Leclerc beats Piastri to take pole on home soil in Monaco

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc charged his way to pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix with a stunning qualifying display on home soil, getting the better of McLaren rival Oscar Piastri and Ferrari team mate Carlos Sainz in Saturday’s all-important grid-deciding session.

Leclerc avoided any slip-ups to safely make it through Q1 and Q2 before unleashing his full potential in Q3, where he provisionally posted a time of 1:10.418s and then bettered it with an electric 1m 10.270s – a target none of his rivals could beat.

Piastri got closest to put his McLaren a fine second, ahead of Sainz and team mate Lando Norris, while reigning world champion Max Verstappen had to settle for sixth after hitting the wall at Sainte Devote on his final qualifying lap.

It means the Dutchman’s run of successive pole positions comes to an end – having claimed the previous eight in a row and drawn level with Ayrton Senna in the all-time list – and leaves him with plenty of work to do on race day.

Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton will sandwich Verstappen on the grid in fifth and seventh respectively, as RB’s Yuki Tsunoda, Williams’s Alex Albon and Alpine’s Pierre Gasly all starred to reach Q3.

Esteban Ocon could not match the pace of team mate Gasly as he narrowly missed the Q2 cut en route to 11th in the second of the Alpine machines, while recent qualifying star Nico Hulkenberg had to settle for 12th after briefly leading the way in the early minutes of Q1.

Mirroring Ocon’s experience, Daniel Ricciardo could do no more than 13th and had to watch Tsunoda lead RB’s charge in the pole shootout, as Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and the other Haas of Kevin Magnussen completed the Q2 order.

Fernando Alonso was a high profile casualty in Q1.

A dramatic first qualifying phase, which brought several traffic-related incidents and plenty of squabbling for track position, claimed two big names in the form of Fernando Alonso and Perez, who will line up back in 16th and 18th respectively for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Logan Sargeant is set to start between the aforementioned Aston Martin and Red Bull drivers in his Williams, while Kick Sauber’s weekend at the back of the field continued with Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu ending qualifying as the slowest runners.

Q1

After three busy practice sessions in which home hero Leclerc marked himself out as the favourite for pole, it was time for arguably the most important qualifying hour of the season to begin, with clear skies and warm temperatures greeting the field.

With race-day track position vital around the tight and twisty streets of Monte Carlo, all drivers bar the Ferraris promptly headed out to get a provisional lap time on the board and attempt to secure safe passage from Q1 to Q2 – traffic being at its worst in the opening phase.

Once every driver had at least one flyer to their name, Hulkenberg held P1 from Haas team mate Magnussen on a 1:12.416s, followed by McLaren pair Norris and Piastri, the RB of Tsunoda, Verstappen’s Red Bull, Stroll’s Aston Martin and practice pace-setter Leclerc.

Times soon tumbled as drivers built up confidence and track conditions improved, though, bringing a 1:11.881s from Piastri during the second flurry of runs, as the stewards noted potential impeding incidents between Sainz and Albon and Ricciardo and Bottas.

Sergio Perez made a shock exit in Q1.

“This is the worst position… We are out of phase with everybody,” Leclerc lamented at this point, holding a lowly 12th after being one of the last to leave the pit lane, while Piastri continued to lead from Hamilton, Russell, Sainz, Verstappen, Gasly, Alonso, Ocon, Stroll and early pace-setter Hulkenberg.

The closing minutes brought one final sequence of laps on more soft tyres, with the out-of-sequence Leclerc kicking things off by going quickest via a 1:11.653s, before Russell brought the benchmark down to a 1:11.492s – only marginally slower than the best seen in FP3.

There was drama elsewhere as Norris and Perez – struggling to get clean laps in – slipped down the order and towards the drop zone, but while the McLaren driver pulled a time out of the bag after the chequered flag, the Red Bull man could not and he suffered a shock Q1 exit.

As the final laps came in, Russell remained fastest with his mid 1m 11s attempt from Piastri, Hamilton, Sainz and Leclerc, with Albon a high-flying sixth for Williams, Verstappen making it through in seventh and Gasly, Stroll and Norris rounding out the top 10 positions.

Ricciardo, Magnussen, Tsunoda and Hulkenberg all made it through in the RB and Haas machines, while Ocon squeezed his way into the second segment at the expense of former team mate Alonso, who was another surprise name to fall at the first qualifying hurdle.

Sargeant slotted between Alonso and Perez in the other Williams, with Bottas – following his FP3 crash – and Zhou – after his brush with the barriers on Friday – bringing up the rear on what has been a challenging weekend for the Kick Sauber team.

Knocked out: Alonso, Sargeant, Perez, Bottas, Zhou

Oscar Piastri pushed Leclerc to the limit.

Q2

After a short break, the qualifying action resumed and Verstappen caught the eye by producing the fastest time of the weekend so far, pumping in a 1m 11.196s at the start of Q2, only for Sainz to go even quicker just a few moments later on a 1m 11.177s.

Verstappen went for it again and posted a 1:11.019s next time around, putting him back in P1 from Sainz, an inspired Tsunoda and Ocon (despite the latter hitting some traffic), before Piastri (1:10.756s) and then Norris (1:10.732s) lit up the timing screens to form a McLaren one-two.

There was another exhilarating rush of times as the clock ticked down and the chequered flag came out, with Norris going from a near-miss in Q1 to topping Q2, as Verstappen went a mere 0.013s slower to split the McLarens, and Leclerc wound up fourth.

Gasly delivered a sublime final lap to put his Alpine up in fifth, ahead of Mercedes pair Russell and Hamilton and the other Ferrari of Sainz, as Tsunoda and Albon grabbed the final spots in the top 10 shootout – Ocon just missing out on joining his French team mate.

Haas could not build on their early Q1 pace and lost both cars at the Q2 phase, with Hulkenberg winding up 12th and Magnussen back in 15th, while the RB of Ricciardo and Aston Martin of Stroll were the other drivers to drop out of proceedings.

Knocked out: Ocon, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Stroll, Magnussen

Leclerc turned on the style to take a third Monaco pole in four years.

Q3

Hamilton was the first to make a move as the eagerly-anticipated Q3 phase arrived, setting the initial benchmark on a 1:10.975s, before Leclerc smashed that time with a 1:10.418s despite reporting over the radio that “something moved in the pedals”.

Piastri slotted into second, just 0.026s adrift of Leclerc, with Verstappen a couple of tenths back in third, Sainz holding fourth over Russell, Norris and Albon, and Hamilton falling from that provisional P1 all the way back to eighth from Gasly and Tsunoda.

During the final laps to the chequered flag, Leclerc turned the screw once more to lower the benchmark to a mighty 1:10.270s, ensuring that none of his rivals could take the top spot away from him and earning him a third pole on his home streets after 2021 and 2022.

Piastri beat the sister Ferrari of Sainz to P2, with Norris fourth, Russell fifth and Verstappen down in sixth amid continuing track-specific struggles – replays also showing him tapping the wall at the exit of Sainte Devote during his final lap.

Hamilton was seventh aboard the second of the Mercedes cars, slotting in front of a midfield squabble between Tsunoda, Albon and Gasly, who all did well to reach the final phase and see out the remainder of the qualifying session.

The 2024 Monaco Grand Prix is set to begin at 15:00 local time on Sunday (14:00 GMT). Can Leclerc end his Monaco hoodoo and take victory or will Piastri in a McLaren clad in the colours of Senna channel the spirit of the icon and master of Monaco?


Discover more from Marking The Spot

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

One thought on “Leclerc beats Piastri to take pole on home soil in Monaco

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *