Daniel Ricciardo claimed a sensational pole position at the Monaco GP, outpacing Sebastian Vettel by two tenths of a second as Ferrari and Mercedes had no answer for a resurgent Red Bull.
Ricciardo, on top of every practice session, posted a stonking track record of 1:10.810 on his first flying lap in Q3, and even an improving Vettel couldn’t knock his former team-mate off top spot with his final effort.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton had to settle for third at F1’s most important qualifying of the season as, struggling for balance in an under-performing Mercedes, he finished almost half a second off Ricciardo.
“50% done, lets do this **** tomorrow,” roared a pumped-up Australian, while Sky F1’s Martin Brundle described his lap, on the hypersoft tyre, as “perfect” and like “poetry in motion”.
But though Ricciardo sealed his second ever F1 pole, his and Red Bull’s first since the 2016 Monaco GP, his team-mate will start Sunday’s race at the back of the grid after suffering a gearbox issue ahead of the shootout.
Red Bull were already repairing Max Verstappen’s car from his Practice Three crash when they noticed the problem, which meant the Dutchman didn’t get out on track in qualifying.
“It feels a little bittersweet,” admitted Red Bull boss Christian Horner to Sky F1. “It’s frustrating with such a fast car not to have both cars on the front row.”
Hamilton will be joined on the second row by Kimi Raikkonen in the sister Ferrari, while Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was fifth and six tenths off the pace.
Sunday’s race, the jewel in F1’s crown, is live on Sky Sports F1 and Sky One at 2.10pm.
At F1’s most pivotal qualifying session of the season:
* Ricciardo was fastest through Q1, Q2 and Q3, though Ferrari did gain on Red Bull towards the end of the session
* He didn’t improve on his final lap, which still would have been good enough for pole, but was four tenths clear of the field after the first runs
* Mercedes attempted a Q2 lap on ultrasofts so they could start the race on that tyre, but couldn’t post a quick enough time
* Esteban Ocon was ‘best of the rest’ in sixth for an impressive Force India, with Sergio Perez also in the top 10
* Fernando Alonso got his McLaren into Q3 for the second race in a row, maintaining his 100% qualifying record over team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne
*Pierre Gasly also found himself in the top-10, while Charles Leclerc made it through to Q2 in his Sauber for the third grand prix in a row
* But Leclerc’s caused yellow flags in Q1 and spoiled many drivers’ laps, with Brendon Hartley and Kevin Magnussen both surprise early exits
Unfinished business for Ricciardo
It’s safe to say Ricciardo enjoys the iconic narrow streets of Monaco, the scene of his only ever F1 pole position.
But that 2016 event still frustrates the Australian, who was in control of the race before a botched Red Bull pit-stop cost him a maiden Monte Carlo victory.
“There is still a lot of fire in this belly,” insisted Ricciardo. “I’ve done everything I can so far, let’s finish the job tomorrow. I’m pumped.”
But while pole position is so crucial on such a tight track, Ricciardo has no safety net in Verstappen – whose error through the swimming pool chicane in P3 saw him shunt into two barriers.
It was his fifth Monaco crash in just four entries.
That leaves Ricciardo open to attack from two multi world champions and multi Moncao winners in Vettel and Hamilton, who both admitted they couldn’t threaten Red Bull in qualifying.
“It’s still a long race ahead of us tomorrow,” said Hamilton.
Monaco GP Qualifying Timesheet Driver Team Time 1) Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:10.810 2) Sebastian Vettel Ferrari + 0.229 3) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes + 0.422 4) Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari + 0.456 5) Valtteri Bottas Mercedes + 0.631 6) Esteban Ocon Force India + 1.251 7) Fernando Alonso McLaren + 1.300 8) Carlos Sainz Renault + 1.320 9) Sergio Perez Force India + 1.344 10) Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso + 1.411 Out in Q2 11) Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:12.411 12) Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:12.440 13) Sergey Sirotkin Williams 1:12.521 14) Charles Leclerc Sauber 1:12.714 15) Romain Grosjean Haas 1:12.728 Out in Q1 16) Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1:13.179 17) Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:13.265 18) Lance Stroll Williams 1:13.323 19) Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:13.393 20) Max Verstappen Red Bull No time set
The crown jewel in the F1 calendar returns and you can watch the Monaco GP on Sky Sports F1 and Sky One this weekend. Get Sky Sports F1.