The euphoria was palpable for Lewis Hamilton here on the Monaco streets he calls home, as he threw himself towards the crowd with such force that the protective fence almost collapsed. For all that he has another 78 laps to negotiate in today’s grand prix, still the one Formula One drivers cherish above all others, he did not dispute the idea that his 85th career pole position made his task 95 per cent complete. Such is the fiendish difficulty of overtaking on this sinuous circuit, he could afford to celebrate pole with an abandon he would usually reserve for a win.
With the halo on his Mercedes painted red in honour of the late Niki Lauda, who always wore a red baseball cap to conceal the horrific burns he suffered at the Nurburgring in 1976, there was intense emotion attached to his latest feat. “This one,” Hamilton said, emphatically, “is for Niki.” It had taken him four days to speak publicly about the loss of Lauda, but when he did, the tribute was both eloquent and sincere.
Lauda was a crucial figure in Hamilton’s career, having brought him to a team where he has won four of his five world titles. He made an instant impression on Britain’s most decorated driver with his unsparingly blunt advice, and their close relationship endured over the past year, when he was absent from races in the wake of double lung transplant.
Asked by The Sunday Telegraph about Lauda’s influence on his development as a racer, Hamilton argued that he would only have a fraction of his record-breaking achievements without him. “I owe Niki a lot,” he said. “Over the past last months, we had been sending messages back and forth. Some days, he was really perky, saying, ‘I’m coming back, I’ll be at the next race.’ It was tough to deal with from afar.
“I remember getting the call from Niki from 2012. We had never really spoken before. But he said: ‘You should come to Mercedes, this is where you need to be.’ I’ve always talked about how Ross [Brawn, the former Mercedes team principal] was the convincing element in me coming to this team. I truly believed in his vision. But Niki was the one who took it over the line. For all these years since, he was my partner in crime. He was just such a racer. Even though he wasn’t racing himself, he would be looking at ways to improve the suspension, the downforce, the engine.
“Ultimately, he was a part of the process of changing my life. If I hadn’t had that call from him, I would still be a one-time world champion now – probably still with the 21 wins I had at McLaren. Now I sit here as a five-time champion. So, it has been a very difficult week.”
This was a pole-seizing performance that leapt straight into the canon of Hamilton’s greatest flying laps. Under the most severe pressure from Valtteri Bottas, his on-form team-mate, he saved his best until last, tearing around the principality faster than anyone in history to fend off the Finn by 86 hundredths of a second. Bottas was visibly crestfallen at missing the chance of a fourth consecutive pole. Indeed, in the subsequent inquisition, he was more interested in finding out the score in Finland’s ice hockey match against Russia than in analysing his own performance.
For Mercedes’ arch-rivals Ferrari, there was another catalogue of embarrassment, with its cars – once heralded as the ones to beat this year – managing only fourth and 16th on the grid. Charles Leclerc, who did not even advance from first qualifying after bungling team strategists opted not to send him out for another lap, did not disguise his fury, hurling his balaclava across the garage. The young Monegasque has found his face plastered over local billboards all week, but within moments of being greeted by Prince Albert yesterday, he discovered that he would be struggling even to secure points at his hometown race.
“These are errors that we absolutely should not be making,” Leclerc said. “To be eliminated like this in Monaco is the worst thing that can happen for us.” The decision to keep him in the pit lane had been made ostensibly to save on tyres, but his initial time always looked vulnerable, and in a grim irony he wound up being knocked out by his own team-mate, Sebastian Vettel. “I asked whether they were sure I was safe. They said, ‘We think we are.’ I said, ‘Shouldn’t we go again?’ I need an explanation.” Such a comedy of errors explains why Mercedes sit atop the standings by 96 points with fewer than a quarter of the races gone. Where his opponents flounder, Hamilton continues to flourish. Expect him to exact maximum punishment today.
Final qualifying times:
- Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1min 10.166secs
- Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:10.252
- Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:10.641
- Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:10.947
- Pierre Gasly (Fra) Red Bull 1:11.041
- Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:11.109
- Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 1:11.218
- Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:11.271
- Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren 1:11.417
- Alexander Albon (Tha) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:11.653
- Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:11.670
- Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:11.724
- Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:12.027
- Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:12.115
- Antonio Giovinazzi* (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:12.185
- Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:12.149
- Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 1:12.233
- Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 1:12.846
- George Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:13.477
- Robert Kubica (Pol) Williams 1:13.751
* Gasly and Giovinazzi awarded three-place grid penalties for blocking other drivers in qualifying
Right, that's it from me today...
