MONACO, Monaco, May 26 – Daniel Ricciardo took pole position for Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix with another sensational record-breaking performance for Red Bull in a dramatic qualifying on Saturday.
But his team’s hopes of an all-Red Bull front row were wrecked as team-mate Max Verstappen failed to take part in the session after a big crash in final practice.
His car, needing a new gearbox, could not be repaired in time and he will start from the back of the grid.
It was Ricciardo’s second pole position and a repeat of his 2016 feat when he topped the times, but was unable to win the race due to a bungled late pit stop.
“That’s 50 per cent done,” said the big-smiling Australian. “Let’s finish this job tomorrow. I am pumped for this one.”
Ricciardo wound up 0.229 seconds clear Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari and four-tenths clear of championship leader and defending four-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.
Kimi Raikkonen qualified fourth in the second Ferrari ahed of fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes and Esteban Ocon of Force India.
Two-time champion and former Monaco winner Fernando Alonso was seventh for McLaren ahead of Carlos Sainz of Renault, Sergio Perez in the second Force India and Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso.
“We set a statement on Thursday, we’ve been quickest in every session and we’ve just got the race tomorrow and then we’ll celebrate,” said Ricciardo.
“I’ve done everything I can so far so let’s finish this job.”
“Congratulations to Daniel,” said Hamilton. “They had the pace all weekend, as we knew they would. I gave it all I could. I improved a little, but I just couldn’t hang on to it.”
The session began in perfect conditions with a track temperature of 49 degrees Celsius and an air temperature of 25, the warmest of the weekend.
Much attention focused on the Red Bull garage where a pack of mechanics worked to repair Verstappen’s car following his heavy crash in the closing minutes of final practice.
As the minutes passed, it was clearly all in vain and this was confirmed when the team revealed it had also to change his gearbox, bringing with it a likely five-place grid penalty. He will start from the back of the grid, or the pit lane.
The on-track action was frantic. Raikkonen moaned he was blocked in the tunnel by Bottas’s Mercedes and Vettel claimed he was ‘screwed’, adding ‘it’s pretty messy.’
The near-chaos of 19 cars fighting for space on the narrow steel-lined streets ended with Verstappen eliminated without lapping the track.
He was joined by New Zealander Brendon Hartley of Toro Rosso, Marcus Ericsson of Sauber, Lance Stroll of Williams and Kevin Magnussen of Haas.
At the front, the Dutch tyro’s team-mate Ricciardo topped the Q1 times ahead of Vettel, Bottas and Hamilton, proof clear of what Verstappen might have achieved if he had avoided the barriers in the morning.
Mercedes gambled as Q2 began by switching to ‘ultra-soft’ tyres in order, potentially, to start the race on them.
On their first runs, Bottas was 11th and Hamilton ninth, both struggling to survive as Ricciardo, on the ‘hypers’ topped with a new record lap in 1:11.353.
“The tyre’s terrible,” said Hamilton, who led Bottas in to pit for new hyper-softs. The gamble had failed.
Hamilton responded immediately, jumping to third while Bottas took fifth. Out went Nico Hulkenberg of Renault in 11th along with Stoffel Vandoorne of McLaren, Russian rookie Sergey Sirotkin of Williams, the impressive Monegasque Charles Leclerc for Sauber and Romain Grosjean of Haas.
On their first runs in the Q3 shootout, the lap record was shattered again by Ricciardo in 1:10:810 who was fastest by 0.451 ahead of Vettel, Hamilton, Raikkonen and Bottas.
It was an unprecedented show of pace from the Australian, described as “poetry in motion” by former driver Martin Brundle.