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Formula 1

Rivals adamant Leclerc keeping pole is fair

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas believe it’s right for Charles Leclerc to keep Monaco Grand Prix Formula 1 pole position despite causing a red flag that prevented either of them from beating him.

Leclerc set a brilliant time on his first run in Q3 as Ferrari’s excellent week in Monte Carlo continued, outpacing Verstappen and Bottas by two tenths of a second.

On his second run he was slower after the first sector and admitted he pushed too hard trying to gain time, breaking the front right suspension on the inside wall on the entry to the second part of the Swimming Pool section and then bouncing over a kerb and into the outside barrier.

“I don’t think his lap should be deleted in the future. I don’t think that would be fair, because we’re all trying so hard” :: Max Verstappen

That caused a red flag and forced Verstappen and Bottas to abort faster laps.

F1’s sporting regulations have no penalty for causing a red flag, whereas under the IndyCar rules – for example – Leclerc would have to forfeit his two best lap times.

But Verstappen and Bottas said they have no issue with Leclerc keeping pole.

“Well, I think there’s a difference when a guy makes a mistake and hits the wall, or does it intentionally,” said Verstappen when the top three qualifiers were asked by The Race if the IndyCar rule would be fairer in F1 or it would be unfair to punish a genuine mistake.

“I think if Charles would have just parked with a broken front wing it’s a different story.

“But, of course, he just clipped the wall initially and then ended up where I’ve ended up twice!

“Surely if I was doing it on purpose I would have made sure to hit the wall a bit less hard!” :: Charles Leclerc

“So, it’s just unfortunate. Of course, I’m disappointed not to have a shot at pole, but that’s life. Sometimes we can’t do it and it’s fine.

“I don’t think his lap should be deleted in the future if they want to make a rule change.

“I don’t think that would be fair, because we’re all trying so hard and it’s not so easy around here, especially on the limit.

“It’s easy to make a mistake.”

Max Verstappen Charles Leclerc

Verstappen said that he was a tenth and a half quicker before the red flag and had more time to find later in the lap after an error on his first run.

Mercedes driver Bottas said he felt he had a “shot at pole position that felt completely out of reach in practice” and that it was “disappointing” to end with a red flag.

But Bottas added: “The regulation is fine. It’s what it is.

“Sometimes in sport things don’t play into your hands and sometimes you get lucky and not unlucky. That’s what happens.”

The topic of qualifying crashes in Monaco carries extra resonance due to past controversies.

Michael Schumacher was judged to have deliberately crashed at Rascasse in 2006 in an effort to deny title rival Fernando Alonso pole and put to the back of the grid.

Nico Rosberg was accused of doing likewise when he went down the Mirabeau escape road while Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton was trying to knock him off pole in 2014, but was allowed to keep pole on that occasion.

There is some jeopardy for Leclerc as he may have damaged his gearbox or chassis in the accident and a replacement would trigger a grid drop.

He said his main concern is the damage to the rear of the car but echoed Verstappen’s view and underlined that there was no intent behind his off.

“As Max said, I think I can get from where it’s coming from, and surely if I was doing it on purpose I would have made sure to hit the wall a bit less hard!” he said.

Charles Leclerc Ferrari Monaco Grand Prix qualifying crash 2021

“But that wasn’t on purpose, obviously. I was pushing the limits and for now I’m just worried about the rear of the car, I hope it’s OK. It doesn’t look OK but let’s wait and see.

“As Max said, on a city track like this where we are pushing the limit making mistakes happens.

“It’s a different story when it’s done on purpose but I think it’s pretty obvious for today.”

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