The Saturday in F1 Monaco GP saw Ferrari taking a surprise pole, while Lewis Hamilton was outside Top 5 and Fernando Alonso was knocked out in Q1.
Amid host of fans creating conspiracies, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took a surprise pole in F1 Monaco GP, before crashing out at Swimming Pool chicane, when he brushed the right-hander barrier and rammed into the exit barrier – a common crash zone.
That caused a red flag and ended the session, leaving no chance for the likes of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Mercedes duo of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton to improve. In fact, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was disappointed as well to be only fourth.
It cannot be said if Verstappen would have surely gotten pole but the Dutchman had a good chance, as he had a purple sector to start his flying lap. He still has some hope to start from pole, which will depend on if Leclerc requires a gearbox change.
For now, Ferrari are fine, but they will take a call on Sunday. “An initial inspection of the gearbox in Leclerc’s car has not revealed any serious damage. Further checks will be carried out tomorrow, to decide if the same gearbox can be used in the race,” it stated.
For Leclerc, it was a surprise certainly, to take pole, but the pace shown by Ferrari in Monaco F1 weekend, wasn’t a fluke. They showed it in Spain, as well, especially in the slow speed corners. The Monegasque, though, shunned any notion of ‘deliberate’ crashing.
“It is quite a big surprise,” said Leclerc, who hopes that he can start from pole. “Actually we were very competitive but again it’s quite different. They are very different tracks and maybe we were expecting Red Bull and Mercedes to have something more for here but apparently they didn’t and we were just very competitive from the start.
“So it was good but until quali we didn’t believe that we could fight for pole, so yeah it’s a surprise, even in quali. With regards to the crash, surely if I was doing it on purpose I would make sure to hit the wall a bit less hard but that wasn’t on purpose, obviously. I was pushing the limit and, for now, I’m just worried about the rear of the car.
“I hope it’s OK. It doesn’t look OK but let’s wait and see. On a city track like this, where we are pushing the limit, it happens to do a mistake. It’s a different story when it’s done on purpose but I think it’s pretty obvious. I basically took too much the inside on my fast lap. If you watch it, I think I touched the wall too but not as hard as on the second timed lap.
“I tried to go for a bit more on the second timed lap and I basically bounced it off. It was a misjudgement,” summed up Leclerc, who is wary of the pace of the car in the race, and believes, that it will be difficult to keep Red Bull and Mercedes behind for long. While he had some joy, his Ferrari F1 teammate, Sainz, wasn’t too happy.
Even though he was fourth, Sainz thought he had the chance of a pole. “I’m very disappointed to be honest,” he said. “It is a difficult thing to accept, to digest. It’s not like every day of your life you have the opportunity to put it on pole in Monaco because I definitely had the pace to do so, but due to the circumstances I didn’t.
“It’s a very frustrating day for me. Run one I lost two to three tenths in the last sector compared to my best lap so I knew a 1:10.2, 1:10.1 with the track evolution was there. I had a lot of traffic, Perez into turn 1, and I already lost a tenth, but then I was recovering the lap time and knew I had the lap time in the last sector, but it was out of 13 I saw the yellow flag and had to abort.
“I have had the pace to put it on pole, so yeah, I’m starting fourth, so not even close to that. I went in quali thinking a pole and the win would be possible and now I’m lining up fourth which is very far away from where I think I could have been,” summed up Sainz, who said starting from the dirty side, adds to his frustration, but reckons a F1 podium is possible even from fourth.
In between the two Ferrari F1 drivers, are Verstappen and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas. The Dutchman was quite angry on the radio, but calmed down in the press conference. He thought pole was certainly on and the recovery from Thursday was quite good for them.
“I think everyone back at the factory and here at the track, they did an amazing job to basically give me the car I wanted,” said Verstappen. “Because, we were quite far out on Thursday, which I didn’t expect, I really felt from the start, just with the characteristics of our car, really from the whole year, it should be quite good around here, but luckily we found it. We’ll see. I mean qualifying was a lot of fun.
“It’s always important to score a lot of points! But of course you need to be ahead of your main rivals as much as you can. So qualifying was good with regards to Mercedes – but of course we need to finish that off in the F1 race,” summed up Verstappen, whose teammate Perez was only ninth, after a disastrous run, where he encountered heavy traffic.
Bottas, meanwhile, was disappointed to be third. He felt a lot better from Thursday, but warming-up tyres was difficult and the balance wasn’t quite there for them. There was similar comments from Hamilton, who was only seventh – his worst of F1 2021.
Hamilton said the set-up changes from Thursday to Saturday went in the wrong direction and that the car only became more difficult to drive. “There were lots of changes that we did in the car after FP3, because FP3 was a disaster,” he said to written media. And that’s from the work that we’ve done in the last couple of days. It was completely the wrong direction, completely missed the ball.
