Charles Leclerc took pole position for his home race at the Monaco Grand Prix, despite crashing on his final attempt and causing a red flag.
The Monegasque driver delivered an excellent first lap in Q3 with his Ferrari, posting a 1m10.346s to sit 0.230s clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Both Verstappen and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in third place were improving on their final attempts but as Leclerc looked for even more time, he clipped the inside barrier at the second part of the Swimming Pool and broke his steering arm, pitching him straight into the wall on the exit.
Not your everyday pole position moment 🤯#MonacoGP 🇲🇨 #F1 pic.twitter.com/yyYPjn7Nwn
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 22, 2021
The incident brought out the red flags with 18 seconds remaining in the session, meaning it did not restart and Leclerc secured his first pole position since the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix.
There’s a caveat to the result, however, with Leclerc left hoping there is no gearbox damage as a change would leave him facing a five-place grid penalty. Similarly, if any of the damaged components can’t be replaced by identical items, he will have to start from the pit lane.
Verstappen will provisionally start from second and Bottas third ahead of the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz and the McLaren of Lando Norris, with all four drivers covered by just 0.044s as six different drivers legitimately entered Q3 with at least an outside shot of pole position. Lewis Hamilton was one of those but the Mercedes driver ended up seventh behind AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and could see Verstappen take a big chunk out of his championship lead on Sunday.
Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi rounded out the top 10, with Perez making a scruffy final Q3 attempt that was hurt further by traffic in the final sector.
There were a few surprise casualties in Q2, as Alpine’s Esteban Ocon — who has been so quick in qualifying in recent races — missed out by just 0.077s, edged by the very impressive Giovinazzi. Perhaps a bigger surprise was Daniel Ricciardo dropping out as his relative struggles at McLaren continue, given the 2017 winner’s impressive record around Monaco.
Lance Stroll — who tapped the wall exiting the second part of Mirabeau earlier in the session — was 13th quickest in the second Aston ahead of Alfa’s Kimi Raikkonen and the Williams of George Russell, as seven different teams advanced into Q3.
There were only 19 cars competing in the first part of the session after Mick Schumacher’s heavy crash at the end of FP3 ruled him out, and predictably it was Nikita Mazepin who was slowest to ensure Haas will once again make up the back row. The Russian had enjoyed a clean and competitive weekend until qualifying started, but was then 0.9s away from a spot in Q2.
All four Monaco rookies were eliminated in Q1, with Williams driver Nicholas Latifi — who debuted in F1 last year when there was no race in Monaco — next up in 18th, and Yuki Tsunoda just 0.018s away from advancing in P16 with the second AlphaTauri. But the surprise of the session was between them, as two-time winner Fernando Alonso dropped out in 17th, half a second slower than Alpine teammate Ocon.