Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo has claimed his second ever pole position in Formula One, setting a new lap record around the circuit where he incidentally also claimed his first.
Red Bull were always expected to fly around Monaco and it has certainly been an extremely impressive weekend so far for the team – and Ricciardo in particular – save for Max Verstappen’s crash in FP3. Ricciardo was fastest in every single practice session and every segment of qualifying, breaking the lap record numerous times before ultimately taking pole with a 1:10.810, in doing so becoming the only driver to break into the 1:10s.
The Australian’s nearest competitor was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. In the dying moments of the session Vettel managed to improve and close the gap to P1, but he was still over two tenths away from Ricciardo, with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton another two tenths back in P3.
Kimi Raikkonen will perhaps have been hoping for more than P4; he starts ahead of fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas and best-of-the-rest Esteban Ocon, who put in a great performance in the Force India to go P6. McLaren will no doubt be glad to have gotten at least one car into the top ten – Fernando Alonso will start tomorrow’s race in P7 ahead of Sainz, Perez, Gasly and Hulkenberg – because it looked for a while in the early stages of the weekend as though they may be out-performed by Toro Rosso and their Honda engine. The other McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne, however, failed to make it through to Q3 and starts P12.
Sergey Sirotkin’s performance mustn’t be underplayed as well. He may be starting P13, but he qualified a huge eight tenths ahead of his team-mate Lance Stroll, who has been struggling all weekend and complained of a loose head-rest and a general lack of traction in Q1. He starts down in P18.
Home favourite Charles Leclerc qualified P14 ahead of an out-of-sorts Romain Grosjean, who qualified P15 but carries a three-place grid penalty because of the crash he caused in Spain.
Brendon Hartley was my surprise of qualifying, and unfortunately not in a good way. The Kiwi had initially shown very strong pace in free practice – he was P7 in FP3 – and seemed to be on par with team-mate Pierre Gasly, but for some reason he failed to convert that in qualifying and ultimately ended up P16 ahead of Marcus Ericsson.
Rounding out the grid are a frustrated Kevin Magnussen in P19 – another surprise given that he finished sixth last time out in Spain – and Max Verstappen, who didn’t even take part in qualifying because of his FP3 crash and will be receiving a somewhat redundant five-place grid penalty because of a change of gearbox.
It is hard to look past anyone but Daniel Ricciardo for the win tomorrow. It’s one of the great cliches of Formula One that it’s impossible to overtake around Monaco but, at the same time, I’m sure there will be some interesting battles further down the order that will be worth keeping an eye on.