Lewis Hamilton channelled his emotions to full effect to claim pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix, narrowly edging out Mercedes-AMG teammate Valtteri Bottas in an action-packed qualifying session.

Hamilton’s superb last flying lap yielded him a new lap record of 1:10.166 to bring him the 85th pole position of his Formula 1 career, yet incredibly just his second on the streets of Monte Carlo. With Bottas lining up second-fastest, just 0.086 seconds slower, it gave the Silver Arrows their fourth front row lockout in a row and their 62nd overall, drawing them equal with the record shared by Ferrari, McLaren and Williams.

His pole lap came despite a slip-up into La Rascasse, and when Bottas abandoned his final flying lap Hamilton could celebrate. After clambering the chain-link fence to celebrate with the fans, the Englishman went on to dedicate his achievement to Niki Lauda, the three-time World Champion and Mercedes’ non-executive chairman who passed away on Monday.

“This one’s for Niki,” he said. “[It’s] definitely one of the best qualifying [sessions] I can remember. One that means as much as this one, it having been such a difficult week, for the team and personally. Niki always used to say: ‘Give it arseholes’ and that’s what I try to do every time I get in the car. We wanted to do him proud.”

Hamilton and Bottas were challenged by Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, who was fastest overall in the preceding Q2 session before having to settle for third on the grid. In a positive showing for the Milton Keynes team at a track where they have traditionally gone well, the Dutchman’s teammate Pierre Gasly was fifth-fastest. The former GP2 Series champion did, however, earn a three-place grid penalty from the Stewards for blocking Haas’ Romain Grosjean in Q2 and so will start from eighth on the grid.

Splitting the Red Bull pair was the team’s former driver Sebastian Vettel, who could claim little cheer in what was a disastrous qualifying session for Scuderia Ferrari. Vettel had not helped with the team’s stresses by crashing in FP3, before swiping the wall at the Swimming Pool in Q1. Pitting for precautionary check, he quickly fell down the order as other drivers improved their Q1 times.

Ferrari sent him back onto the circuit with just 90 seconds on the clock in a ‘do-or-die’ effort to get him into Q2 and he delivered the fastest lap of the session to ease through. It was tense stuff, but his relief came at the expense of teammate Charles Leclerc who was not on track in the final minutes and was bumped into P16 – the Monégasque driver joined both Racing Point and Williams drivers in an early bath.

Leclerc had been Ferrari’s best hope of challenging Mercedes in qualifying after being quickest in the final practice session. When it mattered most, however, the Ferrari strategists were caught with their pants down. In a breathtaking display of arrogance and an attempt to save a set of fresh tyres, they kept Leclerc in the pit lane in the belief that his initial time would be good enough to see him through to Q2.

It was an appalling error by a team once renowned for its strategic prowess, and Leclerc will now have to risk everything on Sunday from a lowly grid position on a circuit where overtaking is all but impossible.

Vettel was therefore the team’s sole runner in Q3, and once again the German brushed the Armco en route to fourth-fastest.

Behind the top-five, Kevin Magnussen drove superbly to finish ‘best of the rest’ in his Haas Ferrari. The Dane was on the pace throughout qualifying, beating defending Monaco Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo to sixth-fastest. Both Toro Rosso Hondas made the Q3 cut, with Daniil Kvyat qualifying eighth-fastest and rookie teammate Alexander Albon a fine tenth – the pair sandwiched McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr. in ninth.

Those who missed out on a Q3 berth included Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg, McLaren’s Lando Norris and Haas’ Romain Grosjean. The two Alfa Romeos of Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi were the slowest of the top-fifteen qualifiers, with the latter earning a grid penalty for impeding Hülkenberg at La Rascasse during Q1.

Q3 Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10 1:10.166
2. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10 1:10.252 + 0.086
3. Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing RB15 1:10.641 + 0.475
4. Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari SF90 1:10.947 + 0.781
5. Pierre Gasly Red Bull Racing RB15 1:11.041 + 0.875
6. Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team VF-19 1:11.109 + 0.943
7. Daniel Ricciardo Renault F1 Team RS19 1:11.218 + 1.052
8. Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14 1:11.271 + 1.105
9. Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren F1 Team MCL34 1:11.417 + 1.251
10. Alexander Albon Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14 1:11.653 + 1.487
Q2 Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap*
11. Nico Hülkenberg Renault F1 Team RS19 1:11.670 + 1.052
12. Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team MCL34 1:11.724 + 1.106
13. Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team VF-19 1:12.027 + 1.409
14. Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing C38 1:12.115 + 1.497
15. Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing C38 1:12.185 + 1.567
Q1 Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap**
16. Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari SF90 1:12.149 + 0.715
17. Sergio Pérez Racing Point F1 Team RP19 1:12.233 + 0.799
18. Lance Stroll Racing Point F1 Team RP19 1:12.846 + 1.412
19. George Russell ROKiT Williams Racing FW42 1:13.477 + 2.043
20. Robert Kubica ROKiT Williams Racing FW42 1:13.751 + 2.317

* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 lap time of 1:10.618 posted by Max Verstappen
* Denotes gap to fastest Q1 lap time of 1:11.434 posted by Sebastian Vettel

Post-Qualifying Penalties:

  • Pierre Gasly – who provisionally qualified 5th-fastest – will serve a 3-place grid penalty for impeding Romain Grosjean during Q2.
  • Antonio Giovinazzi – who provisionally qualified 15th-fastest – will serve a 3-place grid penalty for impeding Nico Hülkenberg during Q1.

Images via Mercedes-AMG F1 Team

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.