...thanks for joining me. I'll be back tomorrow for what I hope will be a thrilling (and wet) Monaco Grand Prix. Will Mercedes break the record for most consecutive 1-2 finishes? It looks likely but around Monaco anything can happen.
He was pretty pumped afterwards
Pole goes A LONG way towards victory at Monaco. That said, if there is a bit of rain about it is less crucial. Still, is there anybody better in the wet than Hamilton? Verstappen, maybe?
Credit to Toro Rosso, too...
Both Albon and Kvyat made it through to Q3. That makes it four Honda-powered cars in the top 10, two Mercedes powered cars, two Renault powered cars and two Ferrari-powered cars. Not bad.
Well, Ferrari have had another massively messy day...
...in one way or another. Again. First Vettel hit the wall in final practice, then they failed to bring Charles Leclerc out in Q1 which led to his elimination, which is nothing short of a disaster for them. Then Vettel struggled in the rest of qualifying, clouting the barriers a couple of times.
We will need to see what exactly happened and what the timings were bit it did indeed seem that Ferrari thought they were safe. They were not. Why risk it, here of all places, where it is impossible to overtake? Mercedes just do not make these mistakes.
Toto Wolff reacts to another front row lockout
It's a shame for Charles because...home race. He had it in him to be fighting for a front row. We struggled a bit how to prep the tyres to get them into the window and warm them up in the right way. I am so happy.
Valtteri had a sensational lap one and on lap two I don't know whether he hit traffic or if it was a bad lap.
The latest I have heard is there's a 60 per cent chance of rain [tomorrow] but it keeps changing here because of the sea.
Max Verstappen reacts to his P3 on the grid for tomorrow
I think anyway they were a bit quick. My lap in Q2 was good but Q3 I lost it a bit in turn one. On my second lap my out lap was too slow. I decided to abort but still P3 was good because with 10 minutes to go there was not even a floor on the car.
I am disappointed. I still felt after the first lap there was plenty of places to improve. On the out lap I had a lot of traffic [and couldn't get the tyres warm]. It would have been nice to have been on pole. It's a long race ahead.
Hamilton reacts to pole
I want to say a bit thank you to the crowd. This is the race that every driver dreams of from being a kid. You still put absolutely everything you've got. We've arrived with a great car and a great battle with Valtteri. The desire and will to get this pole means so much to me. I had to dig deeper than ever. The lap was beautiful. I feel amazing and super grateful.
Bottas was looking good there for a while...
...but he made a mistake on his second hot lap and that was that. Hamilton is delighted. He had a poor first run but his second quick lap was brilliant. That's important. Vettel ends up fourth. Gasly fifth.
LEWIS HAMILTON TAKES POLE POSITION FOR THE 2019 MONACO GRAND PRIX...
..."THAT'S WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT! YES!" he screams on the radio. I am not sure I have heard him like that for a while. He pulled out a super lap when he needed it. He's quite emotional on the radio.
Q3 - Vettel is down on Bottas...
...Hamilton is up! Vettel hits the barrier! But it's a glance...Bottas hasn't improved his sector one...Hamilton is looking good...it's good enough but just! 0.086! Bottas has bailed out of his lap!
Q3 - the cars come out for their final runs...
...Good work from Albon. He has made it into Q3 again and looks in good nick out there. Vettel winds it up for a hot lap with 1.40s left on the clock. He needs to improve at least to get ahead of Verstappen, really...
"That was quite idiotic in my opinion"
Is what Haas boss Gunther Steiner says about the Grosjean/Gasly incident. As I said I think it will be a penalty. It looks pretty clear cut to me. At least someone wasn't paying attention whether it was Red Bull or Gasly himself. Or both.
Q3 - Hamilton goes second...
...not an awful lap but 0.231s down on his team-mate. Bottas had another go an it was a tenth down on his first time. Two laps quicker than any of Hamilton's...
- HAM +0.231
- VER +0.389
- VET +0.695
- GAS +0.789
- MAG +0.999
- KVY +1.801
- SAI +2.053
- ALB +3.175
- RIC (no time)
Hamilton should be able to find some time, he did two preparation laps and bailed out of his first hot lap. But has Bottas got the measure of him again?
Q3 - Verstappen goes second...
...he did find some time but it wasn't enough. 0.389s away. Hamilton, meanwhile has not put this lap together and he will do ANOTHER hot lap. He's struggling at the moment. What's his first sector? He's well down so far. 0.15s so far...
Q3 - 10 minutes to go...
...first runs are underway. Bottas quickest in sector one, ahead of Vettel. It's a 1.10.252...Vettel is six-tenths behind. Which is an absolute age. Hamilton is doing a second preparation lap as he bids to crank it up...
