is surely his best chance yet.
Leclerc, fast throughout the weekend, has shown intention from the start. He had started early to set the pace in his first run in Q3, pushing hard and fastest with 1 minute 11.376 seconds. He was completely hooked, looping around the chicane and picking up a huge pace through the pool. Magnificent, two tenths behind his teammate Sainz.
The final races were going to be dramatic, but with 30 seconds remaining the circuit was thrown into chaos. Pérez and Sainz left and moments later Fernando Alonso went straight to the Mirabeau wall. The track is tougher when the drivers know that everything is at stake on a Saturday.
For Leclerc, who was born and raised in Monaco, it was a moment to savor. “It’s very special, I’m incredibly happy,” she said. “It’s been a very quiet weekend so far and the last lap before the red flag was very, very good.
This is the pole that the Monegasque driver wanted, especially after the bitter disappointment he suffered last year. He then failed to start from the pole he had claimed, after a crash on his final qualifying lap inflicted driveshaft damage that was only discovered on his way to the grid on Sunday.
Pole position is likely to be vital and the drivers stress that this year more than ever, with bigger and heavier cars, overtaking is a pipe dream. This is a real chance for Leclerc to regain the championship lead after the last round in Spain, where he had to retire and Verstappen took a six-point lead over his rival.
Lando Norris was fifth for McLaren. Sebastian Vettel was ninth for Aston Martin and Alonso and Esteban Ocon seventh and tenth for Alpine.
AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda hit the wall at the chicane in Q3, but continued to make it into Q2, finishing 11th. Valtteri Bottas was 12th for Alfa Romeo, Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher were 13th and 15th for Haas and Daniel Ricciardo 14th for McLaren Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi were 16th and 19th for Williams. Pierre Gasly was 17th for AlphaTauri, Lance Stroll 18th for Aston Martin and Guanyu Zhou 20th for Alfa Romeo.