MONACO GP – Max Verstappen beats Fernando Alonso by eight hundredths to take pole position in tight qualifying
Max Verstappen has beaten Fernando Alonso by eight hundredths of a second to take pole for the Monaco Grand Prix. The Red Bull looked on fire pulling it out the bag in the final sector after looking to be down on the Aston Martin before finding eight hundredths to claim his first pole in Monte Carlo.
Alonso looked through out qualifying to be the closest challenger despite the whole grid being close through out the session. Going into the final runs the Aston Martin driver had gone quicker and with Verstappen looking down in the first two sectors before going purple in the final sector to take pole.
Verstappen’s banker lap in Q3 was a 12.102 but he was immediately beaten by Alonso who was just under four tenths faster saying on that lap he was “pushing like an animal.” The Dutchman taking his first pole in the Principality and in the perfect place to extend his championship lead, with Sergio Perez crashing out in Q2.
The Mexican will start last giving Verstappen the perfect opportunity to extend his lead in the drivers champion. The ‘king of the streets’ having a difficult race at a circuit where overtaking is one of the most difficult.
Charles Leclerc also looked to be a threat but could only go third a tenth off Verstappen, the car did look at times during qualifying to be a little wobbly during his attempts.
After qualifying the Monacan was given a three place grid penalty for impeding Lando Norris through the tunnel. The FIA stewards said Leclerc “had finished his final lap of Q3 and was in the Turn Four (Casino Square) through Turn Ten (Nouvelle Chicane) complex. Norris was on a fast lap and caught Leclerc in the middle of the tunnel and was clearly impeded.”
After the incident, Norris said: “With Charles’s incident, it’s always tough around here. I guess it did ruin my lap. But the stewards obviously deemed it necessary, I guess. I think he did what he could. But when you listen to the team radio, they’re just telling him about Verstappen’s lap and giving him live updates, rather than concentrating on who’s behind him, which I don’t really understand. But it is what it is.”
This weekend Alpine have appeared to be the surprise, Esteban Ocon going fastest on his final run in Q3 before being beaten by Leclerc and settling for fourth, just over eight hundredths behind the Monacan and eight hundredths ahead of Carlos Sainz.
Ocon momentarily allowed Alpine to dream, as he produced a brilliant lap to dislodge Verstappen from the top of the timesheet, but Leclerc would narrowly beat his time moments later. The French manufacturer appearing to have a strong weekend,
Verstappen said: “We knew this was going to be little bit of a struggle for us this weekend to get everything together, in qualifying you need to go all out. My first sector wasn’t ideal. I was a bit cautious. I knew I was behind and I had to push fast out to get back the lap time and luckily I did.”
Alonso said: “I feel good. Pole position means a lot here in Monaco. But today Max was a little bit faster. First row is quite a big thing for us here. The last sector seems our weakest point of the circuit.
Lewis Hamilton looked just to scrap through to Q3, doing a lap on tyres he thought weren’t ready he made it through. Mercedes felt that they had gone in the wrong direction with set up, which hampered their hopes of being higher up.
CEO and team principal Toto Wolff said he was relatively satisfied to be 0.36secs off pole after a difficult session even if he said the positions of the drivers in sixth and eighth were “not OK”.
Rapid track evolution had put both Sainz and Hamilton at risk of dropping out in Q1, the Ferrari aborting a number of laps while the seven-time champion made a tiny error on his penultimate run and despite his tyres not being ready.
The Mercedes driver then went seventh two tenths ahead of Pierre Gasly, the Frenchman splitting the two Mercedes with George Russell three hundredths behind. Yuki Tsunoda was ninth, the Alpha Tauri going nearly two tenths faster than Lando Norris who rounded out the top ten.
Norris was only able to complete one run in Q3, the McLaren driver crashed at the end of Q2 striking the barrier with both sides of the car with the team needing to replace the roll bars on his front suspension. He carried too much going through on the exit of the Nouvelle Chicane and Tabac, striking the wall midway through the corners.
Qualifying in Monaco is the most important of the season, going into the weekend the question had been could anyone catch Red Bull. While it was closer as always it was a session where being on track at the right time, with Alpine the surprise challengers. Ocon momentarily went faster, but then Leclerc went faster but the story of 2023 has been Red Bull.
Verstappen as the only real threat, and the Dutchman’s wait for a pole in his adopted hometown looked set to be extended as he trailed by two tenths after an uninspiring first couple of sectors. That wasn’t without risk, he looked on the limit glancing the barriers on his final attempt before making up three tenth.
While Monaco’s place on the F1 calendar has been questioned by some due to the difficulty of overtaking on a Sunday, this was a finale that reminded anyone with doubt about the circuit of the unique form of magic it is capable of creating.
Norris’s teammate Oscar Piastri missing out on Q3 by just under two hundredths following Hamilton’s late improvement to get himself out of the drop zone. But McLaren look to continue on the upwards trend following the difficulties they had at the start of the season.
Nyck de Vries was twelfth going a tenth quicker than Alex Albon, Lance Stroll lost time leaving him fourteenth. The Canadian missed his call to the get the car weighed, requiring the Aston Martin mechanics to roll his car back for the FIA to take his corner weights. Valtteri Bottas will start the race fifteenth, having been in the top ten after the initial foray of Q2 runs.
Logan Sargeant was fastest of those knocked out in Q1, the American driver missing out by seven hundredths. The biggest casualty was Perez, he carried too much speed into Sainte Devote and lost the rear on the exit making contact with the Tecpro barrier with his rear-left wheel and causing heavy damage to his rear suspension.
Nether Haas’s made it into Q2, they were leapfrogged by Sargeant in the closing stages of Q1. Kevin Magnussen going nine thousandths of a second faster than teammate Nico Hulkenberg, Guanyu Zhou was a quarter of a second behind in nineteenth.