Lewis bags Monaco F1 pole

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc qualifies only 16th after glaring strategy error

25 May 2019 - 17:41 By Reuters
Pole-sitter Lewis Hamliton is flanked by second placed Valtteri Bottas (left) and Max Verstappen.
Pole-sitter Lewis Hamliton is flanked by second placed Valtteri Bottas (left) and Max Verstappen.
Image: Reuters

MONACO, May 25 (Reuters) - Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton put Mercedes on an emotional pole position for the showcase Monaco Grand Prix on Saturday with team mate Valtteri Bottas alongside on the front row.

The pole, record-extending 85th of the Briton's stellar career, came with Mercedes mourning the death on Monday of triple world champion Niki Lauda, the team's non-executive chairman.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen qualified third and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel fourth.

A glaring strategy error by Ferrari cost Charles Leclerc the chance to shine at home, with the 21-year-old failing to make it through the first phase and qualifying only 16th after going fastest in final practice.

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Vettel's last-ditch effort to lift himself into the second phase saved the German's skin but plunged Leclerc, whom Ferrari had thought was safe and had not sent out for one final lap, into the bottom group.

"I asked whether they were sure," the dejected Monegasque told Sky Sports television, adding it was hard to understand or accept the failure.

"They told me we think we are (OK). And I said shouldn’t we get out again? There was no real answer."

"This is definitely one of the best poles," said Hamilton, who denied Bottas a fourth successive top slot with a last lap 0.086 quicker than the Finn's best effort around the metal-fenced streets.

"This one's for Niki," added the five-times world champion, who leads Bottas by seven points in the standings.

Leclerc said his best hope now was for rain to turn the race, so often a procession in Monaco's tight streets, into a lottery on Sunday.

"I’ll have to take a lot of risks I think, even risking to crash, but at the end that’s the only thing we need to do now, to try and be extreme in our overtaking because this is a track where it’s basically impossible to overtake," he said. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)