There are many caveats to a Monaco Grand Prix weekend. The steering racks of the cars adjusted to make the hairpin corner, the tight nature of the track with very little run-off area, the unforgiving Armco barriers, contextually small pit lane, the tight corners and need for aerodynamic downforce and much more.
It’s not a track you would expect to host a street race for cars such as these but we do. The practice sessions, like all other grand prix weekends, are important and what all three of those sessions told us was that Mercedes—who were hinting they may be in trouble in Monaco—were the team to beat this weekend.
Lewis Hamilton led both FP1 and FP2 over his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, and it looked as if Mercedes were continuing their dominant form which was now elevated by the memory of the late Niki Lauda as inspiration for a win in his memory.
FP3 found Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on top of the time sheets and it must be noted that Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat as well as Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Toro Rosso’s Alex Albon all did a nice job in the top 10.
As we headed into qualifying, the conventional thought here was, which Mercedes would be on pole and if Ferrari couldn’t mount any effective challenge to them, might Red Bull’s Max Verstappen be able to? Regardless of how it would turn out, I must say that there were a lot of empty seats in the grand stands at the start of qualifying—does everyone have a friend with an apartment overlooking the track in Monaco?
Monaco usually means traffic during qualifying and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc have to avoid two slower Racing Point cars to make his first run to 1:12.825s but Nico Hulkenberg got his lap spoiled in a seriously way by Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo.
It was Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly who set the top times briefly until Lewis Hamilton dragged his Mercedes up to 2nd and Alex Albon hoisted his car to 3rd behind Hamilton and Verstappen.
As is the case with Monaco, cars make two and three runs because of traffic. That meant that the top 6 were changing rapidly. Kevin Magnussen’s Haas was putting in nice runs jostling in the top 3 with each lap but could he maintain that pace?
One of the fun moments was the power slide and rally-style driving of Valtteri Bottas through the hairpin and ultimately, he took top spot with 4 minutes remaining with a 1:11.562s
Another dodgy moment as Charles Leclerc missed the call to weighbridge and the team had to push him back to be weighed. While Ferrari had their car weighed, Sebastian Vettel was on his hot lap with traffic and glanced the wall at the swimming pool and immediate pit.
With 2 minutes left, Vettel came out to desperately try to get a hot lap on brand new tires. With 1-minute left in the session, Seb came out of the tunnel heading for his one hot lap as he was languishing down in the elimination zone in 17th while Hamilton and Bottas held the top two spots.
Vettel jumped straight to the top of the time sheets and in doing so, eliminated his teammate, Charles Leclerc. Charles clearly upset in the garage and questioning Jock Clear how that happened and why he wasn’t out on track in the waning moments.
A hectic and desperate qualifying session for Ferrari who barely managed to get both cars into Q2. A Stunning error in strategy by the team although one might argue that the missed weighbridge may have cost them time and upset their program and tire change but Leclerc said the incident wasn’t the problem.
Out in Q1- Stroll, Perez, Russell, Kubica, Leclerc
Mercedes quickly out in Q2 followed by a couple of McLarens to begin their session. While Mercedes were on the red stripe Pirellis, it was simply a case of getting through to Q3 to determine which of the drivers would take pole but behind them, the battle for best of the rest might be interesting. Could McLaren, Red Bull or Haas provide a nice battle?
Bottas was quickest on initial runs with Verstappen 2nd and Hamilton 3rd. An interesting and positive run by Daniel Ricciardo up to 4th. Daniil Kvyat threw his Toro Rosso up to 4th with 9 minutes left in session.
With 5 minutes left, all the teams came out for final runs. Vettel jumped to 4th while Verstappen jumped to the top with a 1:10.618s. Daniel Ricciardo kept his car in top 10 and his teammate, Nico Hulkenberg, managed to claw into the top 10.
Just seconds before the close of the session, most of the cars crossed the line for a final run. Lando Norris couldn’t get his McLaren into Q3 and Magnussen launched his Haas up to 5th Hulkenberg out along with Kevin’s teammate, Romain Grosjean. Romain has a legitimate beef with Gasly who blocked his hot lap and cost him Q3. Both Alfa’s were out and Giovinazzi may get dinged for holding Hulkenberg up.
Out in Q3- Hulkenberg, Norris, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Giovinazzi
The Mercs were quick out in Q3 and so was everyone else. You don’t have the luxury of waiting at Monaco due to traffic.
Bottas set a 1:10.252s for the initial lap with Vettel .695s behind him. Verstappen knocked Vettel down to 3rd. Hamilton went for a second run and jumped up to 2nd behind Bottas.
After first shots, Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen, Vettel, Gasly, Magnussen and Kvyat set the top seven. A quiet covered the track until there was 3 minutes left in the session and Vettel’s car launched from the pits for his final run to break the silence.
Vettel touched the barrier on his hot lap, again, as he crossed the line in 4th. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton jumped to the top of the time sheet with a 1:10.166s while Valtteri entered the pits ending his run. Verstappen secured 3rd with Gasly in 5th.
It was an emotional pole position for Lewis on a weekend the team mourns the loss of Niki Lauda. Lewis very excited to conquered pole position at a track that hasn’t always treated him well. Bottas looked to be the man headed for pole but Lewis was able to snatch it away from him on an emotional final run.
|3||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Honda||1m10.641s||0.475s|
|5||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull/Honda||1m11.041s||0.875s|
|8||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m11.271s||1.105s|
|9||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren/Renault||1m11.417s||1.251s|
|10||Alexander Albon||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m11.653s||1.487s|
|14||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1m12.115s||–|
|15||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1m12.185s||–|
|17||Sergio Perez||Racing Point/Mercedes||1m12.233s||–|
|18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point/Mercedes||1m12.846s||–|