Monaco. The word elicits images of glitz, glamour, and celebrity. But on one weekend each year those images collide with the speed and adrenaline provided by Formula 1, for the marquee event of that sport’s season.
That event kicks off in earnest today, with qualifying for the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix. It is the race that every fan and celebrity wants to attend, and every team and driver want to win. But if you want to win in Monaco, you better be good on Saturday. With overtaking at a premium during the race itself, your odds of victory increase exponentially if you start up front.
Consider this. In the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix Olivier Panis won when he started in 14th position. What was necessary for that to happen? Well, let’s work through the list. First was a heavy downpour prior to the race that soaked the track and caused a delay. Then one of the drivers, Andrea Montermini. crashed during a warm-up session and could not start the race, leaving just 21 cars in the field.
The race finally began, but after five laps only 13 cars remained in the field due to a combination of accidents and mechanical failures. By lap 31, just 11 cars remained on the track, with Damon Hill in the lead. Hill built a lead of almost 30 seconds over Jean Alesi, but a mechanical failure on Lap 40 saw his day end. That gifted the lead to Alesi who held it for around 20 laps, but then his Benetton-Renault failed, and Panis was suddenly in first place.
The race did not complete the entire 78 laps due to the two-hour time limit, and only three drivers — Panis, David Coulthard, and Johnny Herbert — finished 75.
It would be the only Grand Prix victory of Panis’s career.
In fact, since 1950, only 10 times has the race been won by a driver starting lower than third.
So if you want to win, you probably want to do well today.
We will have you covered throughout the entire qualifying session today on a day that may ultimately prove decisive in the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix.
Notes from PF3 and a quali prediction
If you count yourself among those F1 fans hoping to see someone, anyone, knock Red Bull from the top of the timing sheets this weekend, FP3 provided little solace.
The practice session ended early — more on that in a moment — with Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez finishing 1-2. Lance Stroll, Carlos Sainz Jr., and Lando Norris rounded out the top five.
The session ended early when Lewis Hamilton, after passing Alex Albon on the outside at at the famed Mirabeau corner, put his Mercedes into the wall:
It brought an early end to practice, as well as an early end to what was looking like a strong run from Hamilton. The Mercedes driver had set the best time through the first sector before sliding into the barrier.
Before getting to a prediction, it is necessary to share this photo of the proud parents of Yuki Tsunoda, watching their son bring his AlphaTauri to the track:
As for a prediction, it would be easy to say Verstappen or Pérez, or to say Charles Leclerc, giving that the Ferrari driver has secure pole in the last two races on his home streets. However, we will go a bit off script here and say Fernando Alonso. The veteran driver has seemed dialed in all week, and this circuit could play to the AMR23’s strengths.
We will find out soon enough.
Q1 (All times Eastern)
Update 9:15: We’ve got about 45 minutes until things get underway, so if you have a chance, you can send in your predictions to Haas. I’m sure they’d love to hear from you:
Update 9:22: We’re going to drop down a level for a moment. the F2 sprint race was just completed, and Ayumu Iwasa took advantage of a retirement from Isack Hadjar to take the win, and the championship lead.
Why might this matter for F1? Remember that AlphaTauri driver Nyck de Vries has been given the “yellow card,” according to Helmut Marko, to improve his performance. Iwasa, a member of Red Bull’s junior team, could be in line for De Vries’s seat should the rookie continue to struggle.
De Vries finished in P20 in FP3.
Update 9:36: For those of you who are here thanks to our friends at F1 Underground, thank you!!! They’re the best.
Follow along with the best for what I am sure is gonna be an exciting Quali! https://t.co/5wqQAmmGpG— F1: Underground (@Underground_F1) May 27, 2023
Update 9:39: Will Buxton, speaking on the pre-quali show on F1TV, stresses the importance of making every lap count during qualifying, given the potential of a red flag at any moment. If a driver or a team waits until late in the session to make their best run, or has to wait due to a failure or repairs, it could prove disastrous.
Update 9:45: With 15 minutes to go, is it time to talk about Norris? The McLaren driver posted back-to-back P5s in FP2 and FP3. He has enjoyed success in Monaco, notching a podium in the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix, and finishing P6 a season ago. He qualified in fifth for that 2021 Monaco Grand Prix, and given his history, and what he has done so far this week, he could be a driver to keep an eye on today.
Update 9:57: Opening titles! They get the people going!
