F1 – Monaco GP – Qualifying

Bonjour, MiniFans! After an unexpected weekend without a grand prix, which was cancelled because of extreme weather circumstances in the Emilia Romagna region, we’re back to racing. Monaco welcomes F1 back to its track, a place that hasn’t historically seen upgrades brought to it, but due to the exceptional circumstances, teams like Mercedes have been forced to push them back to this weekend.

As it’s tradition in the Principality, its short, narrow and twisty design made it so that managing the other cars became as important as taking control of your own for every single driver. Red Bull and Aston Martin easily secured the top spots as soon as Q1 kicked off, but F1 is one of those sports where nothing can be taken for granted. Not even halfway through, Zhou climbed to the top before the McLarens stole the spot, but a few moments later, the sight of Pérez in the middle of the track after having crashed into the barriers of St Devote and bounced back appeared on screen, prompting a red flag to be able to remove the car, with a broken rear suspension, and all the debris on the track.

After the marshals repaired the tecpro barriers, the session was swiftly resumed with Albon rising to the top, showing just how quicky a car can improve. A miscellaneous mix of teams and drivers fought for position at the top of the timing tower, with Verstappen still dominating but cars like AlphaTauris and Alpines splitting the top dogs. Risking the chance of interruption, Sainz pitted for a fresh set of softs, as he was elbow deep in the elimination zone, while both Mercedes were barely out of it. The three of them managed to make it through, but with an extra tyre set that would be rolled into and used in Q2. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Sargeant (P16), Magnussen (P17), Hulkenberg (P18), Zhou (P19) and Pérez (P20)

The first time to beat in Q2 was set by Verstappen, opening a gap of two tenths to Alonso. However, Gasly saw it fit to split the two of them, keeping the surprise of Alpine doing well in the qualifying session, with Ocon breathing down Alonso’s neck. The Mercedes drivers were having more problems, as they were both stuck around the start of the elimination zone. Russell managed to claw his way out with a fresh set of softs, but that wasn’t the case for Hamilton, who was at risk if anyone improved their time, something that Tsunoda did barely a minute later. Despite this, alongside a string of complaints over the radio, the British driver managed a good enough lap to make it through. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Piastri (P11), De Vries (P12), Albon (P13), Stroll (P14) and Bottas (P15).

Qualifying in Monaco is the show stealer without a shadow of a doubt and Q3 proved exactly why that is the case. The fight was spread among nine cars at first, as Norris’ car needed repairs and the mechanics could only finish them halfway through, letting him out as soon as they could. The first attempt saw a Spanish speaking 1-2, with the local driver completing the top 3. Verstappen, with a non-perfect lap, was four tenths away from Alonso, but he wouldn’t be going down without a fight.

The Red Bull driver did recover his first place, but Ocon came out of almost nowhere, lowering his time by a whole tenth and forcing the current world champion to go back out. The track was better than ever, with purple sectors dying many drivers’ lap times and the pole position changing hands from Ocon to Leclerc to Alonso and, finally, back into Verstappen’s lap, with an insane last sector that awarded him the coveted first place on the grid.

A surprise shook the paddock in Q1, as Pérez crashed out, leaving almost a red carpet laid out for his teammate in Red Bull, as despite everything shown by data and his possible rivals, Verstappen was still the clear favourite for the pole position. That interruption scrambled the standings for a while, but not enough so that any of the top dogs, bar Pérez due to his accident, were outside of the fight for pole. However, the last handful of minutes in Q3 generated doubts in who would start from pole position, as four drivers held the top spot in barely two minutes until Verstappen lay down his law. Will Sunday reach a similar level of excitement? We can only wait and see.

MiniDrivers – F1
2023 Monaco GP