Max Verstappen was breathless after taking pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix, after a sublime final lap saw him hit the wall….
Verstappen clinched his first Monaco Grand Prix pole position after a tense stand-off between several drivers that saw them trading times at the very front.
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was the first to topple Verstappen from top spot, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc briefly raising the hopes of the home fans as he beat Ocon’s time.
Fernando Alonso then put in a stunning lap to take provisional pole position with the Aston Martin driver going purple in the first two sectors, leaving it all to do for Verstappen as the Dutch driver failed to match Alonso’s times through the same two sectors.
But it was Verstappen’s final sector that proved decisive, with the two-time World Champion going three-tenths of a second quicker than the Spaniard to go from two-tenths down to a tenth up at the chequered flag.
Max Verstappen: I hit the wall quite hard!
It was knife-edge stuff, with Verstappen getting on the team radio as the enormity of his achievement sank in.
“Oh my god, I hit the wall two times!” he laughed, the adrenaline obvious in his voice.
“We needed to pull that one out of the bag, but simply lovely. I hit the wall quite hard coming onto the straight.”
Verstappen was fortunate neither of his wall strikes resulted in the same outcome as that of teammate Sergio Perez, with the Mexican driver losing control of his RB19 early in Q1 and ending up striking the barriers hard at Ste. Devote.
He brought out the red flags, eliminated on the spot, and will start from 20th as Red Bull boss Christian Horner hinted that a chassis change might be the outcome of the incident.
But Verstappen had thrown caution to the wind with his final qualifying run, explaining that he knew he had been down on Alonso through the first two-thirds of the lap.
“I’m very happy. We knew this was gonna be a little bit of a struggle for us this weekend to get everything together,” he said.
“Yesterday, it wasn’t the best start but I think we kept on improving and kept on being better.
“But then in qualifying, you know you need to go all out and risk it all. My first sector wasn’t ideal and my final lap I think Turn 1 was a bit cautious, but then I knew that I was behind.
“So in the last sector, I just gave it everything I had, clipped a few barriers, but of course, I’m very happy to be on pole here for the first time.
“We need a clean start. It’s a short run to Turn 1. Monaco, a lot of things can happen – Safety Car, rain, you name it. So it’s a bit of chaos involved, but I think race pace-wise, the car is quick – that is not the problem but we just need to keep it clean and calm.”