Winners and losers from 2023 Monaco Grand Prix qualifying

Thomas Maher
Red Bull's Sergio Perez on track at the Monaco Grand Prix. Monte Carlo, May 2023.

Red Bull's Sergio Perez on track at the Monaco Grand Prix. Monte Carlo, May 2023.

A frantic qualifying hour in Monaco saw Red Bull’s Max Verstappen come out on top, with team-mate Sergio Perez bookending the field down in 20th.

Sergio Perez claimed his second pole position of the F1 2023 season in Miami, but there was to be no repeat in Monaco, where Perez will instead prop up the grid having crashed out in Q1 at Sainte Devote.

There will be a Red Bull on pole though, courtesy of Verstappen, while for Charles Leclerc the Monaco curse returned.

Here are our main winners and losers from qualifying…


Max Verstappen

Verstappen put in one of those simply astonishing qualifying efforts that only the elite class of F1 champions appear capable of pulling out when the chips are down.

All the signs pointed towards a Fernando Alonso pole as the Q3 session wrapped up, with Verstappen two-tenths of a second down after a slightly imperfect final run. But, with less than 20 seconds of track time left to work with, Verstappen turned a two-tenths deficit into a one-tenth advantage by going an astonishing three-tenths of a second quicker than anyone through the exit of the Swimming Pool, Rascasse, and Anthony Noghes.

It was one of those ‘pinch yourself’ moments of magic that we’ve seen from the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, and Ayrton Senna in the past, with Verstappen clinching his first Monaco pole in the most emphatic of circumstances after being denied his final attempts over the past two years.

Fernando Alonso

If Aston Martin had two Lance Strolls, would anyone think the AMR23 is a front-running car?

Thankfully, the team have got Fernando Alonso behind the wheel of one of their machines, and the Spaniard is underlining that his speed and single-mindedness hasn’t gone anywhere over the years.

Having already seen Ocon and Leclerc pop to the top, Alonso’s demolition of their times suggested the Aston Martin driver was going to take his first pole since Germany 2012 – it only took a monumental last-gasp moment of magic from Verstappen to topple him.

With Red Bull not as comfortable at Monaco as they are at other tracks, the prospect of Alonso haranguing Verstappen for the entire 78 laps on Sunday is mouth-watering. Don’t rule out Alonso from getting one over on the Dutch driver if the cards fall right.

Amusingly, Verstappen said in the Drivers’ press conference after qualifying that “he’ll think about it” when asked about whether he’d be willing to give Alonso the help needed to win the race – the Dutch driver admitting he’d love to see Alonso win a race once again.


The upgraded Alpine has quietly gotten on with things this weekend, with Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon consistently in the top 10 through practice and the early stages of qualifying.

While Gasly wasn’t quite able to mount a challenge for the very front, Ocon put in a stellar final qualifying run to snatch away provisional pole position and briefly set the expected leading drivers on edge.

While Ocon’s time would be topped, he’s set for a very strong third-place start – aided by Leclerc’s three place grid drop – his best time being just 0.188 seconds away from the very top and ahead of the upgraded Mercedes cars.

Gasly may not have achieved quite the same eye-catching performance but will line-up an impressive seventh place.

Following on from CEO Laurent Rossi digging the boot into the performance of the Alpine team last time out in Miami, the response from the team has been swift and impressive as they try to prove their boss wrong.

Yuki Tsunoda

Having won the hearts of plenty of fans after helping with the clean-up efforts in Faenza last weekend, Tsunoda qualified a very respectable ninth on Saturday – just a tenth off the pace of the upgraded W14 of George Russell.

AlphaTauri have had a terrible start to the season, but Tsunoda gave them reason to smile as he took top spot in Q1 in the closing stages, before Max Verstappen snuck in front of him at the end.

“The massive work done by the mechanics and engineers showed; I felt confident immediately, especially during the last run in Q1,” he said afterward.

“From then on, I enjoyed it a lot. It was my first Q3 appearance in Monaco and it was definitely special. I am happy with my performance, which allows us to start the race in the points position, so I will give it my all and extract everything possible to be able to score points tomorrow.”

With Nyck de Vries also putting in a solid showing as he lines up in 12th, the AT04 looks a more compliant car on the twisty and tortuous Monte Carlo circuit.

McLaren mechanics

Having had Lando Norris make an uncharacteristic error and hit the barriers at the chicane, resulting in a suspension breakage that meant he also hit the barriers at Tabac a few seconds later, it appeared very unlikely the British driver would be able to take part in Q3.

But the McLaren mechanics worked at full pelt to fix up the broken MCL60 and managed to get Norris back out on track with six minutes remaining. While Norris wasn’t able to progress beyond the 10th place grid slot he’d already occupied, not helped by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc dawdling in the tunnel, he at least rewarded his mechanic’s efforts with a flying lap attempt.

