Daniel Ricciardo says he is more confused than frustrated at being a second off the pace in Monaco and qualifying 12th.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took pole position at his home Monaco Grand Prix after crashing in the dying seconds on Saturday, with frustrated rivals unable to better his time after red flags halted qualifying for Formula One’s showcase race.
Daniel Ricciardo qualified 12th in Monaco.Credit:Getty Images
Ricciardo, who won in Monaco in 2018 with Red Bull, said he had some messy laps but those should only have left him a few tenths of a second off the pace.
“I was kind of a second off the whole weekend, more or less, and as you know, a second is an eternity,” the McLaren driver said in a post-race interview.
“I don’t feel I forgot how to drive this track, so we just do things we’ve got to try and figure out.”
Ricciardo’s teammate Lando Norris qualified in fifth. Ricciardo said he had felt good in his lap in the first round of qualifying but had finished 1.2 seconds slower than his teammate.
“I’ve been doing this long enough to know … if you’re a second off, and that didn’t feel like it,” he said.
Ricciardo drives his McLaren in qualifying.Credit:Getty Images
“I don’t also want to say like there’s excuses, but there’s definitely something that we’ve obviously got to try and dig a little deeper to find out.”
Asked if there was something inherently “off” about his car, Ricciardo said “it’s odd, I certainly want to proof check a few things”.
But he added: “The last thing I want to do is point the finger at the guys and then be like ‘oh, something’s wrong’ but yeah, it’s a long way off the pace, so we’ll just try and understand.”
Leclerc’s qualifying crash
The 23-year-old Leclerc smashed into the barriers lining the street circuit with 18 seconds left on the clock, the impact raising fears that the car could need a new gearbox and incur a five-place grid drop.
“With the crash, I don’t know where I’m starting tomorrow,” said Leclerc.
“I’m not feeling well for now, I’m just waiting for mechanics to open the gearbox.”
Ferrari raised his hopes some hours later by saying an initial inspection had “not revealed any serious damage”. Further checks will be carried out on Sunday, however.
Charles Leclerc sits in his Ferrari after crashing during qualifying.Credit:AP
Red Bull’s title contender Max Verstappen was one of those who had to abort their final flying laps, but qualified second and would inherit pole if the Ferrari is demoted.
“It was all going really well and the red flag ruined the chance for pole,” said Verstappen.
Mercedes’ world championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who leads Verstappen by 14 points after four races but had struggled through the session and in practice, qualified a distant seventh.
With grid position of critical importance at a slow and twisty track where overtaking is almost impossible, and a hard slog looming for Sunday, the seven-time world champion was hoping for rain.
“We go back to the drawing board now,” added the Briton, who felt the team had not done “things that should have been done”.
“There is a lack of grip, so that leaves you to overdrive the car and unfortunately it just didn’t improve,” he said
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said it had not been a good day for the reigning champions.
“We need to find out why we couldn’t get Lewis’ car in a happier place,” said the Austrian.
Leclerc was on provisional pole after the opening flying laps, 0.230 seconds quicker than Verstappen’s best effort, but got it all wrong at the Swimming Pool chicane.
The speeding Ferrari swiped the metal barrier at the corner, bounced over the kerb with a broken suspension and smashed across the track and into the barrier before coming to a standstill.
“It’s a shame to finish in the wall, it doesn’t feel the same,” said Leclerc of his eighth career pole and first in Monaco. He was last on pole in 2019.
For those who recall Michael Schumacher “crashing” his Ferrari at Rascasse in qualifying for the 2006 grand prix, ensuring nobody beat his pole time, Leclerc’s looked real enough.
“Such a crash could put you in real jeopardy if the gearbox is broken,” said Wolff, when asked. “It wasn’t the tiniest of brushes, it was a real impact.”
Leclerc, born and raised in the Mediterranean principality where many of the other drivers live, has yet to finish his home race, which was cancelled last year due to COVID-19, but is hoping for third time lucky.
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas qualified third, also aborting a potential pole lap, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz fourth and even more upset.
“It’s not like every day of your life you get the chance to go for a pole lap around Monaco and to not even have that opportunity on your second run is tremendously frustrating,” said Sainz.
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