The most important qualification
There is still one day left for qualifying which, at least on paper, is the most important of the whole seasonbut the Monte Carlo paddock is already discussing potential infractions and penalties. After all, the Monaco GP is also this. On a track where it is practically impossible to pass, the outcome of qualifying determines well over 50% of the result of the race and for this reason getting the pole position is tempting for everyone, even more than in all the other circuits of the championship calendar. But the particular shape of the Monaco circuit, with practically no escape routes, can lead pilots into ‘temptation’.
In Q3, a yellow or red flag waved at the right time can mean the end of qualifying, securing the pole position of those who are already in command and frustrating the attempts of the other drivers. The precedents, recent and distant, are not lacking: in the last two years the pole position by Charles Leclerc they have also been conquered thanks to the ‘providential’ red flags. In 2021 he himself crashed into the wall in the final part of Q3, certifying the pole position but damaging the car so heavily that he could not then start in the Sunday race. Last year it was Sergio Perez to turn around during the last attempt timed, triggering a pile-up with the innocent Carlos Sainz and, above all, infuriating Max Verstappen. The Dutchman was forced to start fourth due to a mistake by his boxmate. Precisely this episode, judged by the world champion to be anything but casual, is at the origin of the tense relations between the two standard bearers of the Red Bull team.
Going back in time however, there are even more discussed and controversial ‘errors’. In 2014 a long by Nico Rosberg caused a yellow flag and in fact allowed the German of the Mercedes to keep the pole position from the attack of his teammate Lewis Hamilton. The Englishman made no secret of believing the maneuver of the #6 to be voluntary and this episode marked the definitive break in the friendship between the two pilots. The However, the most notorious ‘scandal’ is that of 2006with the famous ‘parking’ of Michael Schumacher at the Rascasse. The Kaiser stopped his Ferrari in the middle of the corner, complaining of an alleged mistake and forcing Fernando Alonso to lift his foot in his last attempt. The seven-time world champion took pole, which however only lasted a few hours. The FIA determined that it had been a voluntary maneuver and disqualified Schumacher, forcing him to start from last position.
The thought of Verstappen and Sainz
The 2006 episode remains the only one in which the stewards intervened directly to punish a driver found responsible for unsporting behaviour. Given the precedents, however, the FIA has already hinted that the attitude of the drivers during tomorrow’s qualifying will be closely watched. “I’ll have to try and get a good lap on my first run – ironized Verstappen in the press conference, foreseeing possible accidents at the end of Q3 – crashes are obviously more common here in Monaco, as well as on other street circuits – he added – you have to learn to manage them. But usually it doesn’t happen on purpose“. Both he and Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz would be in favor of introducing one rule that forces whoever causes a yellow or red flag in qualifying to have their best time cancelledregardless of the voluntary nature of the maneuver. “It’s a rule that the riders have tried to put on the table – explained the Ferrari driver – because when you are in the front row after the first attempt you always go to the second with less to lose than the others“.
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