Max Verstappen has taken pole position for the first time in Monaco after one of the most thrilling qualifying sessions in years. The world champion ended up just 0.084 ahead of Fernando Alonso, while the top 10 were covered by less than a second.
The most important qualifying session of the season started under bright blue skies, almost everyone going straight out onto the circuit knowing getting a lap in early could be crucial.
The early pace setter as expected was Verstappen, who went quickest with his first flying lap backed up by his team-mate Sergio Perez in second place. Both Aston Martins were also within tenth of the leading Red Bull. With just 11 minutes left of the session the red flag came out after Perez hit the wall at St Devot. The RedBull driver would not take any further part in qualifying.
The session resumed for a frantic shoot out to get through to Q2; Verstappen ended the session quickest with a time of 1.12.386 just ahead of Yuki Tsunoda in the AlphaTauri with Williams’ Alex Albon third. Both Carlos Sainz and Sir Lewis Hamilton had to leave it late after scrappy first runs but they both got through in the end. Out of Q1 were Perez, Guanyu Zhou, Nico Hulkenberg, Kevin Magnussen and Logan Sargeant in the Williams.
After a frantic Q1 the second session began in calmer fashion, Verstappen once again quickest straight from the off, closely followed by Alonso. The first runs were all completed without any dramas. Norris had a scrape with the wall at Tabac after damaging his left front suspension when exiting the chicane, ending the McLaren driver’s session. Hamilton again left it late but managed to get within 2 tenths of the quickest time set by Verstappen with a time of 1.11.908
Out at the end of Q2 were Valtteri Bottas, Lance Stroll, Albon, Nyck De Vries and Oscar Piastri.
Q3 began with Verstappen straight out on track to get his lap in early to avoid any red flags ruining his session as they had in recent years. The world champion set an early 1.12 but was beaten almost immediately by Alonso, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. All three of them managed to get into the 1:11s.
With six minutes left Lando Norris left the pitman after McLaren had worked some magic to get his car back on track.
Verstappen managed to get a good lap in halfway through the session and went to the top of the timesheets but amazingly was beaten by Ocon in the Alpine.
The last runs began with just 2 minutes left in the session. The driver at the top of the timesheets kept changing but ended once again with Verstappen at the top on a 1.11.365 just 0.084 ahead of Alonso. On the second row are Leclerc and Esteban Ocon, they will be followed by Sainz, Hamilton, Pierre Gasly, George Russell, Yuki Tsunoda and Norris.
The stewards are currently investigating Stroll for missing the weigh bridge in Q2, while Leclerc may yet be in trouble for holding up Norris in the final session by moving slowly in the tunnel.
The race will be long on Sunday and the threat of rain could mix it up; Verstappen and Alonso into turn one could get tasty.
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