Motor racing-Leclerc ends Verstappen's record run with Monaco pole


Formula One F1 - Monaco Grand Prix - Circuit de Monaco, Monaco - May 25, 2024 Ferrari's Charles Leclerc celebrates after qualifying in pole position REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

MONACO (Reuters) -Ferrari's Charles Leclerc ended Max Verstappen's record-equalling run of Formula One pole positions in style on Saturday and made himself favourite to become the first home winner of the Monaco Grand Prix since 1931.

The pole on a sunny afternoon was Leclerc's third in Monaco and 24th of his career, but he has yet to stand on the podium in front of his home crowd.

McLaren's Oscar Piastri will start alongside the 26-year-old on the front row after lapping 0.154 seconds slower around the harbourside street circuit.

"We need to put everything together for Sunday's race," said Leclerc, who can become the first Monegasque to win since Louis Chiron drove a Bugatti to victory in the early years of an event that now stands for glamour and history.

"In the past here we didn't manage to do so, but we are in a stronger position and we are a stronger team. I'm sure we can achieve great things tomorrow and the win is the target."

Leclerc took pole in Monaco in 2021, but did not start the race due to a driveshaft failure, and 2022 when he ended up fourth.

Red Bull's triple world champion Verstappen, who was chasing an unprecedented ninth successive pole and eighth in a row for the season, will line up only sixth.

"I've hit the wall," the championship leader, who has won five of seven races so far this year and is 48 points clear of Leclerc, exclaimed over the team radio.

Verstappen had been third fastest after the initial round of fast laps in the final top 10 shootout, with Leclerc setting a time of one minute 10.418 seconds and Piastri 1:10.444.

Leclerc shrugged off the pressure to improve his time with a final effort of 1:10.270, while Piastri also shaved 0.020 of a second off his previous best.

DISAPPOINTED

Verstappen, wrestling with his car since Friday practice, threw everything at it but his Ste. Devote first corner mistake effectively cost him three places on a circuit where overtaking is very difficult and races are often processional.

"I'm not disappointed with the position, I'm disappointed with our performance," he told Sky Sports television.

"It's not come as a surprise to me because I knew our limitations coming into this weekend. It's been bad. I can't take any kerbs.

"In the middle sector, I'm driving around the kerbs. It feels like I'm driving a go-kart, with no suspension and no damping."

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz qualified third, but faced an investigation for alleged impeding Williams' Alex Albon in the opening session.

The Spaniard said the priority for Sunday's race would be to help Leclerc win, while McLaren's Lando Norris was fourth.

Mercedes' George Russell will share the third row with Verstappen.

Seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton secured seventh place, a disappointment after the Briton's strong showing in practice, with RB's Yuki Tsunoda eighth.

"The team have worked really hard back at the factory to bring an upgrade to the last two races and also an upgrade this weekend but we only have one, which George has," said Hamilton.

"I anticipated it would be difficult to outqualify George because he has the upgraded component but it's great to see we are bringing upgrades."

Albon qualified ninth for Williams and Pierre Gasly a morale-boosting 10th for struggling Renault-owned Alpine in the closest thing to a home race for the Frenchman.

Verstappen's team mate Sergio Perez was the big casualty of the first phase of qualifying with the Mexican set to line up only 18th after getting caught in traffic.

Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso, another past Monaco winner, also had a bad day and starts 16th.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Editing by Hugh Lawson and Toby Davis)

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