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Qualifying day in Monaco belonged to Max Verstappen

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen grabbed pole from Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in a gripping qualifying session at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Alonso displaced Verstappen at the top of the timesheets with his final lap.

The Dutchman was more than 0.2 seconds behind after the first two sectors of his last attempt but a stunning final few corners saw him take pole position by 0.084secs.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was third, just 0.022secs behind Alonso.

Lewis Hamilton could manage only sixth fastest in the upgraded Mercedes after a frenetic and difficult session, behind Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

However, they all moved up one place after Leclerc was later handed a three-place grid penalty for impeding McLaren’s Lando Norris in the tunnel.

But while others were enjoying plenty of grip, Perez lost control of his Red Bull through Sainte Devote, slammed into the barriers and littered debris all over the track, bringing out the red flags as the Mexican swore over the radio at his early qualifying bath.

After a short delay, drivers streamed back out onto the track to try and secure a place in Q2, with Verstappen promptly reclaiming top spot thanks to a low 1m 13s lap, before Alonso stated his and Aston Martin’s intentions by moving the target to a 1m 12.886s.

It was a theme that continued as the field completed several hot laps on the soft rubber, Verstappen going faster still with a 1m 12.644s to slot back in front of Alonso, Leclerc and Stroll, while the Alpines of Ocon and Gasly sandwiched Russell’s Mercedes.
A frenetic conclusion to the session saw Tsunoda briefly lead the way, before Verstappen delivered yet another improvement on a 1m 12.386s, with the 18 drivers behind jostling for position and sending the timesheets into a blur of purple and green sector times.

Hamilton was under pressure after his FP3 crash and a low-key start to Q1 and, after pitting for a fresh set of tyres, he appeared to have blown his chances with a mistake at the Nouvelle Chicane, but a strong enough final lap got him into the top 10 and through to Q3.

In the end, Verstappen and Tsunoda set the pace from the high-flying Williams of Albon, Sainz, Stroll, the Mercedes machines of Russell and Hamilton, Norris, Alonso and Leclerc, who had to avoid his Ferrari team mate at the exit of La Rascasse late on.

Highlighting just how much the track had ramped up, Ocon and Gasly dropped to 11th and 13th in their Alpines, split by Piastri, with Bottas and De Vries the last drivers to make it through to Q2 at the expense of Sargeant, who missed the cut by just over half a tenth.

Haas pair Magnussen and Hulkenberg both dropped out in Q1 in 17th and 18th respectively, with one-time Q1 leader Zhou and Perez – who cut a depressed figure on his return to the pit lane – bringing up the rear.

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