Leclerc ends Verstappen streak with Monaco pole

Charles Leclerc claimed his third Monte Carlo pole position after beating Oscar Piastri to top spot in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix.

Leclerc started qualifying as the overwhelming favorite for the most valuable pole position of the season, but fifth and fourth in Q1 and Q2 left the door open for a surprise result at the crunch.

The Monegasque driver was only biding his time, however, and hit his stride in Q3. A pair of sizzling laps, both ultimately quick enough to take pole position, rocketed him to top spot ahead of the plucky Piastri, his final tour setting the benchmark at an unimpeachable 1m10.270s to beat the Australian by 0.154s.


”It was nice,” Leclerc said of his third home pole. “The feeling after a qualifying lap is always very special here.

“I’m really, really happy about the lap. The excitement is so high. It feels really good.”

But Leclerc’s satisfaction was tempered by his two previous failures to convert pole to victory at home, and he emphasized that his job was only half complete despite the statistical importance of starting from first place.

“I know more often than not in the past qualifying is not everything,” he said. “We need to put everything together.

“In the past years we didn’t manage to do so, but we’re a stronger team, we’re in a stronger position, and I’m sure we can achieve great things tomorrow. The win is the target.”

Piastri emerged as Leclerc’s closest challenger after a quiet but steady build-up through the weekend in his one-off yellow McLaren. The Australian was pleased to secure his first front-row start of the season, though he thought a cleaner lap could have secured him his maiden pole position.

“I think if you took the second half of my first lap in Q3 and the first half of the second one, it would’ve been enough,” he said. “Just a couple of mistakes at the end.

“Credit to Charles — he’s been incredibly quick all weekend. At certain points I don’t think anyone thought we were going to get close to him.”

Carlos Sainz recovered from a lackluster series of practice sessions to qualify third, closing the gap to Leclerc to a relatively modest 0.248s, but the Spaniard lamented his gains came too late to contend for pole.

“I’ve been struggling all weekend with confidence and feeling with the car,” he said. “P3 was a step forward.

“I’m not entirely happy, because I wish I could’ve been fighting for pole position, but the truth is Charles has been doing an outstanding job. The car has been amazing all weekend, and he managed to extract the most from it, so I’m happy for him.”

Lando Norris was 0.024s behind Sainz to qualify fourth, with George Russell just 0.001s further back in fifth.

Max Verstappen endured the dire result he said he’d been braced for, slumping to sixth on the grid and 0.297s off the pace. The Dutchman lamented that his car was fundamentally mismatched to the curb-riding, bump-grinding Monaco circuit.

Lewis Hamilton qualified seventh ahead of Yuki Tsunoda in the Japanese driver’s sixth Q3 appearance in the last seven races. Alex Albon was ninth for Williams in his first top-10 appearance of the year but faces a post-session investigation for impeding Sainz at Massenet in Q1.

Pierre Gasly took Alpine into Q3 for the first time this season to qualify 10th. His teammate Esteban Ocon, third on the grid this time last year, was knocked out 11th, falling short by just 0.069s of a spot in the top 10.

Nico Hulkenberg was the lead Haas driver in 12th but will face a post-session investigation for traveling slowly on the racing line into Casino Square early in Q2 and obstructing Ocon.

RB’s Daniel Ricciardo lamented being unable to fire up his tires to follow teammate Tsunoda into Q3, leaving him 13th.

Lance Stroll will start 14th for Aston Martin ahead of Kevin Magnussen in the second Haas machine.

Fernando Alonso suffered his second consecutive Q1 knockout. After qualifying 19th in Imola last weekend, the two-time Monaco winner bombed out in 16th, his Aston Martin a relatively beefy 0.132s shy of a Q2 berth in an otherwise close session.

But Sergio Perez was a considerably bigger scalp, the Mexican fumbling his way to 18th as he struggled to overcome Red Bull Racing’s inherent problems with the Monte Carlo circuit. Perez was 0.173s short of a spot in Q2 and only 0.349s slower than teammate Verstappen, a poor final sector on his last flying lap costing him a top-15 grid spot.

“What a joke,” he laughed to himself over team radio.

Between the two fallen front-runners slotted Logan Sargeant, in 17th, only 0.001s slower than Alonso.

Sauber drivers Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu were 19th and 20th on a dreadful afternoon for the future Audi team, qualifying more than a second off the pace and more than 0.5s behind the back of the pack.

Story originally appeared on Racer