Verstappen down on Bottas so far. Can he find time in the final sector? It needs to be a lot...he's nearly 0.5s down on him.
...I am sticking with Bottas for pole. Verstappen a threat, and Hamilton. Always. What can Vettel do?
I think that is going to be a penalty for Pierre Gasly...
He was just dawdling and ruined Grosjean's lap. Giovinazzi called to the stewards for a similar incident in Q1. And I think he'll be taking a grid penalty, too.
Leclerc reacts to being eliminated from Q1
I asked whether they were sure, they told me we think they are. I said shouldn't w ego out again. I didn't have any explanations yet in detail but a very difficult one to take. We had plenty of time even when we went out of the box to go again. The weighbridge was not the problem. We had plenty of fuel. I need to take some risks [in the race]...even risking to crash.
He's not happy and nor should he be. His team have screwed this one up royally. On a track where it is nearly impossible to overtake. Not for the first time this year Ferrari have messed Leclerc's chances up.
Q2 - Top 10
These men are through to final qualifying and the pole shoot out.
Grosjean lets fly a string of expletives on the radio. "Mate...people don't give a ----, seriously." Maybe he got blocked out there. Must've done. Ah, he was blocked by Pierre Gasly going into Mirebeau and had to SLAM on the brakes. Locked up. Not good.
Q2 - 30 seconds to go...
Kvyat does not improve again but he should be fine in P5. Norris needs to find time...Sainz stays ninth. Norris only finds time enough for 11th! Magnussen is flying...can he knock Hulkenberg out? Yes! He goes fifth. Superb lap!
Q2 - Magnussen gets into the top 10...
...and into P8. It's going to be a frantic end. Raikkonen doesn't improve. Gasly not looking too sharp, unlike his team-mate, who just goes quickest with a 1.10.6...Bottas and Hamilton looking to beat it with 90 seconds left of the session. Hulkenberg pushes Albon down into the drop zone...
Q2 - Grosjean flying...but he doesn't improve enough to get him into the top 10
...he'll need another run, he's 12th. It makes me feel a little sick watching the onboard cameras around here, to be honest. Vettel is getting his act together...sort of. He goes P4 and should be safe.
I think Magnussen did sustain some damage there, actually...
Q2 - top 10 after first runs
- HAM +0.134
- VER +0.358
- KVY +0.711
- RIC +0.842
- SAI +0.960
- GAS +1.106
- HUL +1.149
- VET +1.221
- ALB +1.236
Vettel will have done his first run on a set of worn, scrubbed tyres. So will be quicker on fresher rubber.
Drivers in the drop zone:
Magnussen glances the wall into Mirebeau...
...no damage done other than to his lap time.
Q2 - Hamilton improves on his second hot lap...
...but he's still 0.134s behind Bottas. Don't think we'll see Bottas out again...Kvyat goes P4. Track evolution is big here, though.
Misery for the Monegasque in Monaco
Q2 - Verstappen goes second...
...and ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Still nowhere near Bottas's time, though. Not sure if either of them were on scrubbed or new tyres.
Drivers in the drop zone:
Q2 - first runs underway...
...Bottas WELL up on Hamilton at the moment. He's going to be 0.5s up on Hamilton here now...yep. 0.456 quicker overall. Lost a bit of time in the final sector but it's a new absolute track record.
What can McLaren do here?
Not good for Racing Point...
Well, the shoot-out for pole just got a bit smaller.
Q1 - Drivers through to Q2
With track evolution as it is it's astounding they didn't send him out. If they had time.
So, Leclerc was called into the weighbridge as he came into the pits...
...he missed it, his team rolled him back to be weighed. But there was still time for him to go out again, surely? Will be interesting to see what they all say afterwards.
You don't want to be starting 16th in Monaco....
...oh no. Strange decision from Ferrari, there. Quickest in FP3. Out in Q1.
Leclerc, Perez, Stroll, Russell, Kubica
Vettel goes quickest! Leclerc is out!
What an absolute disaster. Vettel knocked his team-mate out! What were Ferrari thinking of there? Why didn't they put him out?! He's shaking his head in the garage.
Q1 - final runs underway...
...here we go. Norris gets out of 15th and into 7th! Leclerc isn't on the track...he could be in real trouble here...Vettel goes quickest in sector one...and sector two...
Q1 - Hamilton goes quickest...
...and Vettel is in the drop zone! He's out though and starts a hot lap on a new set of tyres. He has a single lap to get in. If he makes a mistake or comes across traffic it could be curtains for his Q2 hopes...
