Charles Leclerc was a shock Q1 casualty in Monaco GP qualifying as the Ferrari driver endured a nightmare Saturday ahead of his home race.
Leclerc was left in the pits by Ferrari as other drivers went out and improved in the first part of qualifying while he fell out of the top 15 and into the elimination zone. The disaster means he is set to start Sunday’s race from 16th.
“It’s a very difficult one to take,” Leclerc told Sky F1. “I need some explanations.”
The Monegasque, who set the pace in the final practice session in Monte Carlo, was eventually eliminated by teammate Sebastian Vettel, who was also struggling in Q1 before posting a quick lap in the closing stages.
“I asked whether they were sure (to keep me in the pits), they told me, ‘We think we are’,” Leclerc, who also nearly missed the weighbridge, added. “I asked again… but there were no real answers.
“We had plenty of time to go out again. The weighbridge was not a problem. We still had the fuel to go again, just had to change tyres. None of this was a problem. I need some explanations.”
Analysing his chances in Sunday’s race, he continued: “I’ll have to take a lot of risks I think, even risking to crash. But we have to try and be extreme in our overtaking.”
Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto later admitted the Leclerc debacle was a misjudgement.
Leclerc’s exit left Vettel as Ferrari’s last hope, but the four-time world champion could only manage fourth on the grid.
“The front tyres for us didn’t work today,” said Vettel, who crashed out in final practice. “We need to dig deeper. It is what it is — we need to accept it even if we don’t want to.”
Leclerc’s disastrous day and Vettel failing to trial the top three continues a horror run for Ferrari, who have been unable to trial a top-two finish in any grand prix this year. The Scuderia are also nearly 100 points behind Mercedes in the constructors’ standings
HAMILTON STORMS TO POLE, GOOD NEWS FOR RICCIARDO
Lewis Hamilton snatched pole position off Valtteri Bottas in a typically frenetic Monaco GP qualifying, as Mercedes held Red Bull at bay while Ferrari struggled.
Bottas looked set for a first Monte Carlo pole before Hamilton stole top spot with a 1:10.166 on his final Q3 lap, finishing 0.086 seconds ahead of his teammate on one of the most crucial Saturdays of the season.
“He has absolutely magically pulled that pole position out of the bag,” said Sky Sports F1 pundit Martin Brundle about Hamilton, who was clearly emotional after his record-breaking lap around F1’s famous streets.
“That’s what I’m talking about!,” Hamilton yelled over team radio, before adding: “The lap was beautiful.”
The death during the week of F1 legend Niki Lauda — a close friend of Hamilton’s — rocked the Brit and added to the emotion of the occasion.
“This is definitely one of the best poles I can remember,” he said. “Obviously we’ve had lots of success over the years but I can’t really remember one that means as much as this one, seeing as it’s been such a difficult week for the whole team. And personally it’s been quite a difficult weekend.
“We’ve been really trying to hold each other up and deliver for Niki.”
Max Verstappen was third for Red Bull, almost half a second off the pace, while Sebastian Vettel, who crashed out in final practice, was 0.7 seconds back in fourth and scraped against the barrier on his last lap.
Pierre Gasly finished fifth for Red Bull but faces a meeting with stewards after appearing to block Haas’ Romain Grosjean in Q2.
He is poised to be joined on the third row by another Haas driver in Kevin Magnussen, while Daniel Ricciardo, last year’s winner, used his Monaco magic to qualify seventh in the Renault — matching his best qualifying result since joining the French outfit.
“I’m happy with the end result, especially with where we started on Thursday. We made some brave changes to the car even after P3, but that worked and going that extra mile has paid off,” Ricciardo said.
“The team made a strong recovery today and we can be pleased with that. We got into a good rhythm from Q1 all the way through to Q3, which is so important here as qualifying is so significant.”
Daniil Kvyat and Alex Albon were eighth and 10th for the impressive Toro Rosso, with Carlos Sainz ninth for McLaren.
Spanish GP Qualifying: Top 10
1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
3) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
4) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
5) Pierre Gasly, Red Bull
6) Kevin Magnussen, Haas
7) Daniel Ricciardo, Renault
8) Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso
9) Carlos Sainz, McLaren
10) Alex Albon, Toro Rosso