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Leclerc beats Piastri and Sainz to home pole

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AS IT HAPPENED

Q1 – Russell fastest as Perez and Alonso suffer shock exits

After three busy practice sessions in which home hero Leclerc marked himself out as the favourite for pole, it was time for arguably the most important qualifying hour of the season to begin, with clear skies and warm temperatures greeting the field.

With race-day track position vital around the tight and twisty streets of Monte Carlo, all drivers bar the Ferraris promptly headed out to get a provisional lap time on the board and attempt to secure safe passage from Q1 to Q2 – traffic being at its worst in the opening phase.

Once every driver had at least one flyer to their name, Hulkenberg held P1 from Haas team mate Magnussen on a 1m 12.416s, followed by McLaren pair Norris and Piastri, the RB of Tsunoda, Verstappen’s Red Bull, Stroll’s Aston Martin and practice pace-setter Leclerc.

Times soon tumbled as drivers built up confidence and track conditions improved, though, bringing a 1m 11.881s from Piastri during the second flurry of runs, as the stewards noted potential impeding incidents between Sainz and Albon and Ricciardo and Bottas.

“This is the worst position… We are out of phase with everybody,” Leclerc lamented at this point, holding a lowly 12th after being one of the last to leave the pit lane, while Piastri continued to lead from Hamilton, Russell, Sainz, Verstappen, Gasly, Alonso, Ocon, Stroll and early pace-setter Hulkenberg.

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