The 77th Monaco Grand Prix weekend is fully underway with a drama filled Qualifying session as we had potential penalties and hometown driver Charles Leclerc was eliminated due to poor strategy by Ferrari. But in the end, Mercedes AMG Petronas, sporting a red halo to tribute the late Niki Lauda’s famous red cap, takes another front row lockout with Lewis Hamilton taking his 85th career pole and second in Monaco. Valtteri Bottas was second after having a problem on his final lap.
Max Verstappen was third, nearly a second off of the top two. Sebastian Vettel had a very dramatic Saturday after locking up into turn 1 in Free Practice 3. His team was able to get his car ready for Q1, but he faced elimination early on only to save himself at the last second. In his final lap in Q3, Vettel smacked the wall in turn 12, ruining his lap, and he had to settle for fourth on the grid. Pierre Gasly was fifth but is under investigation for impeding Romain Grosjean in Q2. 2018 Monaco winner Daniel Ricciardo was best of the rest in sixth, ahead of Kevin Magnussen in seventh. Eighth and ninth were the Toro Rosso teammates of Daniil Kvyat and Alex Albon with Carlos Sainz qualifying in tenth.
Nico Hulkenberg was the first car to miss out on Q3 and will start 11th, while Lando Norris was 12th in the McLaren. In 13th was an angry Grosjean, who ended the session with a curse-filled tirade believing that the traffic stopped him from matching his teammate in Q3. The Alfa Romeo team came into Saturday confident that they could make it to Q3, however they were the slowest in the second session. Kimi Raikkonen will start 14th in his 300th Grand Prix and Antonio Giovanazzi was 15th.
Qualifying One was quite hectic on such a tight Monaco track. The entire 20-car field was all on the track at the same time, so there was a lot of unintentional blocking as some cars were slowing down to prepare for a hot lap, and letting a car through on its flying lap created some awkward moments around the casino corner. Giovanazzi was put under investigation for blocking Hulkenberg early on.
Leclerc went fastest in FP3 and looked to be the favorite Ferrari to nab the pole from the Mercedes after Vettel’s FP3 incident. However, Ferrari decided not to send Leclerc on the track to end Q1, and he fell down the grid as the midfield cars set faster times. As Vettel saved himself from Q1 elimination, he bumped Leclerc out, and he will now roll off in 16th. Leclerc will have a lot of work to do to make up for the mistake by Ferrari to not send him out, and it will be a tough Sunday at his home race since Monaco is the most difficult track on the circuit to overtake. The Racing Point teammates of Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll were 17th and 18th, and the Williams cars, as always, went slowest in Q1 yet again, with George Russell out-qualifying Robert Kubica as the duo finished 19th and 20th, receptively.
This lineup is not nearly official as Giovanzzi and Gasly were under investigation for impeding other drivers and could face grid drops, potentially helping Leclerc, who already has much to overcome on Sunday for the Monaco Grand Prix. Lights out is scheduled for just after 9:10 a.m. EST. Can Mercedes score a sixth straight one-two finish to start 2019?