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Charles Leclerc took a vital pole position in front of his home crowd for the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, meanwhile, Max Verstappen was resigned to sixth.

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Leclerc hooked his Ferrari around the Monaco corners better than the competition to post an unbeatable lap time of 1:10.270s, 0.154s ahead of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri in second.

The form man going into the session was home hero Leclerc, the fastest in FP2 and FP3. The Monegasque driver finished nearly two-tenths clear of a beleaguered Verstappen in the final practice session despite not going on a final quali sim, so arguably had pace in hand heading into the sunny qualifying session. With overtaking all but impossible on Monaco’s tight streets, claiming pole position holds more importance at the principality than it does at any other venue on the GP calendar.

That set the stage for an intense battle of drivers jostling for space on the track and the top teams hanging it for the front row. Behind practice pacesetter Leclerc, Mercedes looked strong heading into qualifying with McLaren not too far behind and although Verstappen was second quickest in FP3, he nor Sergio Perez were enjoying their time around the bumpy circuit ahead of Saturday afternoon’s session.

Leclerc’s Monaco curse is no secret, twice a pole sitter ahead of the weekend but with a best GP result of just fourth and over halfway through Q1 he was unhappy with being out of phase with his competitors in the session. Oscar Piastri was the early pacesetter and Red Bull’s struggles were evident on Perez’s side of the garage as the Mexican found himself at risk as the clock counted down.

Leclerc’s mood undoubtedly would have improved when he went top of the standings with approximately four minutes to go with a 1:11.653s effort as the pressure mounted on the drivers down the bottom of the order.

Cars were crawling around the circuit in preparation for a final Q1 push lap with times tight but tumbling as the track rubbered in. The possibility of a big name falling out at the first time of asking was huge and there were two Grand Prix winners culled in Q1. Fernando Alonso could only manage sixteenth, with traffic causing him issues, ahead of Williams’ Logan Sargeant and Perez, a winner in Monaco two years ago and a despondent 18th in Saturday’s qualifying. Unsurprisingly after being off the pace throughout practice, Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu were off the pace once again in qualifying and will occupy the back of Sunday’s grid.

With Geroge Russell fastest in Q1, it was clear any number of drivers had a chance for pole, but first, they needed to advance through to Q3 and if the opening session proved anything, it meant that nobody was a guarantee. Alonso and Perez exiting stage left at the first time of asking also meant some of the midfield runners had an opportunity to progress beyond Q2 with the likes of Alex Albon in his Williams or the Haas duo strong candidates to do so.

As the session drew to a close, Albon and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon were poised to get an unlikely Q3 appearance with the McLaren duo leading the way. But with Ocon pitting with time left on the clock, he was displaced by his Alpine team-mate Pierre Gasly, leaving him in 11th ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll and Kevin Magnussen. Gasly was jubilant over the team radio after progressing, with the mood altogether gloomier on Ricciardo’s comms. Aston Martin meanwhile will be wondering what went wrong as Stroll’s performance confirmed the team would line up 14th and 16th for the main event on Sunday.

At the front of the order Norris, Verstappen and Perez ascended to Q3 as the top three runners and pole position looked like it could be for anyone, especially with two-tenths covering the top six and seven different cars advancing to the top-10 shootout.

With the first two sessions done and dusted, it all came down to the top-10 Q3 shootout. Times were tight heading into the final session, seven different teams had skin in the game, but all that mattered was who could nail it in the crucial final runs of qualifying.

After the first Q3 runs it was Leclerc, 0.026s ahead of Piastri and 0.149s ahead of Verstappen, proving nobody could rest easy in the garage before the last laps of the day.

Leclerc was the man to rise to the occasion in the closing moments of the session with Piastri settling for best of the rest on the front row. Carlos Sainz made it a Ferrari one-three, 0.248s off of the pole time and Lando Norris ensured that Ferrari and McLaren lock out the front two rows of Sunday’s grid. Geroge Russell rounded out the top five for Mercedes, 0.273s adrift whilst Verstappen could only manage sixth after brushing the wall on his final attempt. Lewis Hamilton couldn’t trouble the top positions and wound up seventh, but only three and a half tenths off of pole. Yuki Tsunoda continued to impress for RB, finishing eighth, meanwhile, Albon and Gasly were jubilant after securing ninth and 10th respectively.

After breathtaking qualifying, attention turns to Sunday’s Grand Prix.