Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 14 December 2019

Lewis Hamilton takes Monaco pole as Charles Leclerc fumes over Ferrari blunder

Mercedes-GP front row lockout for Sunday's sixth round of the 2019 Formula One season

Lewis Hamilton is on pole for the Monaco Grand Prix. PA Photo
Lewis Hamilton is on pole for the Monaco Grand Prix. PA Photo

Lewis Hamilton is on pole for Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix as Charles Leclerc demanded "explanations" from his Ferrari team after a tactical blunder left him 16th on the grid.

Championship leader Hamilton took top spot in qualifying from Mercedes-GP teammate Valtteri Bottas with a lap of 1 minute, 10.166 seconds for a new lap record in Monte Carlo.

But it was Leclerc's disappointment that was the main talking point as the Monegasque driver failed to make it out of the first part of the qualifying session, despite being fastest in final practice.

Ferrari failed to send Leclerc out for a lap in the closing stages and he was bounced down the order as other drivers improved. He ended up in the bottom five in the 20-car session, meaning he starts from the back of the eighth row.

With overtaking nigh on impossible, Leclerc's chances of a first podium finish in hi hometown look bleak.

The 21 year old hit out at his team, telling reporters: "I don't have any explanation. Very difficult one to take. We had plenty of time to go out again. I need some explanations."

Leclerc admitted that he would need rain on Sunday, which is not forecast at present, if he is to have any chance of a good points finish.

"Hopefully there will be rain tomorrow and that will be a lottery," he added. "If it is dry it will be boring. I will have to take a lot of risks tomorrow because this is a track that is basically impossible to overtake on.

"It is disappointing. It has been a difficult day and hopefully tomorrow will be better."

Hamilton's pole is his first since the season-opener in Australia in March and he acknowledged he had dug deep to prevent Bottas from starting at the front.

"Valtteri has been quick all weekend," he said. "To get this, it means so much, I had to dig deeper than ever. The lap was beautiful, I feel amazing and super grateful.

"We have a great package and all drivers, whether their car is fast or slow, you take it to its limit, it's like wrestling a bull. The lap was hard, I had a moment at Rascasse but just managed to pull it off."

Bottas trails five-time world champion Hamilton by seven points in the standings and admitted he was frustrated not to be starting ahead of his teammate.

"I'm disappointed not to have got pole," the Finn said. "Anything can happen in the race - there's no point giving up on Saturday. It would've been nice to have been on pole but I won't give up."

Max Verstappen produced his best qualifying performance of the season to take third in his Red Bull Racing car.

The Dutchman felt it was the optimum result he could have got up against the Mercedes pair.

"They were a bit quick," he said. "My lap in Q2 was quick but I lost it a bit in turn one in my lap on Q3. It was a reasonable lap.

"I didn't do many qualifying here so I am of course happy to be third."

Sebastian Vettel recovered from a crash in practice to be fourth in the second Ferrari, ahead of Pierre Gasly's Red Bull, and Hass driver Kevin Magnussen. Last year's Monaco winner Daniel Ricciardo qualified seventh in his Renault.

Sunday's 78-lap race begins at 5.10pm UAE time.

Updated: May 25, 2019 08:13 PM