Update 9:59: We are seconds away from Q1 getting underway. For those wondering, Pirelli has designated the C5, C4, and C3 compounds this week (Soft, Medium, and Hard), which is the softest combination of tyres available.
Update 10:01: Lights are green and the bulk of the field is making their way onto the track. Lewis Hamilton, however, is waiting. The Mercedes driver expresses some surprise that more teams are not waiting, given how much grip can be gained over time.
Of course, red flags are always a risk, as noted above:
Update 10:05: The first times are coming in, with all drivers on the soft compound as you would expect. Verstappen goes to the top, followed by Pérez, Leclerc, Esteban Ocon, and Norris as the top five early in Q1.
Update 10:06: The Aston Martin duo of Alonso and Lance Stroll have completed their first runs, and they are very strong. Alonso is in P3, with Stroll right behind him in P4.
Also of note, the gap from Verstappen at P1 and Hamilton down in P15 is just +0.948.
Update 10:08: Drama with a red flag! Pérez is into the wall and is knocked out near Turn 1.
Update 10:11: Pérez lets his team know what happened:
Checo: "F****. I crashed, I crashed."— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) May 27, 2023
Update 10:13: With the red flag out, here is your current top-15:
Were this to hold, Hamilton, De Vries, Logan Sargeant, Alex Albon, and Carlos Sainz Jr. would be eliminated.
But we do not expect this to hold.
Update 10:19: We are back underway.
A massive lap from Albon puts him to the top for a moment, but Verstappen nips him almost immediately. Russell then puts in a big lap of his own, dropping Albon into third within seconds.
Update 10:22: There it is, as a strong lap from Alonso — thanks to a great second sector — puts the Aston Martin veteran to the top.
His former team is right behind him, as Ocon and Gasly complete their laps and move into P2 and P3, respectively.
Update 10:23: Is it time to worry about Ferrari? We have just five minutes left in Q1 and Leclerc is down in P10, and Sainz is down in P13. This is not the one-lap pace we were expecting to see from the Scuderia today.
Update 10:25: A bit of a mixed bag for Ferrari now. Leclerc pushes into P3 with a very good lap, but Sainz aborts his latest attempt, and will need another run as he is on the brink of elimination, sitting in P15.
Update 10:27: The track is coming together and the times are coming down. Tsunoda goes to the top of the grid with a time of 1:12.642, and with the Haas duo posting laps that put them into the top-15, Sainz is now in the elimination zone. He’ll need a strong lap just to advance to Q2.
Update 10:28: Hamilton is on the cusp of being eliminated, and struggles through the Nouvelle Chicane, locking the front right and going through the curb. He will have enough time to start one final lap, but things are getting tense for both Hamilton and Sainz.
Update 10:30: Sainz gets into P4, and Hamilton delivers as well, getting up to P7. The eliminated drivers are Logan Sargeant, the Haas duo, Zhou, and Pérez.
Here are the 15 who advanced to Q2, in unofficial order:
As far as surprises go, Alonso in P9 is abit of a surprise, as is seeing Tsunoda and Albon up in P2 and P3, respectively.
Here are the results from Q1:
Let’s all catch our breath for a moment ahead of Q2.
Update 10:36: In honor of his tremendous Q1 session, Tsunoda gets the feature photo for Q2.
Update 10:37: We are underway and Hamilton is out first.
Speaking of Hamilton:
lewis hamilton trying to give me a heart attack— John Owning (@JohnOwning) May 27, 2023
You and me both, John. You and me both.
Update 10:39: With De Vries advancing to Q2, he has a chance to advance to Q3 for the first time this season. That would be massive for the AlphaTauri rookie, who is under a bit of pressure to hold onto his seat as we start working towards “silly season.”
Update 10:40: We are getting our first times from Q2. Verstappen — I know I know — is into P1, followed by Gasly, Alonso, Ocon, Sainz, Leclerc, Norris, Piastri, Bottas, and Russell as your early top-ten.
Update 10:42: Ten minutes remain in Q2 and we have yet to see a time from Tsunoda and Albon.
Update 10:44: We now know why Tsunoda has yet to post a time. F1TV shows the replace of the AlphaTauri driver locking up his left side coming out of the tunnel and into the Nouvelle Chicane. Lots of drivers have struggled with that section of the track this week. He’ll come into the pits for a new set of tyres.