“We then made some changes to try and take steps backwards and move the car to a different place, and the car was worse than ever. So I think we really lost our way from Thursday. We definitely struggle with tyre warm up, and I think this is magnified here being that it is obviously a low energy circuit,” he said.
“There are not really any high-speed areas, and then, it was much, much cooler. So it’s sort of got worse over the day or so. I’m not really sure how Valtteri is able to get his tyres working. I saw a glimpse of grip on that last lap, but it’s really short lived, so there’ll be a lot of analysis.
“Of course P7 isn’t a great place to start here, but I will have to do the best I can to help the damage limitation. But before that, there will be some tough discussions that we’re going to have with my engineers tonight, or maybe after the weekend. There’s things that should have been done, and haven’t been done. But we will learn from it and come together, stronger in the next race,” summed up Hamilton.
Amid all this, McLaren’s Lando Norris ended up fifth, to what he called one of the best laps he has ever chalked up – terming it as a ‘pole-like’ lap. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo was left clueless, though, after being knocked out in Q2. The Australian didn’t think the gap would be this much, despite not feeling too bad with his lap.
“I got asked before if it’s been frustrating, but I think more confusing because I’ve been a long way off the pace all weekend,” Ricciardo said. “We made like a bit of progress in qualifying but I think it’s quite easy to make progress when you’re obviously a second or so off, so it still wasn’t that rewarding if you know what I mean.
“We’ve just had the debrief, there’s a few things which add up or make sense, but I would say there’s still a little bit to understand. I don’t think the car felt particularly bad or off, it’s just when you see your dash or the lap times it’s like ‘Urgh, still a long way off’. So I understood a few things but there’s still a bit of digging to do I would say.”
While Ricciardo was frustrated, there was some joy for AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in sixth, Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel in eighth and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi in 10th. The Frenchman reckons that 90% of the job is done with the qualifying result and now it will be to finish in the F1 race and gather the much needed points.
For Vettel, it was a good finish from Thursday to Saturday with a Top 10 qualifying result. The German felt much confident with the car. He was a bit down due to red flag, as they couldn’t use the set of soft compound, they had saved just for the second run in Q3.
At the same time for Giovinazzi, it was his and Alfa Romeo’s first Top 10 in qualifying in F1 2021, especially on a track, where Saturday is hugely important. The Italian said, he felt comfortable all-through the weekend and that even a P8-P9 was possible.
“I am really happy about our first Q3 of the season,” said Giovinazzi. “We put it all together and finally got what we have been deserving for a while. We did everything right – the car felt great from the start of the weekend, the team sent us out at just the right time and we put the lap together when it mattered.
“I always said that to go through to the top 10, [something had to happen to the cars] at the front. But the car was really good since FP1, everything was there, and when the feeling is there in Monaco… it’s everything, it’s the key,” summed up Giovinazzi, as his teammate Kimi Raikkonen admitted that he wasn’t fast enough in Q2.
It was also lack of pace for Alpine, with Esteban Ocon only 11th, while teammate Fernando Alonso had a disaster after getting knocked out in Q1 itself in 17th “I think confidence was good, I was able to push the car and extract the maximum,” said Alonso. “It’s going to be messy in Q1 with traffic and things like that.
“That was not ideal but I don’t think that was the cause of being out of [Q1]. We didn’t have the pace. I think the whole weekend we’ve been struggling a little bit with the pace. We were expecting more from Monaco on our package and yes we didn’t deliver. The race is going to be difficult starting at the back, no doubt, but let’s see what we can do.”
Alonso has AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda with him, who lamented a weighbridge moment in Q1, which cost them the planned third lap. He got traffic on his second best lap, where he eventually couldn’t improve enough to get out of Q1, with Williams’ George Russell sailing into Q2 once again. Teammate Nicholas Latifi also felt much better.
While Nikita Mazepin showed some pace and confidence in F1 Monaco GP, teammate Mick Schumacher paid the price for being a bit too greedy after a crash in FP2 and also FP3 – the latter ruled him out of qualifying and has forced him to start from the back of the grid.
“Obviously it’s very unfortunate because I think we were on a pretty good roll,” said Schumacher to media including FormulaRapida.net. “We had a pretty good pace up to that point. We were quite confident in the car. And, obviously, maybe you could argue that I was a bit too confident, pushing quite hard, going to exploit the limits.
“In that corner it’s quite easy to make a mistake. Looking back at it, I think obviously I have to ask myself, was it worth it? And probably the answer would be no. It’s a massive amount that I’ve learnt going through all the free practice, going through all the procedures.
“I think at the end as well, you can say nothing’s lost because you’re going to a race like Monaco, which is a very special race because lots of things can happen. Errors are easily made here and that’s not only for me, but for everybody in the grid. So I know we’ll go into the race open-minded. We’ll have lots of strategies that we can play with and hopefully we’ll be in the mix and if not further ahead of some people,” summed up Schumacher.
Here’s how F1 Monaco GP qualifying panned out