Drivers in the drop zone:
Leclerc only 12th too! Ferrari in real bother here if they don't get it together...
Q1 - Bottas has improved to go quickest...
...but only just. Vettel pits from P11 after doing the fastest first sector. Ooh, he brushed the barrier on the way out of the swimming pool section...a strange one...he's in danger here. He needs to get back out, you'd think. Soon. It's about to get a bit mad out there now...
Q1 - Kubica improves...
...but so does Russell by a fair amount. Charles Leclerc has missed the call to go into the weighbridge and had to be wheeled back. Will that be a penalty? Only if they've changed something on the car.
Stroll not looking like improving to get out of P18. Desperate times for Racing Point here.
Five minutes to go...
Q1 - Verstappen still leads the field
Oof! Leclerc nearly puts it in the barriers in Rascasse. He's down in P6. It's so frantic out there at the moment. Magnussen improves again to go second. Haas were nowhere here last year but look at K-Mag's pace now! It's a bit quieter now after the first runs. Frantic out there.
Drivers in the drop zone:
16. HUL 17. PER 18. STR 19. KUB 20. RUS
Q1 - Bottas does improve...
...on his second run there. Hamilton flying in sector two, but only a little ahead of Verstappen's S1. Red Bull strong in S3 here, it seems. Gasly goes second...Verstappen improves again with a 1.11.597...Hamilton backed out of his lap there after a slow second sector...yeah, he locked up at the nouvelle chicane and had to abandon.
Q1 - top 10 with 10 mins 30s to go
Q1 - Verstappen leads Kvyat...
...it was briefly two Red Bulls at the top. But Kvyat puts one in to split them! Then Magnussen does the same. And then Hamilton! Hamilton is 0.374 down on Verstappen's time, a 1.11.725. Bottas bails out of a hot lap...he will do another.
Drivers in the drop zone:
Q1 - Leclerc goes quickest...
...but he's not MILES ahead of Magnussen's time. Just 0.044 in fact. Bottas is third, behind Magnussen. That's a good lap by Magnussen, though. More laps to be done, though, in Q1. It's not an out-hot-in lap type situation. Giovinazzi blocks Nico Hulkenberg quite badly there, what did I say?
Q1 - 15 minutes to go...
...five drivers to be eliminated here. So two Williams and three others. Racing Point and Lance Stroll not looking too tasty here. Vettel on his out lap, thanks his team for sorting his motor out. Verstappen out, too.
Of the first batch of drivers Kevin Magnussen goes quickest with a 1.12.869...
Q1 is go!
A gaggle of cars out. I also predict that someone will get a penalty for blocking here. It's almost guaranteed, really, given how short and tight the track is how important tyre preparation is these days.
Bottas on pole for me...
...he just has Saturdays nailed at the moment. It'd be four poles in a row for him if so.
Just about one minute to go. Who will shove it into the barriers, if anyone? I love him but I think Grosjean could have a moment today.
Verstappen in his car and ready to go, by the way.
A chance of rain, eh?
That'd be nice. Please, a quick heavy shower.
Well, earlier in the week I predicted a Verstappen victory. I am not entirely sure he has the pace to get pole but I think it will be close. Mind you, the floor of his car is currently not yet on. Not long left to go, looks a bit frantic in the Red Bull garage. Vettel's car will be ready to go for Q1, though.
Sure, it's not a bad backdrop...
...but give me a flat field in Northamptonshire any day.
10 minutes until Q1 begins.
Whilst Monaco's qualifying is thrilling...
...and fraught with danger, the races have tended to become a little bit processional. Not helped by how difficult it is to overtake here. Daniel Ricciardo, as good as his win here last year was, lost 25 per cent of power when in the lead but still won the race. We could have the same discussion about whether this track needs modification for these current cars or if the format needs changing here.
With all that in mind (plus a return to Zolder next year) we've gone through and ranked every single F1 track on the calendar. And added in a little wish list, too. Read our ranking of every track here. Does Monaco top it?
The 1988 Monaco Grand Prix was an interesting one...
...and so is this video looking into Senna's performance (some might call his Saturday performance the finest qualifying lap ever...) that weekend. It all went a bit wrong on Sunday.
With a circuit this rich in history, it'd be amiss not to look back at some of it...
...this onboard of Graham Hill - five time winner here - is quite something.
In other Williams-related news...
...they have signed current W Series leader Jamie Chadwick as a development driver. Read Oliver Brown's interview with her here.
Speaking of tributes...
