Charles Leclerc takes Monaco Grand Prix pole at home after Sergio Perez crashes | Race News


MONTE CARLO (Principality of Monaco): Charles Leclerc topped the times to take pole position for Ferrari in his Monaco Grand Prix at home on Saturday after Red Bull’s Sergio Perez crashed on his last fast lap in a dramatic qualifying session.
The 24-year-old Monegasque driver came out on top after a tense and dramatic session which saw his Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz qualify second to complete a one-two finish for the Italian team despite colliding with Perez’s car.
Perez, who was uninjured after crashing into the barriers at Portier, finished third on the grid ahead of his Red Bull teammate, world champion and series leader Max Verstappen.
It was Leclerc’s fifth pole of the season and 14th of his career, an often decisive advantage on the tight and unforgiving street circuit where he is yet to complete a race.
Leclerc clocked a fastest lap of one minute and 11.376 seconds to edge Sainz by more than two tenths in a scrappy end to an intriguing day ahead of Sunday’s classic 78-lap race.
The session was interrupted when Perez crashed, confirming that Leclerc would take pole.
“It’s very special for me,” said Leclerc. “I’m incredibly happy. It’s been a very smooth weekend so far.
“Everything has gone perfectly so far and that last lap for me before the red flag was really, really good.”
The crash also brought back memories of a similar incident last year when Leclerc took pole but crashed and was unable to race the following day.
Sainz said: “Checo (Perez) crashed in front of me on my flying lap. I saw the yellow flags coming into Turn 8 and had to brake to avoid him as best I could.”
Behind the Ferraris and Red Bulls, Lando Norris led the rest of the field for McLaren taking fifth ahead of his friend and fellow Briton George Russell of Mercedes, two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Alpine and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes .
Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel finished ninth for Aston Martin ahead of Esteban Ocon in the second Aston Martin.
Alonso also survived a late crash as teams carefully checked the weather forecast with rain expected to fall in the Mediterranean principality on Sunday.
Norris was first out in the first qualifying session of the most famous qualifying hour of the season, his time being quickly beaten by Hamilton before Verstappen became the best.
The track was clearly moving in slightly changed conditions with clouds and cooler weather. The air temperature was 25 degrees and the track 47, having been 52 for final practice.
“I have no grip,” Russell reported over team radio, a complaint reflecting a general struggle at the start before the tires warmed up and grip improved.
He persevered as Ferrari grabbed the top with Leclerc ahead of Sainz before a late red flag interrupted the action when Alfa Romeo’s Guanyu Zhou cut a barrier at the ‘New’ chicane, victim of a crash. puncture.
There were only four minutes left, just enough time for a new flying lap, but not enough for Hamilton, Bottas, Pierre Gasly or Zhou, the only rookie on the board, who missed their chances in a frantic finish.
Williams’ Alex Albon, Alpha Tauri’s Gasly, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, Nicholas Latifi in the second Williams and Zhou came out in a flurry of profanity. It was the first time Gasly had failed to progress since Q3 in Monaco.
The second session got off to a fast start, the debris from Zhou’s puncture cleared away, with Perez taking the early lead ahead of the Ferraris and Verstappen fourth. Leclerc responded to take control at the top, but then missed a weighbridge signal and had to be pushed back by his crew into the pit lane.
In another busy finale, Vettel produced a lap to lift him into the top 10 with Hamilton, but Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen and Haas team-mate Mick Schumacher, as well as under- McLaren sailor came out. pressure driver Daniel Ricciardo.
Leclerc, however, showed no such worries as he restored the pace in the top-ten shootout with a stunning lap, two-tenths quicker than Sainz, with Perez edging Verstappen for third.
He was untouchable in the opening stints as Alonso took fifth ahead of Norris and the two Mercedes before the dramatic final flurry, on new soft tires, to decide the grid.

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