WCharles Leclerc was not particularly interested in what happened behind him. But looking back over his shoulder didn’t hurt him. On the contrary. The crash at the end of qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday (3 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for Formula 1 and on Sky) illustrated the brilliance of the Monegasque on his city tour on Saturday afternoon.
Leclerc drove to pole position, as sovereign in the principality. Under the eyes of Prince Albert I, the son of the community seemed untouchable with a lead of a good 0.225 seconds over his team-mate Carlos Sainz and the Red Bull driver Sergio Perez. Had the Mexican tried to get close to Leclerc at the last minute, maybe to oust him?
Incident nearing the end
In the bend in front of the tunnel, he lost control of his car and crashed into the gang with his rear end. “He was probably too fast,” Red Bulls head of sport Helmut Marko told Sky TV. And the following Sainz too slow to avoid the obstacle. Driver unharmed but the blue and red racers wedged. The strategists at both race stations don’t like that. Off the slopes, they very consciously avoid each other. And so the front row for Ferrari is also a satisfaction, insofar as the dented F-75 is not badly damaged internally.
The incident just before the end robbed all following pilots of a flying lap of the chance to make one last improvement. Marko saw his world champion Max Verstappen “at eye level” at the last moment, “he had regained confidence”. The champion also claimed: “I think I was on my way to second place, then the red flag came.”
And Leclerc, for his part, saw himself on the road to improvement at that moment: “Before the red flag I was about 0.2 seconds better, yes, I was at the limit, but it would have been a better time.” 1: 11.376 minutes for a good 3, 3 kilometers, just a few centimeters past some crash barriers, are excellent, even if the fastest stayed almost a second above his pole position from last year.
The slowdown is easy to explain. Since this season, the cars have had to weigh 48 kilograms more. Because ten kilograms increase the lap time by almost 0.2 seconds, the difference in weight alone leads to an increase of one second. Not to mention the effect on drivability of the heavier cars and the beatings for the pilots (because of the stiff boxes). Leclerc made peace with the fifth pole position in the seventh attempt this year and the best prospect of Verstappen, his closest rival for the title, taking the lead in the drivers’ world championship (104:110 points) again on Sunday.
Vettel in the top ten
Not surprisingly, Lando Norris (5th) in the McLaren led the field of pursuers, closely followed by Georg Russell (6th/Mercedes), Fernando Alonso (7th/Alpine) and Formula 1 record man Lewis Hamilton (8th). Sebastian Vettel was ninth. While his teammate Lance Stroll didn’t get far (18th), the four-time world champion in the Aston Martin showed what once brought him to the top. Strong nerves and control skills. On his way to the round of the last ten, he jumped right into the tightly packed midfield, a race that doesn’t allow for the slightest mistake. The drivers in sixth to tenth place were separated by just a good tenth of a second.
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