Update 10:46: A mistake from Stroll:
It's a frantic time for @AstonMartinF1's crew - having pushed @lance_stroll to the weight bridge they now sprint back to the garage so he can be sent out for a final attempt to get into Q3. #F1 #MonacoGP #RaceFans— RaceFans Live (@racefanslive) May 27, 2023
Update 10:47: Five minutes remain and these are the five drivers facing elimination: Hamilton, Albon, Stroll, De Vries, and Tsunoda.
Update 10:48: Hamilton: “There’s something wrong with my right-rear suspension.”
Update 10:50: Norris hits the barrier hard and heads straight back to the pits. With under two minutes remaining Norris sits in P9, and with his MCL60 being pushed into the garage, he might have to wait and hope.
Update 10:51: We have less than a minute to go and it’s squeaky-bum time, to quote Sir Alex Ferguson, for a few drivers. Hamilton, Stroll, De Vries, Bottas, and Albon are facing elimination.
Update 10:53: Hamilton is through! His last-second lap pushes him into P5, and through to Q3. Piastri, De Vries, Albon, Stroll and Bottas are eliminated.
Here are the unofficial results.
We will now wait to see if Norris and McLaren can get his MCL60 back on the track for Q3.
As we catch our breath, we can take a moment and thank our friends at Cellucor. This live blog is powered by their Starburst Pink Strawberry C4. Tasty!
Update 10:57: With under three minutes until the start of Q3, McLaren mechanics are furiously working on Norris’s MCL60.
Update 10:58: Hometown hero Leclerc gets the image of honor for Q3.
Update 11:00: We are green, and it Verstappen who leads the drivers out.
Update 11:01: Hey, it’s Ravens WR Odell Beckham Jr! I promise I’ll write some NFL stuff soon, Mom.
Update 11:02: Alonso is on the track as well, and has the fastest first sector so far. Verstappen comes across with a lap time of 1:12.102 to set the marker. Alonso is also purple through the second sector as well, and a solid third sector pushes the Aston Martin into P1 for the moment. His lap time of 1:11.706 is the first lap time in the 1:11 range.
Update 11:04: Alonso remains in P1 for the moment, but the Ferraris are right behind him. Sainz is currently in P2 just +0.029 behind him, with Leclerc +0.053 off the pace.
Also, when told he is in P1 Alonso tells his team “I’m pushing like an animal.”
Update 11:06: Mechanics are peeling away from the MCL of Norris, so tremendous work from them to get the car ready. Norris will have just under six minutes to deliver.
A strong lap from Russell puts him into P4 for the moment, with Verstappen down in P5.
Update 11:07: And there it is, Verstappen rockets to the top of the field with a lap time of 1:11.654, thanks to an “electric” third sector.
Update 11:08: Ocon!!!! Ocon rockets to provisional pole with a lap time of 1:11.553. Just a tremendous lap from the Alpine driver.
Update 11:09: Leclerc, chasing his third-straight pole in Monaco, just posted the fastest first sector of the session with under two minutes to go.
Update 11:10: Leclerc is into provisional pole for just a matter of seconds, as Alonso nips him with under a minute to go thanks to a lap time of 1:11.449.
Update 11:13: We are just waiting for Verstappen as the clock for Q3 hits 0:00. Verstappen has been solid through the first two sectors, but another “supreme” final sector is enough, as Verstappen nips Alonso for pole. As Alex Jacques says in the booth, the “championship class” of Verstappen comes through in the end.
Here is your provisional starting order:
Update 11:16: Trackside interviews are underway. Leclerc notes that he is “not satisfied” with P3. “Let’s see where we end up,” concludes the hometown hero.
Update 11:18: Verstappen feels “very happy” with his first-ever pole position in Monaco. “In any qualifying you need to go all out, you need to risk it all,” he says. “Very happy to be on pole here the first time.”
“We need a clean start, it’s a short run to Turn 1,” he adds. “Need to keep it clean and calm.”
Then it is time to hear from Fernando Alonso.
“I feel good,” says the veteran. “Today Max was a little bit faster ... last sector seems our weakest point of the circuit. Let’s see tomorrow what we can do in terms of a strategy.”
Update 11:22: Race officials are looking into an incident between Leclerc and Norris in the tunnel, and will investigate Leclerc for “impeding” the run from Norris. According to F1TV an image taken from Norris’s onboard camera shows Leclerc right in the racing line, which might require some explaining.
F1TV shows the replay and describes it as “slam dunk and without mitigating evidence.”
So that will do it for qualifying for the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix. Time to unwind, catch our breath, and perhaps enjoy a lovely Michelob Ultra or two. Thanks to our dear friends over at Michelob Ultra for all their support.