The accident might have damaged the Ferrari’s gearbox, and changing it would cause the Monegasque to lose the pole position
By Yuri Coghe
The sight of Charles Leclerc crashed into the wall late in the Monaco qualifying session also meant he had just set the pole position.
The Ferrari driver was leading the timesheet in the last few seconds when he lost control of the car in the final few corners and smashed the barriers when trying to improve his 1.10s346 lap time. Max Verstappen, second, and Valtteri Bottas, third, were still contending for the first place but had to abort their fast laps due to the accident.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton struggled in the qualifying and will only start in P7 on Sunday. The Briton showed concern over his starting position in the post-qualifying interview noting how hard it is to overtake in Monaco especially with this season’s tight pecking order.
Leclerc’s accident caused a red flag and ended the session as there was not enough time remaining for drivers to have another go if the qualifying was to be restarted. There’s a chance the crash will make Ferrari need to replace the gearbox of his car. If that happens, Leclerc will be handed a five-place penalty, therefore losing the pole position.
“It’s a shame to finish in the wall, it doesn’t feel the same,” said Leclerc, who also led the Q2 and came only behind Bottas in the Q1, after the session. “But at the same time, I’m incredibly happy about my lap.” Asked if he was worried about a possible gearbox penalty, he simply answered “I am, but let’s see.”
UPDATE: Autosport journalist Luke Smith reported that no serious damage has been found by Ferrari on Leclerc’s gearbox. A final decision as to whether the team will replace any parts that would trigger a grid penalty is expected on Sunday morning.
If the honour stands, Leclerc’s first home pole will be his eighth career one. He had never qualified in the top 10 in his three previous tries in Monaco. His and Ferrari’s last pole position came at the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix.
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“It was all going really well (but) the red flag ruined the chance for pole,” said Verstappen. “Nevertheless, I think, so far, it’s a good weekend. We’ve recovered well from Thursday.”
“It’s disappointing I didn’t get my last run with the red flag, that’s how it is sometimes,” said Bottas. “We’ll try everything we can tomorrow. It’s Monaco. Anything can happen.”
Carlos Sainz Jr. took the other Ferrari to fourth in the grid, confirming the great pace the team has shown the whole weekend. Like Verstappen and Bottas, he also felt like he could have been on pole.
“Frustration is the word,” Sainz tweeted. “I had the pace to put the car up there. Prep lap was compromised with traffic and then the red flag. Not many chances to be P1 in Monaco, so very disappointing. Well done to the team for a strong car. We’ll play our cards tomorrow.”
The Spaniard is followed by Lando Norris, fresh of signing a new contract with McLaren, and Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman’s teammate, rookie Yuki Tsunoda, however, was knocked out in Q1. The Japanese driver has been outqualified by Gasly in every race so far.
Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez was one of the most affected by Leclerc’s crash, having to stay with his first attempt lap time when he encountered traffic in the final sector. He’ll start the Sunday race in P9.
Sebastian Vettel, eighth, and Antonio Giovinazzi, tenth, made it to the Q3 for the first time in the season. Their Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo teammates Lance Stroll and Kimi Raikkonen will start in P13 and P14, respectively, right behind Esteban Ocon, eleventh, and Daniel Ricciardo, twelfth.
Mick Schumacher didn’t participate in the qualifying session after his FP3 accident and will start the race last, right after his teammate Nikita Mazepin. Nicholas Latifi, who also crashed in the early free practice session but sustained less damage and was able to take part in the qualifying, finished P18, one position behind Fernando Alonso and three behind teammate George Russell.
The Monaco Grand Prix is set for 9 AM EST on Sunday.
See the full Monaco qualifying classification below: