The Monaco Grand Prix is world famous for many things, and one of them is that it is held on a street circuit where passing is so difficult that it borders on impossible. That makes qualifying in Monte Carlo more important than any other weekend of the season, and that makes a qualifying session where the top six are divided by just over a third of a second something special.
Three separate drivers held provisional pole in the closing minutes of the final qualifying session. Esteban Ocon led early for Alpine, looking to take his first-ever pole. Then Fernando Alonso, who has not started from pole in an F1 race since July of 2021, took the spot. That put Max Verstappen in position for a dramatic moment in the closing minute of the session, and the two-time champion rose to the occasion by taking pole with a time just 0.084 seconds clear of Alonso.
The lap itself is even better. Verstappen is all-out through the track's first two sectors in what has on every other track this season been by far the fastest car on the grid, but he is still two tenths of a second down on Alonso after the second timing loop. Over the remaining portion of the track, the Red Bull ace comes close to every single possible wall to eke out that additional 3/10ths, seemingly tapping the barriers softly at both the Swimming Pool chicane and the final straight.
Las ruedas delanteras y traseras derechas de Verstappen después de la quali. 👁
Right Front and rear Verstappen wheels after the quali. 👁 pic.twitter.com/vIQ2uMGQvZ
— Albert Fabrega (@AlbertFabrega) May 27, 2023
Verstappen reported on the radio that he hit the wall on the straight in real time, and photos of the car's right-side tires show telltale signs of contact, too. That swimming pool wall claimed the front suspension of Carlos Sainz Jr.'s Ferrari just a day ago; today, Max Verstappen hit the same point and found 3/10ths of a second.
It is a triumphant qualifying moment for Verstappen. After a season made up mostly of effortless-looking drives where he is challenged only by his own teammate, it is the highlight of his season to date. Tomorrow's Monaco Grand Prix may not be a good race, but the most important qualifying session of the year has once again lived up to its promise.
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