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Verstappen takes 1st career Monaco pole

Bryn Lennon - Formula 1 / Formula 1 / Getty

Red Bull's Max Verstappen won arguably the most crucial pole position of the Formula 1 calendar, going fastest around Circuit de Monaco on Saturday. It's the first time the two-time champion will start from the top spot at Monaco.

He'll start alongside Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso, who went second fastest in qualifying, in the front row for Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix.

Four different drivers sat on the provisional pole at different times during Q3, including Verstappen, Alonso, Charles Leclerc, and Esteban Ocon.

Verstappen's teammate and last year's race winner, Sergio Perez, crashed out in Q1, causing a red flag in the first session. Checo currently sits second in the driver standings.

Pos. Driver Team Time
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:11.365
2 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +0.084
3 Esteban Ocon Alpine +0.188
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.265
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.360
6 Charles Leclerc* Ferrari +0.106
7 Pierre Gasly Alpine +0.568
8 George Russell Mercedes +0.599
9 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +0.717
10 Lando Norris McLaren +0.889
11 Oscar Piastri McLaren Q2
12 Nyck de Vries Williams Q2
13 Alex Albon Williams Q2
14 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Q2
15 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Q2
16 Logan Sargeant Williams Q1
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas Q1
18 Niko Hulkenberg Haas Q1
19 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Q1
20 Sergio Perez Red Bull Q1

"Of course, very happy to be on pole here for the first time," Verstappen said following the performance, which saw him make up time during a blazing third sector after trailing Alonso's pace through the first two. "Race pace-wise, the car is quick, just need to keep it clean and calm."

Fellow two-time champ Alonso was quick to congratulate Verstappen after the Dutch driver narrowly bested his time by eight-hundredths of a second in the dying moments of Q3.

Leclerc had won the previous two consecutive pole positions for his home race and wound up posting the third-fastest time in qualifying. He failed to start the 2021 race from the pole position after crashing in Q3 while having the fastest lap. Leclerc finished fourth in 2022.

Following the session, the Monegasque was handed a three-place grid penalty for impeding McLaren's Lando Norris, and he'll now start sixth.

The incident occurred during Q3 with Norris on a flying lap and heading into the tunnel, where he found Leclerc slowing down in the middle of the circuit.

Norris wound up qualifying 10th, a strong showing in what's been a trying stretch for McLaren in the early going.

Despite Leclerc's troubles converting pole positions to victories at Monaco, the iconic circuit's top grid spot is considered to be the most coveted of the calendar because of how reliably it predicts the winner. Dating back to 2009, eight of 13 pole sitters have gone on to win the race.

Ocon, who was a surprising provisional pole sitter at one point, wound up qualifying fourth and moved up to third as a result of Leclerc's penalty. He will start alongside Ferrari's Carlos Sainz.

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