Leclerc grabs pole while Verstappen struggles

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Matt Kew

The Ferrari driver was kept busy in the latter part of qualifying after spinning in the penultimate corner during his banker lap in Q3, but then the championship leader was stunned on his second attempt.

A run to 1m18.750s comfortably marked the fastest lap of the weekend as he claimed his 13th F1 pole position by three tenths over his ground effect title rivals Verstappen.

The defending champion, who held provisional pole after his first attempt in Q3, was forced to abandon his last flying lap after his Red Bull suffered even more unreliability and died at Turn 3.

Comfortable Q2 pacesetter Verstappen hadn’t long put in an overwhelming run through the final sector to carve out a four-tenths advantage on his first flying lap in the latter part of qualifying, posting a time of 1m19.073s.

That propelled him to the top of the timing screens as he ran a mighty 0.35s ahead of provisional pacesetter Sainz while Perez was third ahead of the Mercedes pair.

Leclerc was the big name missing from the top of the times after throwing away his first Q3 lap with a spin at Turn 14 despite having completed five session-best mini-sectors over the lap.

The Ferrari’s rear axle spun into the left-hand side of the narrow chicane when, like at Imola, it caught too many curbs. He then locked all four tires and brought the car to a standstill.

Leclerc was equipped with a fresh set of soft tires and made his way to the qualifying highlight comparatively early. He left his box three and a half minutes before the end.

But he stitched together the quickest second and third sectors to aim for pole.

Verstappen was eventually able to restart his car after the blackout, and his first attempt proved sufficient to complete the front row ahead of Sainz, who fell a tenth behind with a 1m 19.166s.

George Russell led Mercedes’ renewed effort with fourth as he passed Sergio Perez while Lewis Hamilton moved to sixth after his first lap of Q3 was hurt by oversteer out of the final corner.

Valtteri Bottas snatched seventh for Alfa Romeo ahead of Kevin Magnussen, while Daniel Ricciardo dropped to ninth after McLaren opted not to send him on a second Q3 attack.

Meanwhile, Mick Schumacher completed the top 10.

Lando Norris did not make the top 10 by 0.035s as the stewards scrapped his final flying lap of the 15-minute session for slightly exceeding the track limits at Turn 12.

The McLaren driver, who also clipped the bollard at Turn 14, had just stopped Mick Schumacher from squeezing into Q3 before his lap was suspended and he was dismounted.

Esteban Ocon abandoned his second attempt in Q2 to tie himself in 12th place, while Yuki Tsunoda was ahead of AlphaTauri teammate Pierre Gasly.

The French racer struggled with understeer at Turn 5 on his final run after missing almost all of FP3 after a fire ignited on his installation lap.

Alfa Romeo rookie Guanyu Zhou completed the top 15.

World champions Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso were the biggest scalps in the first part of qualifying as they were pushed into the bottom five.

Alpine driver Alonso, preparing for his home race, was forced to abandon his last flying lap due to early traffic from Norris, among other things, but the stewards did not intervene. That made Alonso the prey when the usual uproar of better times set in late.

Better laps from Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo secured their progress and subsequently dropped Vettel and Alonso to 16th and 17th in the standings.

Vettel, who missed the Q2 boundary by 0.07s, at least managed to surpass his teammate Lance Stroll as the Canadian took the rigorously tested and updated AMR22 to just 18th place.

Alex Albon passed Williams stablemate Nicholas Latifi to round out the last row of the grid.

position driver team time gap
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1’18,750
2 Max Verstappen red bull 1’19,073 0.323
3 Carlo Sainz Ferrari 1’19.166 0.416
4 George Russell Mercedes 1’19,393 0.643
5 Sergio Perez red bull 1’19,420 0.670
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’19,512 0.762
7 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1’19,608 0.858
8th Kevin Magussen Haas/Ferrari 1’19,682 0.932
9 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren/Mercedes 1’20,297 1,547
10 Michael sSchumacher Haas/Ferrari 1’20,368 1,618
11 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1’20,471 1,721
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1’20,638 1,888
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Red Bull 1’20,639 1,889
14 Pierre Gasli AlphaTauri/Red Bull 1’20,861 2.111
15 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1’21,094 2,344
16 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin/Mercedes 1’20,954 2.204
17 Fernando Alonso Alpine/Renault 1’21.043 2,293
18 lance walk Aston Martin/Mercedes 1’21.418 2,668
19 Alexander Alban Williams/Mercedes 1’21,645 2,895
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1’21,915 3.165

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