Daniel Ricciardo’s struggles in Monaco on Thursday have carried over into qualifying, with the Australian finishing well off the pace and missing out on the top 10.
- Daniel Ricciardo could only manage 12th fastest during qualifying at Monaco
- The Australian had been off the pace all weekend, consistently being slower than his teammate
- Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took pole position, but crashed at the end of qualifying, which has raised fears of a gearbox issue
The Australian driver could only manage 12th fastest during Formula One’s most important qualifying session of the season.
Ricciardo has struggled to find pace in his McLaren this weekend, regularly lapping well behind his teammate Lando Norris.
Norris, for his part, has shown his car can be quick around the streets of Monaco, qualifying fifth.
The disappointing result had Ricciardo at a loss as to why he has been unable to extract more out of his car.
“It’s more confusing than frustrating at the moment, that’s the emotion I’m feeling,” he said on Saturday.
“Usually, you can feel when you’re a bit off the pace, but I haven’t had that, and I don’t feel like I’ve forgotten how to drive this track.”
After moving to the McLaren team this season, Ricciardo has had a mixed bag of results.
He has been able to out-qualify his teammate in three of the five weekends so far this season, but has then usually found himself outshone by Lando during the race on Sunday.
In Spain a fortnight ago, Ricciardo had arguably his best weekend at McLaren, finishing sixth and outperforming Norris.
It was a result that Ricciardo hoped would carry over into Monaco, which is statistically the Australian’s best track with one win and 85 points secured there in his Formula One career.
“I’m still getting up to speed with the driving style needed to get the maximum out of this car, and maybe that’s amplified here in Monaco,” he said,
“But we know what we need to work on and we’ll keep pushing for the race tomorrow.”
Qualifying high up the grid is usually paramount for success at Monaco.
Since 1950, only 10 winners of the Monaco Grand Prix have not qualified in the top three.
The driver who is on pole has won 12 of the last 19 races at Monaco, including Ricciardo in 2018.
The lowest grid position a driver has won the Monaco Grand Prix from is 14th.
Frenchman Olivier Panis achieved the feat in 1996, when he survived horrendous weather in the rain to win for the Ligier team.
Ferrari on top but crash could have consequences
Charles Leclerc became the first Monaco native to secure pole position at the Monaco Grand Prix since 1936, with a blistering lap at the start of the third qualifying session.
But a crash towards the end of the day that ended the session early, not allowing anyone else to challenge his time, could result in grid penalties on Sunday.
Leclerc looked quick all weekend in his Ferrari, regularly outpacing the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers on what has been a superb weekend so far for the Italian team.
Ferrari’s other driver, Carlos Sainz, qualified fourth, completing a great result for the team.
But Leclerc’s crash could dampen the spirits of Ferrari if there is damage to the gearbox that needs to be replaced.
Should Ferrari need to replace the gearbox, Leclerc will be given a five-place grid penalty, which will mean he starts the race from sixth.
This would promote Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to the front of the grid, with Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas moving to second and Sainz third.
World champion Lewis Hamilton qualified down in seventh and has plenty of work to do to hold onto his lead in the drivers’ standings over Verstappen.
A Ferrari spokeswoman said further checks on Leclerc’s vehicle would be carried out on Sunday to decide whether the same gearbox could be used in the race.
Team boss Mattia Binotto told reporters the team would put safety first.
“We will not gamble,” he said.
“For us, what’s important after such a qualifying is to try to maximise the number of points for the championship, and obviously to maximise we need to finish the race.
“Reliability remains the priority. If we have any doubts, we will certainly change and fix it.”
The pole was Leclerc’s first in Monaco and eighth of his career.
The last Monegasque to take a home pole was Louis Chiron in 1936, before Formula One came into existence.