Charles Leclerc beat both Red Bull drivers to pole position for the second day in a row despite crashing out of the first-ever sprint shootout.
Leclerc again wielded his Ferrari’s formidable pace in the technical middle sector to set the fastest time in the new condensed qualifying session, but a snap of oversteer entering Turn 5 led to him sliding nose-first into the outside barrier, ending his session early.
Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen were presented with an open goal to snatch top spot, but neither was able to improve by enough to deprive the Monegasque of a second one-lap triumph in 24 hours.
“I tried to push a bit more to gain some lap time because I was behind my first best lap time, but I lost in Turn 5,” Leclerc said, explaining his crash.
“With the soft it was a little but tricky because you get in Q2 and we haven’t driven on these tires since yesterday.
“The conditions are very different, so it was behaving much differently.
“Very happy with the first lap, now we have to complement that in the race.”
But Leclerc again sounded cautious about his chances in the sprint later today.
“We’ll go for it, but we need to still be realistic,” he said. “Until now we have been on the back foot in the race. Red Bull seems to be a step ahead.”
Perez will start the sprint alongside him on the front row, his lap just 0.147s down on the Ferrari driver’s. Verstappen will start third after complaining again that he couldn’t get his tires into the right window, particularly for the middle sector, where his RB19 was seen sliding through Turns 5 and 6.
George Russell qualified fourth ahead of Carlos Sainz – ironically the Spaniard was the only driver behind teammate Leclerc when he crashed, costing him a chance to improve – with Lewis Hamilton and Alex Albon lining up sixth and seventh.
Aston Martin teammates Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll started sprint qualifying without DRS and attempted to slipstream each other up the grid, but to no avail, ending up 1.3s off the pace. Alonso will start eighth ahead of Stroll in ninth.
McLaren pair Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri will start the sprint 10th and 11th.
Norris was unable to participate in Q3 because he hadn’t saved a fresh set of the soft tires required under the shootout regulations, but he pipped Piastri for a top-10 berth by 0.032 regardless.
Haas drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen qualified 12th and 14th, sandwiching Alpine’s Esteban Ocon.
Logan Sargeant qualified 15th after a high-speed crash at Turn 15 at the end of SQ1. The American carried too much speed into the downhill left-hander and collected the barrier with his right-rear tire, ripping it from its suspension and breaking the rear wing.
The Williams rookie vented over radio that he’d been distract by Carlos Sainz ahead of him on the road, but no investigation was opened into the Ferrari driver, who was off the racing line.
The crash was bad news too for Valtteri Bottas and Yuki Tsunoda, who had both set personal-best first sectors and were looking good for Q2 berths when the red flag flew. With 25 seconds remaining in the segment, their hopes of progression were immediately dashed, leaving Bottas 17th behind teammate Zhou Guanyu and dumping Tsunoda out in 18th.
Pierre Gasly’s horror weekend continued following his fire and crash on Friday, with a suspected exhaust leak confining him to his garage after only three laps, leaving him 19th, while Nyck de Vries qualified 20th.