Monaco GP 2023

MAY 27, 2023

Qualifying Report - Verstappen Takes Maiden Monaco Grand Prix Pole

Max Verstappen, Monaco GP 2023
© Red Bull

By Peter Habicht

Max Verstappen took his first Monaco Grand Prix Pole position for Red Bull-Honda in a dramatic knockout qualifying session which saw the Dutchman take full advantage of a circuit that kept getting faster as the day progressed while stirring up the running order throughout each round.

Teammate Sergio Perez was not as fortunate, and while running less than a tenth behind Verstappen in Q1, he crashed into the wall at Sainte Devote carrying too much speed. The circuit had been improving as Alpha Romeo's Guanyu Zhou had just taken provisional pole with 11 minutes remaining in the Q1 session.

Upon restart, Fernando Alonso took his Aston Martin to the top of the timing chart with a 1m12.886s lap, which was followed by Alpha Tauri's Yuki Tsunoda with a 1m12.262s lap around the evolving circuit. Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton found himself dangerously close to elimination late in the session, locking his Mercedes up at the Nouvelle Chicane with under two minutes to go in 17th. With the checkered flag out, he was able to pull up to seventh fastest through to the next round.

Haas's Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg spent part of the session in the garage, returning to the circuit with five minutes left but unable to break into the second qualifying round. Out in Q1 were Williams' Logan Sargeant, Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Zhou and Perez.

Q2 qualifying saw Verstappen jump to the top of the timing charts, more than 1.5s quicker on a circuit improving with each lap. Drivers were moving with such precision around the narrow streets that their wheels peeled trackside advertising attached to the armco barriers as their cars made use of every available millimeter around the circuit.

With narrow misses also came contact, as Lando Norris discovered while running in fifth at Tabac after the left front of his McLaren made contact while exiting the Nouvelle Chicane along the harbor front. His time of 1m12.377s was just enough to see him avoid elimination ahead of his teammate Oscar Piastri, Alpha Tauri's Nyck DeVries, Williams Alex Albon, Aston's Lance Stroll and Alfa Romeo's Valttieri Bottas.

While the McLaren mechanics raced to repair the damage on Norris' car, Q3 was underway with Alonso setting a fastest time of 1m11.706, and Alpine's Esteban Ocon taking a fast lap of 1m11.553s with under four minutes left in the session. The drama continued as local favorite Leclerc answered with a 1m11.471s lap to the cheers of the crowd.

Alonso replied with a 1m11.449 as the Aston garage erupted in cheers, the checkered flag now waiving while Verstappen's lap showed him down but not out at 0.204s off the pace going into the third sector.

The shortest of all three sectors on the shortest circuit of the year, the Dutchman astonished as he covered the distance to make up the time and take pole position by 0.084s from fifth in the running.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz will start from fifth tomorrow, as Hamilton qualified in sixth, happy with his final lap and ahead of Alpine's Pierre Gasly and teammate George Russell. Yuki Tsunoda qualified a respectable ninth, ahead of Norris in tenth, whose team's heroics got damage repairs finished with just minutes left in the session.

Tomorrow's 80th Monaco Grand Prix will start at 3pm.