Daniel Ricciardo has claimed an emphatic pole position for the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix, shattering the Monte Carlo circuit’s lap record with a dominant qualifying display.
The Australian – quickest in every practice session over the weekend – will share the front row for Sunday’s 78-lap race with former teammate Sebastian Vettel. Championship leader Lewis Hamilton will start from third place.
Ricciardo came into Monaco with the wounds of a team pit stop error costing him victory here in 2016 still raw. While he has shown in no uncertain terms that he is the driver to beat this weekend at a circuit where Red Bull Racing’s power disadvantage is negated, the points are earned on Sunday and the Circuit de Monaco doesn’t discriminate in how – or whom – it punishes.
The case in point was his teammate Max Verstappen, who had to sit out qualifying after crashing his car exiting the Swimming Pool complex during Saturday’s earlier practice session. The team’s mechanics worked feverishly to repair his badly damaged car in time for qualifying, but when they fired it up they discovered its gearbox had been damaged in the smash.
For a driver of such abundant talent, the Dutch youngster’s record at the Principality is poor. He’s hit the barriers every time he’s visited the street circuit, and his incident in FP3 was virtually identical to his 2016 crash.
On top of that, he’s struck trouble – usually of his own making – at every Grand Prix this season. The pressure is piling on him, and the gloss of his prodigy label is certainly tarnished.
On the other side of the garage, Ricciardo showed that patience, speed and precision can go hand-in-hand. On the occasion of Red Bull Racing’s 250th Grand Prix, he claimed just his second ever pole position with a performance.
His first flying lap in Q3 of 1:10.810 was the fastest ever lap around the 3.337-kilometre circuit, a full four-tenths of a second clear of anyone else. Although he fell just short of improving on his second run, it was still good enough to claim the prime starting position at a circuit where overtaking is extremely difficult to say the least.
Vettel improved on his second run to get within a quarter of a second of his former teammate, importantly bumping Hamilton – who he trails by 17 points in the Drivers’ Championship standings – down to third.
Hamilton briefly looked to challenge Ricciardo’s time with a purple first sector, but would lose time later in the lap and finished just 0.034 seconds quicker than the second Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen.
With Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas fifth-fastest, Mercedes’ dominance a fortnight ago in Spain vanished on a circuit that does not play to the F1W09’s strengths. Hamilton was not overly surprised that the Silver Arrows were outpaced, but he is playing the long game and knows that there are more circuit remaining on the schedule where the Brackley team will return to the front of the grid.
Mercedes gambled on running Ultrasoft tyres in Q2 in the hope they could use an alternate Ultrasoft-Hypersoft strategy, but neither driver looked a chance of making Q3 and were forced to switch to the highest-grip Hypersoft tyres like everyone else.
‘Best of the rest’ honours went to Force India’s Esteban Ocon, who led the midfield charge. The remaining four Q3 runners chasing him – McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr., Force India’s Sergio Pérez and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly – trailed him by less than two-tenths of a second.
The second Renault of Nico Hülkenberg fell fractionally short of making it into Q3 and will start from eleventh place, sharing the sixth row of the grid with the second McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne who failed to improve on his first run in Q2 that had him provisionally sixth-quickest.
Williams had some cheer with rookie driver Sergey Sirotkin qualifying 13th-fastest in the ill-handling FW41. The Russian has thrashed teammate Lance Stroll all weekend, with the unhappy Canadian hampered by a loose headrest and consigned to an early bath in Q1.
Home town driver Charles Leclerc narrowly avoided a big accident at Sainte Dévote in the final seconds of Q1, triggering a yellow flag that compromised the likes of Sauber teammate Marcus Ericsson and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley from a shot at getting into Q2. The Monegasque driver kept it clean in Q2 and will start from fourteenth.
The two Haas Ferraris have not found the Circuit de Monaco to their liking. Romain Grosjean scraped into Q2 and was the slowest of the session’s fifteen runners; the Frenchman will take a three-place grid penalty for triggering the opening-lap multi-car crash at the previous Spanish Grand Prix. Teammate Kevin Magnussen was slowest of those to post a time.
Sunday’s 78-lap Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix starts at 15:10 local time (GMT +2).
|FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX DE MONACO 2018 – QUALIFYING RESULTS|
|Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Daniel Ricciardo||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14||1:10.810|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||1:11.039||+ 0.229|
|3.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||1:11.232||+ 0.422|
|4.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||1:11.266||+ 0.456|
|5.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||1:11.441||+ 0.631|
|6.||Esteban Ocon||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||1:12.061||+ 1.251|
|7.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||1:12.110||+ 1.300|
|8.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||1:12.130||+ 1.320|
|9.||Sergio Pérez||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||1:12.154||+ 1.344|
|10.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||1:12.221||+ 1.411|
|Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|11.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||1:12.411||+ 1.133|
|12.||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||1:12.440||+ 1.162|
|13.||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||1:12.521||+ 1.243|
|14.||Charles Leclerc||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||1:12.714||+ 1.436|
|15.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||1:12.728||+ 1.450|
|Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*|
|16.||Brendon Hartley||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||1:13.179||+ 1.166|
|17.||Marcus Ericsson||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||1:13.265||+ 1.252|
|18.||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||1:13.323||+ 1.310|
|19.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||1:13.393||+ 1.380|
|Outside 107%||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*|
|DNQ.||Max Verstappen||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14||no time|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:12.013 posted by Daniel Ricciardo
** Denotes gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:11.278 posted by Daniel Ricciardo
Romain Grosjean – who provisionally qualified th fastest – will serve a 3-place grid penalty for causing an accident at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen failed to post a lap time within 107% of the fastest Q1 lap time and will race at the discretion of the FIA Stewards. He will also serve a 5-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.
Images via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team and Red Bull Racing