Monaco GP: Hamilton beats out Bottas as Leclerc suffers Monaco nightmare

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton edged out Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes dominated qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton driving the Mercedes W10 on track during qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix.   -  Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix as Charles Leclerc endured a qualifying nightmare for his home race.

Hamilton set a new lap record of 1:10.166 around the street circuit to edge out teammate Valtteri Bottas by just 0.086 seconds as Mercedes locked up the front row for a fifth time in six attempts in 2019.

Bottas had seemed set to be on pole for a fourth straight race, breaking the record twice himself before he was overhauled in the closing seconds of Q3.

While Mercedes once again dominated, Ferrari's decision to save its tyres for the closing stages in the hope of competing at the end of the session backfired spectacularly, with Leclerc failing to even make it out of Q1.

Sebastian Vettel pushed his colleague the wrong side of the cut line with one last charge, meaning the local favourite, who showed his frustration as he was stranded in the team garage, languishes down in 16th on the grid.

'I want explanations'

After Vettel's crash in the morning's final free practice session, Q1 began cautiously in the warmest conditions of the weekend, the track registering 44 degrees Celsius under a hazy sun.

Mercedes, as they feared, found the conditions testing and required longer to bring their tyres alive, but were soon first and third with Bottas and Hamilton sandwiching Verstappen.

Vettel then bounced his left rear wheel off the barriers in the swimming pool complex, requiring a rapid pit-stop. He emerged with seconds remaining on shiny new 'softs' as Hamilton topped Bottas, but faced a desperate rush to re-climb from 17th - and exceeded expectations by going fastest in a frantic finale.

Leclerc was left standing in the Ferrari garage as he tumbled down the timesheets to finish 16th, the team not keeping him out after he missed a signal to the weighbridge. He was pushed back to the scales, to avoid any penalty, but it was another example of Ferrari's operational and decision-making failings.

“I need explanations,” said Leclerc. “The problem was not the weighbridge and I have had no real answers. It is very difficult to take as we had plenty of time and enough fuel... Now, I must take risks in the race.”

READ | Niki Lauda 'irreplaceable', says Mercedes chief Toto Wolff

Vettel will start Sunday's race alongside Max Verstappen's Red Bull on the second row. Pierre Gasly in the other Red Bull was fifth, ahead of Haas' Kevin Magnussen, who was the last driver within a second of Hamilton's pace.

Toro Rosso duo Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon both made it to Q3, taking eighth and temth respectively.

ALSO READ | Charles Leclerc fastest in practice but reprimanded for slow driving

At a venue where overtaking is tough, Hamilton will have high hopes of extending his lead in the title race as he and Bottas look set to battle it out.

"It doesn't matter how many times you come here, it's still a dream. It means so much to me, I had to dig deeper than ever," the reigning world champion said after clinching the 85th pole of his Formula One career.

Mercedes will set off in pursuit of a sixth straight one-two result, which would be the best streak in F1 history. After Saturday's events, there is little to suggest its dominance will come to an end in the principality.

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:10.166secs
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.086s
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.475s
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +0.781s
5. Pierre Gasly (Red Bull) +0.875s
6. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +0.943s
7. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) +1.052s
8. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) +1.105s
9. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) +1.251s
10. Alexander Albon (Toro Rosso) +1.487s

(with inputs from AFP)