Hometown hero Charles Leclerc is still waiting to see if he will start the Monaco Grand Prix from pole position.
The Ferrari star claimed a controversial top spot in qualifying after he crashed and caused an early end to the timed runs.
Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and his team mate Carlos Sainz all complained that they were robbed of their final shot at pole, although no-one suggested Leclerc had deliberately fired his Ferrari into the barriers at the swimming pool complex.
“Frustrated,” said Verstappen.
“Gutted. Gutted,” said Bottas.
“It was my first chance to put it on pole here in Monaco and lining up P4 is really frustrating. I’m not happy,” said Sainz.
But the real story from Monaco was Leclerc’s Ferrari, which sustained heavy damage in the crash and could yet be hit with a 10-place grid penalty if it needs a last-minute gearbox change.
Many F1 cars have needed a gearbox change after sustaining the giant hit from the Armco barrier in Monaco, and other tracks, as it can potentially transfer the force into the delicate internal components.
Leclerc and Ferrari are hopeful, but the official news is not completely positive.
“UPDATE: An initial inspection of the gearbox in Charles_Leclerc’s car has not revealed any serious damage. Further checks will be carried out tomorrow, to decide if the same gearbox can be used in the race,” Ferrari tweeted after the car had been returned to the garage.
Leclerc said he felt “quite shit” as he waits for the final decision.
But there is not doubt about the starting spot for Australia’s former Monaco winner, who only managed 12th against the fifth for his McLaren team mate Lando Norris.
““It’s more confusing than frustrating at the moment, that’s the emotion I’m feeling,” Said Ricciardo.
“Usually, you can feel when you’re a bit off the pace, but I haven’t had that, and I don’t feel like I’ve forgotten how to drive this track. I’m still getting up to speed with the driving style needed to get the maximum out of this car, and maybe that’s amplified here in Monaco. But, we know what we need to work on and we’ll keep pushing for the race tomorrow.”
The controversy over Leclerc’s crash temporarily overshadowed this year’s world title fight between Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, but it’s in clear focus as the Red Bull racer starts second in Monaco with the Mercedes man back in seventh.
“It’s almost impossible to overtake here and from where we are, that’s pretty much the case when everyone is running at the same speed. Saturday really is the day. I guess the minimum would be, hopefully, seventh and then we have got to try and somehow see if we can move forward,” said Hamilton.
“We’re starting on the front row tomorrow, which is the most important thing in Monaco, so it’s not too bad. I can be quite happy with second after that red flag and now we just need to finish off the job tomorrow.”
But he could still have to deal with Leclerc, who has been fast from the first lap on his home track.
“Mixed feelings today. On the one hand, being on pole here is amazing. Unfortunately, I hit the wall and now all we can do is keep our fingers crossed and hope that the damage won’t result in a penalty,” Leclerc said.
“For now, it does feel great to have extracted the maximum today. But I believe that it’s a bit of a one-off as the track suits the characteristics of our SF21 really well. That’s why we were so competitive.
“Whatever the outcome, I will give my all. It feels great to be at home and to see all the fans around the track. It’s Monaco, it’s very unpredictable, and also challenging for us drivers, especially in the race with so many laps. It’s a great challenge and we will try to put everything together to get a good result.”
MONACO GRAND PRIX
- Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
- Max Verstappen, Red Bull
- Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
- Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
- Lando Norris, McLaren
- Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
- Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
- Sergio Perez, Red Bull
- Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo
- Esteban Ocon, Alpine
- Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
- Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
- Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo
- George Russell, Williams
- Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
- Fernando Alonso, Alpine
- Nicholas Latifi, Williams
- Nikita Mazepin, Haas
- Mick Schumacher, Haas