Max Verstappen will start Sunday’s (May 27) Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix from pole position after he nipped Fernando Alonso to the top of the charts in the last sector of his last flying lap of the day.
This marks the first Monaco pole of Verstappen’s career, though the Dutchman has one win at the circuit already, back in 2021.
“We knew that this was going to be a little bit of a struggle for us this weekend, to get everything together,” Verstappen told Sky Sports’ Loic Duval. “Yesterday wasn’t the best start but I think we kept on improving and kept on being better. But then in qualifying you need to go all out and risk it all. My first sector wasn’t ideal in my final lap, I think turn 1 was a bit cautious. But then I knew that I was behind, so the last sector I just gave it everything I had, clipped a few barriers, but of course very happy to be on pole here for the first time.”
The final session of the day was dominated by a nail-biter of a shootout for pole position between Verstappen, Alonso and Monaco native Charles Leclerc.
Leclerc looked on track to take his second consecutive pole in the Principality before Alonso shot his way to the top of the charts with just over a minute remaining. And the Spaniard, now 174 races removed from his last win, looked set to keep pole to himself.
Verstappen made a last-ditch charge at pole as the clock struck zero, but was trending over two-tenths of a second behind Alonso at the end of sector 2. The younger of the two-time champions put together a near-mythical final sector to knock Alonso from pole and push Leclerc to third.
As an honorable mention, Esteban Ocon briefly held provisional pole in his Alpine before the eventual top-three finishers turned on the jets and landed the Frenchman in fourth for the race. Ocon was later promoted to a third-place starting position after Leclerc was issued a three-place grid penalty for impeding Lando Norris at the end of Q3.
Norris was the lone on-track casualty of the day’s second session. Much like Perez, Norris overcooked the entry of Tabac, the 12th corner of the circuit, after breaking his left-front suspension by tapping the wall on the exit of the Nouvelle chicane. The car refused to grab grip on the entrance of Tabac and Norris made firm contact with the wall, leaving him to limp his McLaren back to pit lane – while he was only ninth fastest on the charts.
Norris barely escaped elimination by finishing Q2 in 10th place.
Lewis Hamilton made his way out of Q2 by the skin of his teeth, sitting 11th and first in the elimination zone until the clock ran out. The Briton started his final flying lap with less than 30 seconds left on the clock, pushing his way into Q3 at the last possible moment.
He relayed his frustration with his car to his team after securing his place in the top-10 shootout. “Man, this car’s hard to drive, mate,” he told his team on his way back to the paddock.
Eliminated from Q2 were:
11. Oscar Piastri
12. Nyck De Vries
13. Alex Albon
14. Lance Stroll
15. Valtteri Bottas
All developments took a backseat to the misfortunes of the Red Bull team when defending Monaco winner Sergio Perez crashed out in turn 1. Perez took a slightly over-ambitious entry into the Sainte Devote corner and smacked the barriers with his left-rear tire, causing massive suspension and body damage while rendering his car kaput. Perez will take up the short end of a Red Bull bookend on the grid, starting from last place in the 20-car field.
A semi-lengthy red flag ensued while Perez’s car and a slew of debris were cleared from the track. When racing resumed, it was Hamilton who found himself on the bubble.
The Mercedes driver sat in 17th, firmly eliminated as time wound down. However, the seven-time champion pulled it out of the mud at the last moment and clocked a lap time of 1:12.872 to place himself seventh and advance to Q2.
Eliminated from Q1 were:
16. Logan Sargeant
17. Kevin Magnussen
18. Nico Hulkenberg
19. Zhou Guanyu
20. Sergio Perez
The 2023 Monaco Grand Prix will kick off on Sunday, May 28 at 9 a.m. ET with coverage on ABC.
About the author
Alex is the IndyCar Editor at Frontstretch, having initially joined as an entry-level contributor in 2021. He also Co-founded The Asia Cable, a publication focused on the international affairs and politics of the Asia-Pacific region, in 2023. With previous experience in China, Japan and Poland, Alex is particularly passionate about the international realm of motorsport and the politics that make the wheels turn - literally - behind the scenes.
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