Formula 1: Max Verstappen pips Fernando Alonso to Monaco pole

Max Verstappen denied Fernando Alonso his first pole position in 11 years, and will fancy his chances of a fourth victory this season in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix. Charles Leclerc starts sixth after receiving a three-place grid penalty.

This was the first ‘normal’ Monaco Grand Prix since 2019. Whilst the grandstands of Monte-Carlo were packed last year, the additional elements that make the event so special returned, notably the fan zone in Place d’Armes.

Saturday is oftentimes more special than Sunday in Monaco. Nowhere else is qualifying so crucial. Sergio Perez won’t want to be reminded of that fact. Last year’s winner took too much speed in Sainte-Dévote and suffered a hefty collision that saw him retire from the session.

“Over the limit” Alonso cruelly denied sentimental pole

The Mexican driver will start from the back of the grid, and with overtaking so difficult around the tight streets of the Principality, scoring points will be a tough ask, even for a car as superior as the Red Bull.

On a track such as Monaco, the speed of the Red Bull is mitigated. The Ferrari and Aston Martin looked primed to profit. Leclerc didn’t show formidable pace in the free practice sessions, but he knows the streets better than anyone.

He understands the risks that need to be taken to take pole; he pushes the car to the limit, and sometimes beyond it. The Monégasque is no stranger to the barriers here.

A massive cheer reverberated around the streets of Monte-Carlo as Leclerc took provisional pole deep in Q3, but his time was so narrowly bettered by Alonso, who was dreaming of his first pole since the German Grand Prix in 2012. Post-session, he said he took an “uncomfortable” amount of risk, admitting that at times across the two laps, he went “a little bit over the limit.”

However, there was to be no dream pole for the Spaniard, as Verstappen then pipped his time at the death by just 0.084 seconds. He therefore starts second. With overtaking so difficult, Red Bull will fancy their chances of continuing their unbeaten start to the season on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Leclerc’s miserable season continues after he was handed a three-place grid penalty for impeding McLaren’s Lando Norris. Esteban Ocon is bumped up to third, and Leclerc now faces a tall order to claw his way back onto the podium at this home Grand Prix.


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Photo by ACM / Magoni / Caenen