With no team-mate to challenge him, Daniel Ricciardo emphatically claimed his second career pole position ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton on the streets of Monaco.
Both of Ricciardo’s pole positions have come at the Principality and, due to the pace shown by Red Bull this weekend, he’s well-placed to become a Monaco Grand Prix winner, an accolade that eluded him through no fault of his own just two years ago.
With Red Bull the firm favourites to secure their first pole position of the season, Ricciardo’s task was made easier by Verstappen’s inability to compete in the qualifying session. A crash in free practice three ruled his car out of qualifying, and the Dutchman will start the race from the back of the grid.
This opened the door for either Mercedes or Ferrari to place a car on the front row of the grid, and the opportunity was seized by Vettel with his final lap of qualifying.
Hamilton will start the race in third ahead of the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Qualifying Session One
The biggest shock of the session effectively happened before qualifying had even started; Max Verstappen crashed out of the final free practice session and the team were unable to repair the car in time for the first part of qualifying, meaning Verstappen will start from the back of the grid at possibly Red Bull’s strongest circuit of the year.
In the final ten minutes of FP3, Verstappen made an error in the second part of the swimming pool section, clipping his right-front wheel against the inside of the second chicane to send his car careering into the barrier on the exit.
The Dutchman’s car also required a gearbox change, earning him a five-place grid penalty and meaning that, even before qualifying, he would’ve started no better than sixth.
“I got caught a bit off-guard, but that’s not an excuse, and I hit the wall,” said Verstappen after qualifying.
“This is my mistake, so it’s not what you’d like to happen, but unfortunately it happens.”
Due to the low tyre degradation at Monaco, a busy Q1 session saw drivers complete multiple flying laps on a given set of tyres, therefore each runner had plenty of attempts to set their best time.
Perhaps the next surprise from Q1 was that Brendon Hartley wasn’t able to convert the early Toro Rosso pace into a better qualifying result. He finished the qualifying hour in sixteenth place, ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, Williams’ Lance Stroll and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, who continued to struggle for one-lap pace this weekend.
Qualifying Session Two
In a bid to find some way of overcoming the pace of the Red Bulls and the Ferraris this weekend, Mercedes initially attempted to progress to Q3 on the ultrasoft tyres.
Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were the only drivers to try this, but with neither of them able to set a time good enough for the top ten, they aborted the idea and made a switch to the hypersofts in order to secure a place in Q3.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg missed out on Q3 by just one tenth of a second to line up eleventh, ahead of McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin.
Local driver Charles Leclerc qualified in fourteenth place for his first Formula One home race, whilst Romain Grosjean was unable to alter Haas’ sub-par weekend by qualifying in fifteenth, although he will start three places further back due to his penalty for the Spanish Grand Prix opening lap crash.
Qualifying Session Three
Such was the advantage Ricciardo had over his rivals, both of his Q3 laps were good enough for pole position. His opening flying lap of 1:10.810 was the first sub-1:10 lap of the weekend and a new track record at the Circuit de Monte-Carlo.
Hamilton initially held second place, with himself and the two Ferraris separated by just five thousandths of a second, but Vettel’s second flying lap put the Ferrari on the front row.
No further improvements from Raikkonen and Bottas ensured Hamilton kept hold of third place.
Following a relatively quiet start to the weekend for the Force India team, Esteban Ocon qualified at the front of the midfield, ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, Renault’s Carlos Sainz, team-mate Sergio Perez and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, with just two tenths of a second between sixth and tenth.
MONACO GRAND PRIX, Qualifying
1 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m10.810s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m11.039s 0.229s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m11.232s 0.422s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m11.266s 0.456s
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m11.441s 0.631s
6 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1m12.061s 1.251s
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault 1m12.110s 1.300s
8 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m12.130s 1.320s
9 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m12.154s 1.344s
10 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1m12.221s 1.411s
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m12.411s 1.601s
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 1m12.440s 1.630s
13 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 1m12.521s 1.711s
14 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 1m12.714s 1.904s
15 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m12.728s 1.918s
16 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 1m13.179s 2.369s
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m13.265s 2.455s
18 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 1m13.323s 2.513s
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1m13.393s 2.583s
20 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault No Time
All images: Motorsport Images
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