Monaco qualy: Leclerc on pole as Perez, Sainz crash out

Jon Wilde
Charles Leclerc on Monaco GP qualifying day. Monte Carlo May 2022.

Charles Leclerc won Monaco Grand Prix qualifying for the second consecutive year – this time helped by crashes from his rivals rather than one of his own.

Twelve months ago, the Ferrari driver claimed a surprise pole position and then hit the barrier at the Swimming Pool section to terminate the session. The damage to the car meant he could not start the race.

This time, it was his two closest rivals throughout the season’s most important qualifying Saturday, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz, who crashed out at the end of Q3 to ensure the home racer will start at the front.

Now he has a perfect chance to end his dismal record on the streets of Monte Carlo where he grew up – six previous F1 and F2 entries and zero finishes so far.

The build-up to qualifying was relatively smooth for the teams after an uneventful FP3, the exception being at Aston Martin where they were still beavering away just a few minutes before the start after Lance Stroll‘s brush with the wall.

But the Canadian driver made it out no later than some of his rivals and on a track that was 10 degrees cooler than in the earlier practice session, with clouds rolling in, a struggling George Russell complained of a lack of grip on his initial flying lap.

The circuit was ramping up, however, with some surprise names near the top of the standings early on – and also further down, with Leclerc audibly concerned as he found himself 1.6sec off the pace entering the final 10 minutes of Q1. Alarm bells were quickly silenced on his next run though, as the local hero soared to P1.

Hamilton also succeeded in pulling out a flyer to ease any worries and as most drivers were in the process of improving their times and chances of reaching Q2, out came the red flags with just under two-and-a-half minutes remaining. Yuki Tsunoda had sustained a puncture at the Nouvelle chicane, but there was nothing too untoward and the stoppage appeared unnecessary.

One last dash was possible upon the resumption, but it was more of a crawl out of the pit lane – a bit like exiting a supermarket car park on a busy Saturday – and it proved to be the downfall of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, Williams duo Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi, and Stroll.

For Gasly, it was particularly galling – he had shown strong pace all weekend, it was his team-mate, Tsunoda, who had inadvertently caused the red flag and he also missed getting round for a last hot lap by milliseconds.

In Q2, Lewis Hamilton reported his “rears were too hot”, but the leading contenders were all looking good to reach the top-10 shootout with Ferrari and Red Bull predictably at the head of affairs as the session entered its decisive stages.

There was an anxious moment for Leclerc when he erroneously passed the weighbridge having been called to it, pushed back by his mechanics before reaching the pit box, but at P1 there was greater stress for those further down the order.

The fall guys were Haas duo Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and Tsunoda.

Two Ferraris, two Red Bulls, two Mercedes, two Alpines, a McLaren and an Aston Martin therefore went through to Q3, with Sebastian Vettel giving a couple of yelps of delight as he produced a barnstorming last lap to dump out Tsunoda.

It looked a potential four-way battle for pole and on the first runs, Leclerc had nearly a quarter of a second to spare over Sainz, with Perez and Verstappen close up in third and fourth for Red Bull.

Leclerc looked like going quicker on his final try but his efforts – and those of everyone else – were thwarted by a crash at Portier. Perez spun and hit the barrier and a distracted Sainz followed suit and went into him, with Verstappen having to stop as the road was blocked.

There was also a separate incident as Fernando Alonso’s Alpine hit the wall, with the race grid subject to change if any repairs are needed to the stricken cars – on a day when the weather forecast suggests there could be rain.

Times

1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:11.376
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.225
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull +0.253
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull +0.290
5 Lando Norris McLaren +0.473
6 George Russell Mercedes +0.736
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine +0.871
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +1.184
9 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +1.356
10 Esteban Ocon Alpine +1.671
11 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:12.797
12 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:12.909
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:12.921
14 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:12.964
15 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:13.081
16 Alex Albon Williams 1:13.611
17 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:13.660
18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:13.678
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:14.403
20 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:15.606