The Saturday in F1 Monaco GP got intense and thrilling with qualifying being an important part of the weekend considering overtaking difficulties.
As expected, it was an intense F1 Monaco GP qualifying considering the nature of the circuit not allowing for overtakes in the races. It went down to the wire and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen triumphed on the last lap by 0.084s over Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.
The Dutchman gained it all in the final sector after hitting the barriers en-route his first F1 pole in Monaco. His teammate was left with a tough pill to swallow after Q1 crash that ended his chances to progress and a tough Sunday race in prospect.
That allowed Alonso to pounce on the opportunity, even though his teammate Lance Stroll got knocked out in Q2. The Ferrari brigade were so-so with Charles Leclerc in third, but a penalty drops him to sixth after he impeded McLaren’s Lando Norris.
That has helped Carlos Sainz to be fourth but Alpine is ahead of them with Esteban Ocon producing a superb lap to now be third on the grid. The F1 team came alive especially Ocon, with teammate Pierre Gasly in seventh beating one Mercedes.
With the updates on their car, they seemingly had scrappy run all-through especially for Lewis Hamilton who just made it in Q2 and Q3. But he did a bit better in Q3 to be fifth now, as George Russell dipped pace to be only eighth in the order.
Verstappen: “I’m just happy to get my first pole here. You know, it’s always super hectic. And finally, you know, we also had just clean running in Q3 as well, so that was nice for everyone to just push to the limit. And yeah, I mean, the whole qualifying went pretty well. I struggled a bit to put it in the first lap, with warm-up, with the tyres, and just putting it all together, all the sectors. But I knew that the last lap I had to do it, because they improved. And I also knew going into the last sector I was down on them. So I had to push flat out in the last sector, risk everything to get back the lap time. And luckily, we did. I touched a few walls! Guard rails and walls. And yeah, I mean, I was always quite quick in the last sector but yeah, I definitely pushed a bit harder on the last lap. The race should be OK. It’s just about having a clean start. I mean, there’s always chaos involved in Monaco. But I think our race pace, in general the behaviour of the car on the tyres is fine. But it was all about just putting that together over one lap, which I knew was going to be a little bit harder for us here in Monaco, just with how our car is, the characteristics of it. But still to be first here is great for the whole team.”
Alonso: “You never know here in Monaco. As Max said now, you know, anything can happen. There are always couple of incidents, yellows, you know, red flags. So it’s better to put a lap on the board and just be at the front. So when they told me that we were P1, just Tsunoda and Max completing the laps, I knew that the possibility was there to be P2. But yeah, I think even if it feels very close, the proposition, we have to be happy. I think we came here with some concerns about our performance on Saturdays. We seem very good on Sundays and taking care of the tyres – degradation is very good on our car. But we struggle a little bit on the street circuits to put the temperature and to hit the lap in Q3. And we’re starting in the first row of the grid in Monaco, so I think it’s job done today. I think both laps in Q3, we were increasing the level of risk into uncomfortable level, let’s say. And I think both laps in Q3 were… yeah… a little bit over the limit sometimes but everything went fine. Last sector seems our weakest part of the circuit.
“Already in FP3, we were I think eighth quickest team in the last sector, so there is something going on there that we need to analyse a little bit, maybe going into Singapore or wherever is then the next opportunity we have. The start has been very good for us this year, it’s true. And Max maybe has been a little bit inconsistent sometimes. When he’s good, it’s as good as we are and sometimes a little bit worse. The thing is that the distance to Turn 1 I think is too short, for whatever start performance you have, and it’s too narrow, I think, to try. Let’s see tomorrow how it goes but it is maybe not in my head at the moment, that it’s that opportunity or nothing. I think it’s, as I said, a long race that we will focus on it. And the rain? I think it will not help, to be honest. I prefer a dry race. We have a better chance to secure big points from a dry race and on a chaotic, rainy day it will only help the people out of position and I think we are in position at the moment.”
Leclerc: “Disappointed with third but at the same time, I think I need to look at the weekend as a whole. I’ve been struggling with the car like crazy. We’ve had a lot of problems with bottoming, especially over the hill to Turn 3 and Turn 13 also. In Qualifying, it was the same but with the new tyres, you can extract a bit more and I managed to put everything I wanted in one lap. Wasn’t enough for the pole, but anyway, I think that was the maximum we could do today. As for my issues, I think it’s on bumps especially. If we look at the on-boards of the different cars, check my head and it’s crazy. It’s going from left to right, especially on top of the hill, Turn 3 and Turn 13. It’s very, very tricky. Last year, it was much better and much easier to see the road. So the car will absorb much more the bumps and that was much easier to be consistent. So yeah, that is the biggest difference. It’s not the track where you can overtake and even if we could overtake, I think that in terms of race pace, we are a little bit behind. But let’s see, I mean the forecast, I haven’t seen the forecast recently, last time I checked it, there was some rain around. So, if this is the case, then there will be a little bit of luck into play too. And hopefully we can take the right choices and make up some positions.”
