Martin Brundle has hailed Max Verstappen’s “outrageous” Monaco qualifying lap that earned him pole position.
Saturday’s session was one of the most entertaining qualifying shootouts in years as drivers fought for pole at the one track where it means the most. The likes of Esteban Ocon topped the timesheets at one point but, with Sergio Perez crashing out in Q1, it ultimately came down to two drivers – Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen.
Alonso drew first blood with a time of 1:11.449 and when Verstappen was 0.204 seconds behind after the second sector, it looked as if the Aston Martin man would take it.
But then Verstappen produced one of the best moments of his career to claw back Alonso’s advantage and then go on to beat the 41-year-old and take what ultimately proved to be a decisive pole.
Brundle, who was commentating on the session, said Verstappen’s final lap was “simply electric.”
“Qualifying was simply sensational and a true test for both the 25-year-old reigning world champion Verstappen and the 41-year-old Fernando Alonso,” he wrote in his Sky Sports column. “Aston Martin fancied their chances of spoiling Red Bull’s winning streak around Monaco and Alonso was giving it everything.
“As were Charles Leclerc for Ferrari and Esteban Ocon for Alpine on the second row of the grid. In many ways, Ocon’s qualifying lap was every bit as impressive as Verstappen’s and Alonso’s and he would end up starting and indeed finishing third.
“This was because Leclerc and his Ferrari engineer were busy discussing lap times and positions when he cruised into the tunnel and he hadn’t been warned about Lando Norris arriving behind him on a hot lap. A three-place grid drop for impeding was inevitable and perhaps even lenient, you can’t cruise through the Monaco tunnel on the racing line.
“Verstappen’s final lap to take pole position was simply electric. Alonso and the Aston Martin were plain faster all weekend through a handful of corners and he had to throw caution to the wind and just send the Red Bull, skimming walls and barriers along the way. His final sector of that lap was outrageous and that qualifying hour will be referred to for some time to come in F1 circles.”
The race was decided when Alonso pitted for a fresh set of mediums instead of the intermediates and Brundle noted that if someone was at fault, Alonso would not have hesitated to point the finger.
“Verstappen had Alonso covered in terms of pace but the Spaniard kept his Aston Martin close enough through the traffic to compromise Red Bull’s decisions on strategy.
“And the threat of light rain before the end of the race had become more real meaning stretching out the opening stint. Both Verstappen and Alonso were masters at keeping up the pace while managing worn-out tyres and not planting the car in the barrier.
“Then the rain came at a couple of corners on the far side of the circuit and Alonso pitted, to the surprise of some and the relief of Red Bull, for fresh dry tyres.
“Speaking with both teams and hearing Alonso after the race it is unlikely he would have won had he gone straight to intermediates tyres, for which he had to pit just a lap later at the same time as Verstappen, but it would have given Red Bull a major fright and he would have been so close for track position in the lead.
“I know that Alonso said to his team afterwards that given the same circumstances, they would and should make the same decision because during his lap to the pits, the track was largely dry apart from a couple of slippery corners. And Fernando doesn’t usually hold back if he thinks somebody has screwed up, especially for a Monaco victory.”