Monday, September 25, 2023

Perez crashes as Leclerc puts Ferrari on pole at Monaco GP

MONACO ( Associated Press) – Charles Leclerc positioned himself to take a Formula One point lead over defending champion Max Verstappen by winning pole for the Monaco Grand Prix.

Leclerc was already at the top of the leaderboard on Saturday when a crash by Sergio Pérez halted the session with about 30 seconds remaining. Leclerc said that if Perez hadn’t crashed, his final flying lap would have been even better.

“I was about four tenths quicker and it was a really good lap. But what happened to Checo happened to me last year, so no disappointment,” Leclerc said.

Pérez swung his Red Bull on his final qualifying lap and was blocking the course, and Carlos Sainz Jr. saw him too late to avoid hitting Pérez.

“I could feel the rear tire not being able to hold,” Perez said, advertising the damage “the rear looks bad.” He expected Red Bull to repair the car in time for Sunday.

Sainz said he saw a yellow flag for Perez, but after arriving at Red Bull he had no idea where Perez’s car was located.

“I was coming from a blind corner,” he said. “That would have been a great savings.”

Despite Pérez’s contact, Sainz qualified in second place as Ferrari closed the front row for Sunday’s race.

Sainz said, ‘I think we are in a good position to score points.

As for Leclerc, he really has to finish a race on his home circuit.

He had won pole the year before but was unable to start the race due to damage to his Ferrari. He has never completed an F1 race in Monaco.

“Hopefully we can have a clean race,” said Leclerc, who was fastest in all three practice sessions. He heeded the forecast called for rain on Sunday, but he was fine in the wet conditions in Imola.

“City tracks are very difficult. In the wet I am sure Monaco is even tougher,” said Leclerc.

Leclerc, winner of two of the first three races of this F1 season, lost the championship lead to Verstappen in Spain last week when Verstappen won his third consecutive race.

Verstappen will be fourth on Sunday alongside Perez, who was third-fastest before spinning late in qualifying.

McLaren’s Lando Norris qualified for Mercedes in fifth place, one place ahead of George Russell. Russell’s teammate, seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, qualified in eighth place and was unable to improve his position due to a red-flag brought on by Perez’s spin.

“I’m sorry for Carlos and the rest but that’s Monaco,” Perez said.

Fernando Alonso finished seventh, while Sebastian Vettel and Esteban Ocon finished ninth and 10th.

As the sun broke the circuit, the stars were running into the circuit in time for qualifying. F1’s iconic races are as much about the luxury and glamor as the racing, and celebrities flock here every year.

It’s close to Cannes, where the film festival is held, and Star Wars creator George Lucas has been a regular for years. Monaco has been seen before Sunday’s race: actor Ryan Gosling, NBA scoring great LeBron James, singer Ricky Martin and UFC star fighter Conor McGregor.

The controversial McGregor was already in full-on showman mode on Saturday when he walked — or rather swung gunslinger style from side to side — wearing oversized sunglasses and his pink Versace shirt fully open as he wore a Had a full glass.

McGregor paused for a moment to dance in front of a singer, took another sip of his glass, and then slipped through the port gate.

Barcelona striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also wore some flashy clothes in the paddock, and former France footballer Zinedine Zidane was due to arrive on Sunday.

Zidane had other business before: watching his old team Real Madrid face Liverpool on Saturday night in the Champions League final 600 miles north in Paris.


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