Charles Leclerc has one for his father and Jules Bianchi.
Exclusive: Claire Williams will keep battling to upset F1's male-dominated world
It's fair to say Williams are not having their best season. They in fact may be having their worst. Deputy team principal Claire Williams spoke to Oliver Brown this week about being a prominent woman in a male-dominated sport, her father and mother. Read more of that here.
Niki Lauda tributes
Current driver standings
Niki Lauda’s death has left me feeling like a 'zombie', reveals Toto Wolff in moving eulogy
In a moving eulogy, Toto Wolff, team principal of world champions Mercedes, reflected on Thursday that he felt like a “zombie” in the wake of Niki Lauda’s death, finding himself close to tears every 30 minutes. Although he had postponed a planned media session in Monaco to allow extra time to compose himself, the pain at the passing of his fellow Austrian, his sidekick for five consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ titles, remained raw. “The last 48 hours,” he said, “have been terrible.”
Mercedes remember Niki Lauda...
...by running with a red halo this weekend. The three-time F1 champion and non-executive chairman of Mercedes in F1, died earlier this week, aged 70, and this tribute is a nod to his famous red cap. A nice touch, I think. Most other teams are carrying some kind of tribute on their cars somewhere. More on that later.
Charles Leclerc was investigated for an incident in final practice...
...for in effect speeding under the safety car. Or "Failure to stay above the minimum time set by the FIA ECU under the virtual safety car" in official terms. Here's what they said.
The Stewards reviewed video and telemetry evidence and heard from the driver of car 16 (Charles Leclerc) and team representative. The driver clearly and appropriately braked before turn 1 in reaction to the incident at the corner. The VSC appeared when the driver was between turn 1 and turn 2. The driver did slow significantly, however he remained below the minimum time set by the FIA ECU until past turn 8.
The Stewards recognised that the driver was considerably slower than a normal lap throughout the sequence. However, as the VSC is imposed for safety reasons, the Stewards determined that the breach needed to be recognized. The Stewards therefore impose a Reprimand, which is consistent with similar cases during practice session
So just a reprimand. No grid penalty. That would have made a tough day even tougher for Ferrari. From FP3 it looks like Leclerc has a chance of pole.
The moment Vettel binned it at turn one in final practice...
...pick the (wish)bones out of that one.
Final practice times
- Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1min 11.265secs
- Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:11.318
- Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:11.478
- Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:11.539
- Pierre Gasly (Fra) Red Bull 1:11.738
- Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:12.170
- Daniil Kyvat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:12.194
- Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:12.270
- Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:12.308
- Alexander Albon (Tha) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:12.338
- Nico Hulkenburg (Ger) Renault 1:12.489
- Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 1:12.519
- Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:12.566
- Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:12.583
- Carlos Sainz Jr (Spa) McLaren 1:12.862
- Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:12.914
- Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 1:13.232
- Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 1:13.622
- Robert Kubica (Pol) Williams 1:14.086
- George Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:14.305
Good afternoon F1 fans...
...and welcome to our coverage for qualifying for the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo. So far this season we have had complete Mercedes dominance: they have finished 1-2 in the five races in 2019, Lewis Hamilton winning three and Valtteri Bottas two. With that they have taken the record for the most 1-2s in a row at the start of the season, but if they take the top two steps of the podium in Monaco this weekend, they will hold the outright record.
In past years (at least the past two, if not three) they have not had the quickest car and the streets of Monaco have arguably been their poorest venue. In 2017 they finished fourth and seventh and that improved slightly to third and fifth last year. However, with their overall performance advantage over Ferrari and Red Bull - and in particular their performance in the final sector in Barcelona two weeks ago - they come into this race as favourites. Which is bad news for fans of any kind of competition at the front of F1. But still, there is hope.
They topped the first two practice sessions on Thursday but home favourite Charles Leclerc put in a time quick enough to beat them both in final practice on Saturday afternoon. He was 0.053 seconds quicker than the Mercedes of Bottas and 0.213 seconds faster than Hamilton.
His Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel, however, had a less successful session, shunting into the barriers at turn one with much of the session left to run. His car only just made it back to the garage for repairs as the session ended. Not ideal preparation for a track where nailing a hot lap with maximum confidence and minimum clearance from the barriers is crucial. But it perhaps sums up where Vettel is at the moment.
Further down the field Antonio Giovinazzi impressed with sixth in his Alfa Romeo and Daniil Kvyat finished a decent seventh.
With qualifying about to get going in a little over an hour, I'll be here for all the build-up, updates and reaction from what could be an exciting session. Surely someone will smash into the barriers at some point?