Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo clinched pole position for the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix, after dominating every practice session and all three qualifying sessions this weekend. His record lap of 1 minute 10.801 seconds beat 2017 pole sitter Kimi Raikkonen’s pole record of 1 minute 12.178 seconds, to become the most successful qualifier at the Monte Carlo street circuit in Monaco. The Australian is joined by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in front row, who clocked the second fastest time of 1 minute 11.039 seconds. Reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton follows the two in third place one the grid and clocked the third fastest lap of the session.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen who clinched pole here last year, was unable to string a perfect lap due to traffic amidst a gripping qualifying session and had to settle for a second row start qualifying in fourth place. Following him was fellow Finn and Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, who was struggling all weekend long with the new pink striped tyre, the hyper-soft compound qualified fifth, to round up the top 5 of the session.
The Mercedes cars have struggled all weekend long with sprint laps on the hyper-soft tyre and looked even worse on the ultrasoft compound. The Silver Arrows car has not been able to get those tyres working in the optimum temperature window, at a high-grip level circuit like this one. Both their drivers almost got knocked out, in the Q2 session when they attempt the session, on the ultrasoft compound, but eventually managed scraping through after a last-minute change to hyper-soft tyres. Both drivers, have brought the least number of ultrasoft tyre sets to this circuit, where the Briton brought two sets of tyres while the Finn had three.
Qualifying sixth was Force India’s Esteban Ocon, with a timing of 1 minute 12.061 seconds, after whom most of the middle-field is tight within a second of that 1 minute 12 second bracket. Posting a time less than a tenth of a second slower than the Frenchman, was McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who qualified seventh.
Following the McLaren was the lone Renault driver in top 10 Carlos Sainz, who sealed eighth spot on the grid. This is the second consecutive weekend where the Spaniard has outqualified his team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, who had turbo issues in Spain, and had a scrappy lap here in Monaco dislodging him out of the top 10. Although the German starts 11th on the grid, that could mean a different tyre strategy, which could aid him in making up some places during the race.
Force India’s Sergio Perez clocked the ninth fastest time and was followed by Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly who qualified tenth, to round up the top 10 qualifiers of the session.
Although Ricciardo takes pole at a weekend where Red Bull Racing team dominate, his team-mate Max Verstappen starts in last position at the bottom of the grid. Potentially, a weekend where Red Bull Racing front row lockout was a possibility, the young Dutch hit his car on a kerb at the swimming pool chicane and got lodged into the barriers in the third free practice session, earlier in the day. A result of which, his car could not be repaired in time for the qualifying session, and his gearbox needs replacement.
This is possibly the sixth mistake by Verstappen in six race weekends so far, which sometimes can be disappointing for the team, knowing the immense potential the driver and car have at a track like this, and it gets thrown away due to hastiness. The young Dutch now has a record of a clipping a barrier or crashing into another driver at almost every Monaco Grand Prix weekend he has driven at.
The Monaco circuit is the most challenging circuit in Formula 1 from the technical point of view, with tricky corners, and narrow long straights which makes it almost impossible to overtake in the current F1 cars. Adding to it, it is also the oldest circuits on the calendar, and is considered one of three esteemed events along with the Indy 500, and 24 hours of Le Mans together contributing to what is called the triple crown of motorsport. At this circuit, although the cornering and top speeds are the slowest of the year, it can be very easy to make a mistake, and often leads to an incident filled Grand Prix, sometimes with several Safety Car periods.
As far as statistics go, there is an interesting one to the current qualifying outcome, which is although Ricciardo has clinched many pole positions here, and in his career, he has never won from pole. In 2016, he lost the race from pole for no fault of his own. The other statistic is that Lewis Hamilton has won the race twice at this circuit from starting on third place on the grid. Apart from those two statistics, the general statistic for a race at Monaco, that half the race is won at the qualifying in the current F1 cars which are wider and allow no overtaking at this tight circuit. However, for the last two races at this track, a pole position has almost been like a curse, therefore the statistics above become worth a mention.
While the general prediction according to the race simulations from the free practice sessions goes, the pecking order has Red Bull Racing lead the grid, followed by Ferrari who look second strongest and then Mercedes. In the mid-field the teams that will really be trying their best to earn some points will be McLaren and Toro Rosso, who looked good around this circuit, since it is the least power sensitive circuit.
Last year, one saw a lot of undercut and overcut strategies through the race, which made Vettel win instead of Raikkonen and catapult Ricciardo to the podium instead of Verstappen. Looking forward to the race, there will be other tyre compounds apart from the hyper-soft at play, with Hamilton opting for the super-soft compound too, so it will be interesting 78 laps around this scenic circuit at the French Riviera.