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Verstappen storms to Monaco pole


While Max Verstappen has topped two of the three practice sessions it would be premature to assume he is destined to claim either pole of the win tomorrow - and we are not saying that it a 'stay tuned, there's bound to be some excitement' Sky Sports way.

First off the disruptions this morning meant we never got to see the like of Fernando Alonso on a full qualifying sim run, while, having gone quickest in the opening sector, Lewis Hamilton subsequently crashed.

And then there's the fact that Sergio Perez has been very much on his teammate's pace all weekend.

Yes, Verstappen must be favourite, but it is no forgone conclusion, and other than Perez the Dutchman will also have Alonso and the Ferrari pair to contend with.

Few drivers have had a trouble-free weekend thus far, with George Russell unhappy with his inability to turn his tyres on, while earlier Charles Leclerc pronounced his car undriveable.

Indeed, at several teams we have seen a vast difference between teammates, most notably at McLaren.

Add in traffic and those unforgiving barriers - which have welcomed a number of drivers thus far - and Monaco is living up to its fearsome reputation.

While the drivers will be frustrated at the red flag that followed Hamilton's crash in FP3, thereby ending any hopes of further qualifying sims, their technical directors and engineers will have been delighted with the insight gained in terms of the W14's floor as the car was hoisted high into the air allowing all and sundry to take vital pictures of the car's underside and share them on social media. Indeed, Aston Martin even thanked one photographer.

In Monaco we are very much in the lap of the Gods, so it is probably best to sit back and see how things unfold.

Ahead of Q1, the air temperature is 24 degrees C, while the track temperature is 50 degrees.

The lights go green and Albon leads the way, followed by Sargeant, de Vries, Tsunoda and Gasly.

The Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari drivers are among the early birds while the Aston Martins are the last to appear.

Adding to the conundrum, speaking earlier, James Vowles claimed that the softs are only good for one hot lap.

Albon posts a benchmark 15.237, but de Vries responds with a 15.167 and Ocon a 14.083.

Norris goes second with a 14.215, but Verstappen is already setting the timing screen alight.
No sooner has Russell gone third (14.331), than he is demoted by Verstappen (13.784) and Perez.

Leclerc goes third, while his Ferrari teammate can only manage 14th (15.006).

Stroll goes third but is instantly demoted by his teammate Alonso, who crosses the line at 13.884.

Gasly goes quickest in S2, subsequently crossing the line at 13.945 to go 4th.

Zhou posts a 13.776, but as Piastri and Norris go quicker, Perez has stopped at Ste Devote after losing the rear of the car and clouting the barriers, thereby bringing out the Red Flag. Replay suggests he was carrying far too much speed into the corner.

"I crashed," he tells his team. Christian Horner is already aware, and clearly isn't impressed.

Again, rival teams get a nice look at the underside of the RB19 as the Mexican's car is hoisted high into the air.

With 11:12 remaining, it's: Norris, Piastri, Zhou, Verstappen, Perez, Alonso, Stroll, Gasly, Bottas and Leclerc.

The drop zone comprises Hamilton, de Vries, Sargeant, Sainz and Albon, with Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Russell and Tsunoda hovering.

Albon heads the queue at the end of the pitlane ahead of the green light.

Told to swap positions with his teammate, Leclerc prefers to stay as is and let Sainz lead.

Albon goes quickest in S2, subsequently crossing the line at 13.327 to go quickest, which could be very bad news for Perez if other drivers make a similar improvement.

Russell goes second and Bottas fourth as a 13.038 sees Verstappen go top.

Alonso goes quickest with a 12.886 and Tsunoda third and de Vries fourth, as Perez slips down the order to 17th.

Ocon goes second and Gasly third, the times improving with every lap.

With 6:00 remaining the Haas pair are 19th and 20th and not yet on track.

Stroll goes eighth, ahead of Albon, Leclerc and Bottas.

Hamilton can only manage 12th, as Verstappen raises the bar with a 12.644.

As the drivers head back to the pits ahead of their final run, the Haas pair head out.

Stroll goes third with a 12.917, but is demoted when Leclerc posts a 12.912.

"Check the rear-left I touched the wall," reports Piastri.

Tsunoda goes quickest in S1 as the track continues to improve.

Magnussen goes eleventh, and Hulkenberg twelfth as Tsunoda crosses the line at 12.642 to go top.

Perez drops to 20th.

"Carlos come on," says Leclerc as he almost trips over his teammate who is heading into the pits.

Hamilton, currently 15th, misses the chicane and is rapidly running out of time.

"I did ride the wall but I think it's fine," says Verstappen.

Russell goes third, but is demoted by Stroll as Verstappen improves to 12.386.

Hamilton has slipped to 16th, while Albon goes third.

Sargeant goes 13th, and Sainz fourth, while somehow Hamilton manages to post a 12.872 to go seventh.

A late improvement sees Piastri go 12th.

Quickest is Verstappen, ahead of Tsunoda, Albon, Sainz, Stroll, Russell, Hamilton, Norris, Alonso and Leclerc.

We lose Sargeant, Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Zhou and Perez.

Ahead of Q2, Verstappen heads the queue at the end of the pitlane. As he heads out he is followed by Russell, Hamilton, Leclerc and Sainz.

Verstappen sets the benchmark at 12.038, while Russell can only manage 12.809 and Hamilton 12.815.

Leclerc goes second but is leapfrogged by his teammate, who in turn is leapfrogged by Alonso (12.222).

Gasly goes second and Ocon fourth, thereby sandwiching Alonso.

Last out are Tsunoda and Albon.

De Vries goes twelfth and Piastri eighth, just one place behind his McLaren teammate.

Albon can only manage twelfth as Hamilton goes ninth.

Alonso improves to second with a 12.107, just 0.069s off Verstappen's pace.

A big, big lock-up for Tsunoda.

Norris improves to seventh as Verstappen consolidates his top spot with an 11.908.

In the pitlane Stroll has missed the weighbridge.

Bottas improves to ninth with a 12.684.

Russell goes quickest in S1, while Sainz and Hamilton post PBs. He loses little pace in S2, finally crossing the line at 12.151 to go third. Sainz aborts his lap, while Hamilton can only manage tenth (12.438).

"Something wrong with my right side, right-rear suspension," reports Hamilton.

PBs in all three sectors - but no purples - see Leclerc go second with a 12.103, almost 0.2s off Verstappen's pace.

Tsunoda goes seventh, as Norris clouts the barriers at Tabac. He subsequently heads into the pits.

Replay suggests the clash was due to an already damaged suspension.

With just 4s remaining there is a queue at Rascasse as drivers look for a gap.

De Vries goes 11th, while Stroll has pitted, the Canadian in trouble it would seem fr missing the weighbridge earlier.

Hamilton goes fifth, while Piastri fails to improve on eleventh.

Quickest is Verstappen, ahead of Leclerc, Alonso, Russell, Hamilton, Gasly, Sainz, Ocon, Tsunoda and Norris.

We lose Piastri, de Vries, Albon, Stroll and Bottas.

"I had a really good car today, I think we did a good job to turn it around," says Albon.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Monaco here.


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1. Posted by kenji, 28/05/2023 2:44

"@ Chester... a trio of out and out racers who are uncomplicated."

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2. Posted by Chester, 27/05/2023 18:57

"The picture of Alonso, Leclerc and Verstappen is a welcome change. Long live this trio at the top!"

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