MONTE CARLO — Charles Leclerc claimed pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix in a session that ended with a crash for Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz.
Leclerc was on the verge of setting an even quicker time than his 1:11.376 when Red Bull’s Sergio Perez slammed into the wall on the approach to Monaco’s famous tunnel section.
Carlos Sainz, Leclerc’s teammate, then spun, trying to avoid Perez, and hit the Red Bull, blocking the track and red-flagging the session.
That meant nobody improved their times with the final runs and locked both Ferrari drivers onto the front row, putting them in prime position to reclaim the lead of both championships.
Leclerc is looking to make amends for last year’s Monaco Grand Prix when he crashed at the end of qualifying after taking pole position and was unable to start the race.
Perez qualified third despite the late drama, continuing the theme of his weekend by outpacing world champion teammate Max Verstappen.
Verstappen has looked off his normal best throughout practice but had been on a personal best lap when the session was red-flagged.
McLaren’s Lando Norris continued his stellar week by qualifying fifth, ahead of Mercedes driver George Russell and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, who also finished the session with his car in the wall after going straight on at Mirabeau.
Hamilton’s bad luck with events outside of his control continued, with the red flag ending his chances of improving on eighth position.
Hamilton had been up on his previous best time when the red flags were shown and he looked set to climb up the order.
Sebastian Vettel gave Aston Martin reason to celebrate after a disappointing recent spell, making it to the final qualifying session and putting himself ninth on the grid for the race, ahead of Esteban Ocon.
Eleventh-placed Yuki Tsunoda prompted the first red flag of the session, giving his car a puncture in Q1 when he tagged the wall at the Nouvelle Chicane.
Tsunoda brought his wounded car back to the pits and there was no debris left on track, making the decision to briefly suspend the session a strange one.
The red flag would prevent a lot of drivers from completing timed laps and would eventually have a knock-on effect on Tsunoda’s teammate, Pierre Gasly.
Gasly had been one of the quickest drivers in the midfield through the three practice sessions but the red flag ruined a timed lap he was on.
When the session resumed, a mad rush to the track ensued and Gasly was unable to improve enough to advance into Q2. He will start from 17th in what has looked like a quick car all week, setting up what might be a frustrating race staring at the back of the grid.
Despite the puncture, Tsunoda advanced to Q2, where he was eliminated from the session along with Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen, Daniel Ricciardo and Mick Schumacher.
Alex Albon qualified 16th, with Lance Stroll, Nicholas Latifi and rookie Guanyu Zhou also eliminated from the opening session.