Perez: “It was going well, I was happy with the balance, but going into the corner, I just lost the rear end quite late into the corner, and then I became a passenger because it was so late that I had nowhere to go – I could not cut the corner or go out of the corner and I ended up touching the wall, which is a big mistake from my side, and I’m very sorry for my team. This mistake is just very difficult to digest. I don’t know what to say – just sorry for my team, they don’t deserve this… I’m really disappointed with myself and it’s going to be a very difficult day tomorrow to do anything.”
Hamilton: “It was so tough. This car is a son of a gun. I was pushing so hard to get… ultimately overdriving. And when you are overdriving, it is the worst place to be because the car doesn’t do what you want. But if I underdrive or I drive the car to its limit we might not get the car into the top-10. So, just living on that edge of just being over the limit the whole time, so I’m touching the barriers. And also, I had to make some changes to try and make up the middle sector because the middle sector was our biggest loss. Picked up the middle sector but the first and last were worst. Ultimately, I think our aero balance needs working on, but the upgrades were good this weekend, so I’m grateful for those. Definitely. Definitely an improvement. Next week I think we will get a better feel for the actual aero improvement, and we have some things in the pipeline moving forwards. But there are still fundamental shifts that we need to do for the future. Really grateful for all the hard work and I’m glad I didn’t damage the rear of the car, which is all the new parts, when I crashed and hit the wall.”
Ocon: “It’s a huge amount of work to get to that moment. Very pleased to have built the weekend the way we did. We had a tricky car to drive in Q1, but we knew the track was going to improve, we knew the car was going to get better. And finally, to let it all go in the last lap, it felt great. I had a very big shunt with the wall in that lap, but it made me gain some time, so happy days, the car was solid enough, we made it round. Let me digest what happened today. The team also need to digest it. They are going to be happy with having an early curfew tonight. Hopefully the car is not too bent. But it’s a hell of a moment for everyone. Pleased already that we are fourth, let’s see what we can do tomorrow. A good start and hopefully some fighting in front. It proves the hard work. It proves that we don’t give up, and it proves that around here where it is a tough circuit again where you have to hustle the car I can be there also, so I’m happy.”
The rest of the Top 10 had AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Norris, where the Japanese driver did a fine job to drag his F1 car in the top half. In fact, teammate Nyck de Vries had a sound outing in Q2 too dragging himself out of the dreaded Q1.
Despite the Q2 finish, both Williams’ Alexander Albon and Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas felt there was more to be found after pace shown in practice. Both their teammates Logan Sargeant and Zhou Guanyu were knocked out in Q1 along with the Haas pair.
Both Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen rued the strategy they took which cost them a place in Q2. They were not helped by McLaren’s Oscar Piastri’s improvement too, who found good pace to get out of Q1 after not looking likely in practice.
Tsunoda: “A big congratulations to the team. We struggled a lot yesterday during both practice sessions but made a big step forward overnight. I felt a positive change in FP3 straight away and we were able to find extra performance on top of it for qualifying. The massive work done by the mechanics and engineers showed; I felt confident immediately, especially during the last run in Q1. From then on, I enjoyed it a lot. It was my first Q3 appearance in Monaco and it was definitely special. I am happy with my performance, which allows us to start the race in the points position, so I will give it my all and extract everything possible to be able to score points tomorrow.”
Norris: “Disappointing qualifying for two reasons. One through my own fault, hitting the wall, I messed up on my side. The mechanics did a mega job to put everything back together, so a big thank you to them. Unfortunately, we then just got blocked completely in my fastest lap in Q3, which wasn’t our fault. It was a bit up and down, and sadly not the result we wanted. We probably wouldn’t have achieved a lot more, but maybe a P8 was possible, which around Monaco means a lot. Frustrating, but we did many things well, so we’ll hang on and try to get some good points tomorrow.”
Albon: “It was a good day today; we were on the back foot all weekend but, with this track, we knew it was going to be difficult and the weaknesses in our car were going to be challenging around this circuit. We made a lot of changes from FP3 to qualifying and they worked, so that’s always a positive thing. These changes made the car much more drivable for qualifying but we did use three sets of tyres in Q1 to get through. I was happy with my lap but I lost too much time in the traffic whilst the tyres warmed up so, despite this, I feel like our car was better than the results today. Let’s hope for some rain tomorrow.”
Bottas: “We looked capable to get into Q3, and with a clean lap we could have been in the top ten, but I found traffic in the final sector on my last run and that cost us dearly. I lost a couple of tenths, probably, and this was enough to knock us out and put us 15th – with these tight margins, we can’t afford to lose that much. Overtaking won’t be easy tomorrow, and it can be a long day at the back, but we will try our best. We can also take some positives: we did better this weekend, until qualifying; the car feels improved so we can hopefully build on this for the future.”
Hulkenberg: “A disappointing qualifying as we all know how important it is in Monaco. We had the option of two runs after the red flag which would mean using three sets of new tyres or, as planned, two runs of fast- slow-fast. We opted for the latter thinking that would’ve been enough. Other people went out immediately after the restart of the session and stayed out, but for us the tyre is really only the best in the first lap. I also thought we were a bit faster than it turned out in the end and we would be into Q2, but ultimately, we were missing pace.”
Here’s how F1 Monaco GP qualifying panned out