Defending Formula One champion Max Verstappen produced a superb final lap to take pole position at the Monaco Grand Prix on Saturday and deny Aston Martin veteran Fernando Alonso his first pole in 11 years.
Verstappen called his first pole at Monaco “very lovely” but there was nothing to cheer for his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez as last year’s race winner crashed early in qualifying.
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon surprisingly led near the end of the session before the 41-year-old Alonso moved back to the top as he chased a first pole since the German GP in 2012, when he was with Ferrari.
But Verstappen had other ideas as he brushed the walls of the sinewy street circuit to beat Alonso’s time by just 0.084 seconds and clinch his fourth pole of the season and 23rd of his career.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was chasing a third straight pole in Monaco but qualified in third, 0.106 behind Verstappen. Ocon ended up in fourth and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. was fifth ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.
Regarded as one of F1’s best drivers on street circuits, Perez lost control of the rear when entering Sainte-Devote too quickly, thudded into the barriers and bust his left tire.
His Red Bull slid onto the track, forcing a few cars to move around it before a crane lifted it off and debris was cleared.
Leclerc had to swerve around Sainz late into Q1, while Lewis Hamilton — who crashed near the end of the third and final practice earlier Saturday — left it late to make it into Q2 on a new set of soft tires.
Hamilton struggled with his rear suspension and complained about his tires in Q2, leaving it late again to squeeze into Q3 on his last lap.
“Man this car’s hard to drive,” Hamilton said on team radio.
Alonso started Q3 with the fastest time and set the tone for a thrilling ending.
“I’m pushing like an animal,” he said on team radio.
He came so close, but the Spanish veteran is well placed on Sunday to push for his first win since 2013.
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