Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo has claimed his debut pole position at the Monaco Grand Prix, using the all-new P Zero Purple ultrasoft compound, which has proved to be over half a second per lap faster than the P Zero Red supersoft. This made it the main choice for qualifying, used by all the drivers from start to finish: with the exception of Force India, which used the supersoft in Q1 and Q3, and Ricciardo, who scored his Q2 best time on supersoft, and so will start the race on this compound.
The Australian’s pole time of 1m13.622s was nearly a second and a half faster than pole position last year, and also beats the race lap record.
Daniel Ricciardo: “I’m happy! I put it together when I needed to. Qualifying just built up and built up and I found the rhythm, and then that first run in Q3 was the one I needed to do. I feel I’ve been qualifying very well all year, and it’s cool to get my first pole in Formula One, this place more than any is a great place to get it at. Hopefully tomorrow we can convert it to the win, that’s the plan. It’s the first pole for the team in a while too, it’s a very good feeling. Coming into the weekend I believed I could be here today and it’s nice to match that belief. The lap felt good. I knew once I’d done it, it would be hard to beat because we were competitive with Mercedes and I hadn’t yet put together the best lap.
It was a pretty good lap on the supersofts in Q2 so we start on those tomorrow, it should give us a bit more option in the race when to pit. It seemed like a bit of a freebie for us if we could do it and make it work, so why not. Sitting here now it looks good, we’ll see tomorrow what happens but I think it should hopefully give us a bit more flexibility. Today the job was pole, I’ve done that so let’s see what happens tomorrow, I’ve done what I can so far.”
With the circuit open to normal traffic following yesterday’s GP2 race and free practice on Thursday, the usual pattern of track evolution over a grand prix weekend is never followed in Monaco. As a result, the final free practice session this morning was of maximum importance to gauge grip levels prior to qualifying. Track temperatures reached 48 degrees centigrade during qualifying: the highest seen all weekend so far.
As is often the case in Monaco, there were stoppages due to incidents during qualifying: any safety cars tomorrow will have a big influence on the race strategy and outcome. One of the biggest victims of Monaco’s unforgiving barriers was Max Verstappen, as the Spanish GP Hero came crashing down to earth at Monte Carlo. He Starts from 21st.
Max Verstappen: “It’s of course not the way you want to start for tomorrow, I turned in a bit too early, clipped the inside wall, broke the inside suspension and then couldn’t turn anymore. I felt quite good, in my first push lap I felt more confident than all the other laps and also in terms of car balance it was better, because my second sector was nearly two to three tenths faster than I ever did. It was all coming together but then into the chicane, maybe I underestimated the grip I had and turned in a bit too early. Hopefully the weather will help a bit tomorrow but if you start 21st it will be very difficult. These things unfortunately happen and you have to learn from it and continue.
Hopefully there will be a lot of action tomorrow, not only from me but from others. It will be very tough but I won’t give up. The car is great, we just have to find a way to get past the people in front. It will depend a lot on the strategy, what other people do of course and the weather, so hopefully we have some luck tomorrow. Congratulations to Daniel on a great lap and his first pole, it’s great for the team.”
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “Monaco provided the usual exciting qualifying session, enhanced by the fact that everyone knows just how important it is, given the difficulty of overtaking. Monaco has traditionally been a one-stop race. However, theoretically a two-stop strategy is faster now that we have introduced the ultrasoft. Theory and practice are often quite different though, so it’s going to be very interesting to see the strategic choices made tomorrow. Wear and degradation was low during Thursday, even on the ultrasoft, but with more running on this compound today the teams have learned ways to reduce it still further.”
How the tyres behaved today:
Soft: Not seen in qualifying.
Supersoft: Used by Force India in Q1 and Q3 as well as Ricciardo in Q2. Could be a factor in an alternative strategy, with those starting on it running longer for the first stint.
Ultrasoft: Used a lot so far, offering some of the best performance ever seen in Monaco.
Race strategy: A two-stopper is actually theoretically fastest in Monaco, but this doesn’t take into account the problems of traffic and overtaking: two of the biggest challenges in the principality. So in actual fact, a one-stopper could be more likely for the race. The ideal one-stopper is: start on ultrasoft, change to soft on lap 18. The fastest two-stopper is: start on ultrasoft, change to ultrasoft again on lap 14, then soft on lap 28.