F1 – Monaco GP – Qualifying

Salut, MiniFans! After the first season ever without Monaco, we’re back in the Principality’s streets for one more year of narrow street racing. There won’t be as may luxuries as we can usually see, but we can be sure that the fight for pole position will be the showstopper that it always is, given the close fight we’ve seen all weekend.

Before the fun could begin, the announcement was made that Schumacher wouldn’t take part in qualifying due to chassis problems with his car due to a crash in the last minutes of the third free practice. One less car on track wouldn’t really make a difference for the biggest and maybe hardest problem to navigate in Q1, only surpassed by not nicking corners: Traffic. After hiding for the whole weekend, Mercedes finally topped the sheets with Bottas, but neither Leclerc nor Verstappen were too far from him, while Hamilton was settled a bit further back, but still safe from elimination. The fight in this session seemed settled halfway through, as Alpine and Alfa Romeo were having trouble, but the latter managed to pull through easily, as did Ocon, leaving Alonso stranded behind the safety line. The eliminated in Q1 were Tsunoda (P16), Alonso (P17), Latifi (P18), Mazepin (P19) and Schumacher (P20, no time set).

The second session is where the real fun begins. Fifteen cars still make up a large number for a very comfortable spacing between them, but it is more manageable than all twenty on track. Ferrari threw themselves headfirst into Q3 with their opening laps, grabbing the first and second places on the timing tower. At least until Verstappen came around and snatched it away from the prancing horses. With four minutes to go, everybody went back out to either set a new time or get a feel on how the track was improving with use, but the final positions weren’t too shuffled around. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Ocon (P11), Ricciardo (P12), Stroll (P13), Raikkonen (P14) and Russell (P15).

All eyes were on deck for the last session. The first laps set were almost transactional but when teams put everything on the table, Leclerc zoomed through the track to move Verstappen away from first place. Wheels caressed walls as Verstappen gave his all to try and get a pole that has always scurried away from him, but a slightly lower track temperature might turn out to be a problem. When it seemed as if Verstappen could improve Leclerc’s time with a purple first sector, the session was red flagged due to an incident identical to Verstappen’s in 2018 during FP3, but this time caused by Leclerc clipping the inside wall of the pool chicane. With only a handful of seconds left in the clock, it was called as finished, giving Ferrari its first pole since 2017 and Hamilton a weird seventh place, outqualified by both a McLaren and an Alpha Tauri (whose teammates couldn’t make it out of Q1).

It didn’t fully come out of left field, but Leclerc on pole wasn’t as unexpected as it could have been during any other racing weekend. Ferrari has looked very strong the whole weekend, but it isn’t unusual for Mercedes to hide and come out during only the crucial moments. The only Monegasque on the grid claimed his spot at the top, while his teammate was fourth, the best Ferrari result on a qualifying run in a very long time.