“The mechanics did a mega job to put everything back together, so a big thank you to them,” Norris said afterward.

“Unfortunately, we then just got blocked completely in my fastest lap in Q3, which wasn’t our fault. It was a bit up and down, and sadly not the result we wanted.

“We probably wouldn’t have achieved a lot more, but maybe a P8 was possible, which around Monaco means a lot. Frustrating, but we did many things well, so we’ll hang on and try to get some good points tomorrow.”

The fans in Monaco

Saturday in Monaco is always a high-stakes, high-speed showdown, but the fact there were simply so many drivers in the mix made this Monaco qualifying a particularly thrilling occasion.

With Verstappen briefly looking unable to keep up, seeing the likes of Esteban Ocon and Charles Leclerc whip the fans into a frenzy with their provisional pole laps, only to have Fernando Alonso look set to reset his 10+ years clock on a pole position, the last-second swing back in Verstappen’s favour was the climactic finish that only the traditional qualifying format can produce.

Put the Sprint races and experimental formats to rest, qualifying isn’t broken – and never was. It’s just surprising that it’s Monaco, of all places, that’s highlighted that fact. recommends

Christian Horner hints at chassis change for Sergio Perez after qualy smash

Lewis Hamilton’s surprising reaction after wrestling ‘real handful’ of W14 car


Sergio Perez

While Verstappen was romping his way to an impressive pole position, Perez undid weeks and months of building up his reputation as a challenger to his team-mate with a rather silly error early on in Q1.

Worse, Perez’s mistake wasn’t even fine margins kind of stuff – the Mexican driver barrelled into Sainte Devote with a ludicrous amount of speed, and later claimed that he was a “passenger” during the incident.

Unless something very unusual happens tomorrow (and, let’s face it, something in Monaco usually does), Perez is facing a very minor points score at best, given the difficulty in overtaking on the streets.

In 2001, a stall on the grid doomed pole-sitter David Coulthard to spending most of his race cooped up behind the Arrows of Enrique Bernoldi as the Scottish driver tried to make progress to rescue his championship tilt. Who will be Perez’s Bernoldi on Sunday?

Lance Stroll

While Alonso was putting his car on the front row, Stroll was getting knocked out in Q2 as he failed to get a good lap time in towards the end of the session.

Worse, the Canadian drew the attention of the stewards for the wrong reasons, as he failed to stop at the weighbridge when instructed to do so – although, in fairness, replays showed he only barely was given any heads-up that he was required to stop at the FIA garage, and he duly escaped punishment.

Team boss Mike Krack explained that Stroll had picked up floor damage after hitting debris at Tabac, while Stroll himself admitted to feeling particularly frustrated by how the session had played out.

“A frustrating qualifying session – the potential was definitely there: in Q1, I finished fifth and I was feeling good in the car,” he said.

“Then things went downhill in Q2: I didn’t get my tyres prepared properly on my out-lap, then I got caught at the weighbridge, there was traffic, and then I lost a few tenths at Turn 18 on my final run.

“When the margins are so tight, those things just compound the situation. Tomorrow is another day, we’ll roll the dice with the strategy – either going long or pitting early and undercutting people. Hopefully, a bit of rain will mix things up, let’s see.”

Lewis Hamilton/Mercedes

While there were plenty of drivers and teams involved in the battle for pole position, Mercedes never looked capable of joining in the fight at the very front.

On a weekend where there’s been plenty of hope and optimism about the upgraded W14, there certainly are signs that the car has taken a step forward – but perhaps not to the extent that the drivers might have liked.

With fifth place, Hamilton another to benefit from Leclerc’s penalty, he finds himself starting behind Carlos Sainz in the sister Ferrari and an unexpected car in the form of an Alpine, while George Russell also let the other Alpine squeeze in front of him.

Without extraneous circumstances, a tough race awaits Mercedes – although they’ll be eager to gather as much data as they can to hasten the process of understanding their new upgrades on track.

Charles Leclerc

While Charles Leclerc may have taken the third-fastest time of qualifying, his starting position was soon in question as a result of a very dangerous block on Lando Norris in Q3.

The Ferrari driver was slowing down dramatically through the tunnel in order to find space, with Norris coming up behind and having to hit the brakes hard in order to avoid a serious collision.

With Leclerc seemingly unaware of the approaching McLaren, having not been informed by race engineer Xavi Marcos Padros, it was still a big error in judgement from Leclerc as Norris revealed that there is an agreement in place amongst the drivers not to slow in the tunnel due to the inherent danger in such cramped and dark track conditions.

P6 on the grid it is then for Leclerc, who simply cannot catch a break at his home race.