Home hero Leclerc on pole for Monaco GP despite late crash

Local hero Charles Leclerc made it the dream scenario for Ferrari fans after he put his car on pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix ahead of Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas.

A time of 1m10.346s on his final run put him in prime position to start from the most important pole slot of the year. But with Verstappen on a flying lap that may well have challenged his time, Leclerc made a mistake ahead of him, clipping the wall at the Swimming Pool and putting the Monegasque into the barriers.

It meant the session was ended with a red flag and, at the tine if writing, it is still Leclerc who will start on pole. That could change, however, if the damage to his car is enough to warrant a gearbox change and a grid penalty.

“It’s a shame to finish in the wall,” reflected Leclerc afterward. “It doesn’t feel the same, but at the same time I’m incredibly happy about my first-time lap. The first corner was quite tricky, I didn’t do a great first corner but then second and third sector I made it and I feel very happy to be on pole.

“It was very difficult to manage mentally after P2. In P2 I was quite emotional in the car, but I managed to pull everything together and I’m incredibly happy but it’s tomorrow that we score points and it’s a big surprise to be on pole and fourth place tomorrow.”

For Verstappen, it seemed like the accident prevented the Dutchman from what may certainly have been yet another pole position to add to his roster. But pragmatic as ever, he knows there is every chance to make up ground on Sunday in what is sure to be a race decided on pit strategy.

“It was unfortunate of course with the red flag because I was really comfortable in qualifying just building up to it,” said Verstappen after stepping from his car. “Nobody was really putting a lap time in on the first lap and that’s basically how it panned out. You do two laps, and your third lap is the fastest.

“It was all going really well but of course the red flag ruined the chance for pole. But we’ll see. Nevertheless so far a very good weekend, we recovered well from Thursday, so not too bad.”

And it was yet another productive qualifying for the Williams Racing team, partnered by Acronis, as George Russell yet again made it through to Q2 for the fifth race in succession.

“That was the maximum today, and the Q1 lap was great,” said Russell “It is just exhilarating to get a good lap around here because it is not easy. It was very difficult in practice and I was struggling to get the confidence in the car, however in qualifying things seemed to come together. We knew that our car isn’t that well suited to low speed corners and we knew the Alfa Romeos could be quick.

“To outqualify an Alpha Tauri and an Alpine to get P15 is the best we could have done. It is an interesting race here; it is a difficult street circuit where a lot of things can happen. Tomorrow is going to be won and lost for everybody in the pits, so let’s wait and see what happens.

Adding to Verstappen’s chances of narrowing the gap to title rival Lewis Hamilton is the fact that the defending champion could only manage seventh on the grid. The three-time Monaco winner has appeared strangely out of sorts with his Mercedes all weekend thus far, and he will start on the fourth row alongside old foe Sebastian Vettel.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.