After Max Verstappen’s stunning victory in Spain, Red Bull continued their upward momentum thanks to Daniel Ricciardo’s scintillating lap to take pole position for the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix. Ricciardo was 0.169 seconds quicker than championship leader Nico Rosberg, with the German’s Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton 0.320 seconds off the pace after an engine problem hampered the two-time defending champion in final qualifying.
It wasn’t all celebrations for Red Bull. Verstappen, who, aged 18, became the youngest race winner in F1 history two weeks ago, crashed heavily in the first phase of qualifying and will now start from 21st on the grid. But a first pole position for the team since the last of its four years of dominance in 2013 still made it a day to savor.
Boosted by an upgraded Renault engine, Ricciardo had gone quickest in Thursday’s afternoon practice and he backed that up brilliantly to take the first pole of his career at the most prestigious Grand Prix on the calendar.
“Definitely a special place,” the 26-year-old Australian said afterward. “I knew coming into the weekend we’d have a shot at it and it looked good from Thursday. I sort of had it in my mind the whole time coming into the weekend. I felt like the last few races I’ve been driving well but haven’t got the maximum reward, so I came into this weekend with a lot of a confidence and a lot of belief that I could be in this position now and I’m very happy to have fulfilled that.”
Ricciardo could have an added advantage, having opted to start the race on the slower super-soft tires, allowing him to go longer off the start before his first pitstop. Although rain could arrive in Sunday’s race, on a tight street circuit notoriously difficult to overtake, it could mean further frustration for the Mercedes duo.
After Rosberg and Hamilton collided on the opening lap in Spain to leave Rosberg with a 43-point lead over his teammate in the standings, it was not the day they would have hoped for. That was particularly true for Hamilton, who has been beset by technical problems in the early races of the 2016 season.
The latest arrived as he was making his way out of the pit lane for the first run in Q3, only for his car to lose power and have to be wheeled back into the Mercedes garage. While the mechanics were able to repair the car in time to allow him to make one run at pole, Hamilton was in no doubt that the engine issue had proved costly.
“It was a difficult qualifying; I don't really know what to say at the moment,” he said. “The good thing is that I did get out to do a lap at least. It wasn’t as bad as some of the races have been in that respect, with the engine problems. I’m grateful to be up in third. Obviously pole was there for the taking I think, but nonetheless I will do what I can in the race tomorrow to salvage what I can from today’s result.”
There was audible frustration, too, for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. While he came in fourth on the grid, two places ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen, the four-time world champion let out an expletive over the team radio exclaiming this belief that the car has gotten worse.
McLaren failed to meet their expectations, too. Having confidently predicted that they would get both cars into the top 10, only Fernando Alonso managed to make Q3 and will start 10th, with Jenson Button back in 13th.
It was the pace of Force India and Toro Rosso that caught McLaren off guard. Nico Huldenberg will start an impressive fifth in his Force India, three places ahead of teammate Sergio Perez, with Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat seventh and ninth, respectively, in their Toro Rossos.
Race time: 8 a.m. EDT
TV channel: NBC
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra