Charles Leclerc gives Ferrari first pole since 2019 in Monaco GP, then crashes

Leclerc Ferrari Monaco GP
Getty Images

MONACO — Charles Leclerc won the first pole for Ferrari since 2019 despite crashing with 18 seconds remaining to end Saturday qualifying at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Leclerc held the top spot at his home track until his Ferrari grazed a barrier to break a suspension piece. He then hopped a curb and finally came to a stop crashed into another barrier to bring the qualifying session to an abrupt end.

Leclerc, 23, grew up in a flat overlooking the circuit that snakes around the picturesque principality. He lives a few miles away in Cap d’Ail, one of many small and scenic spots dotted along the French Riviera’s spectacular coastline.

He was visibly emotional after becoming the first Monaco driver to take pole here. But he could forfeit it if the damage to his Ferrari is too great that he receives a grid penalty. If the gear box must be changed – which Leclerc feared – he’d lose five positions on the starting grid.

“I am worried about a penalty. I’ve always been very unlucky here, so let’s just wait and see,” said Leclerc. “It’s a shame to finish in the wall. It doesn’t feel the same but I’m incredibly happy about my lap.”

The red flag prevented world champion Lewis Hamilton and his title contender Max Verstappen from completing their final qualifying lap. Verstappen will start second for Red Bull; Hamilton seventh for Mercedes.

“That crash ruined the chance for pole,” Verstappen said. “Just a shame about the red flag.”

Valtteri Bottas qualified third for Mercedes behind Verstappen.

Leclerc waved to his fans as a crane lifted his car off the track. His lap at 1 minute, 10.35 seconds on the 2.1-mile course gave him his eighth career pole. But it was his first since the Mexican Grand Prix in October 2019 and a boost for Ferrari after the team struggled all last year.

Leclerc Ferrari Monaco GP
After setting the fastest time in qualification, Charles Leclerc crashed and ended the session – awarding Ferrari their first pole since 2019. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Leclerc will try to become Monaco’s first local winner since Louis Chiron in 1931.

Perhaps it was a lucky charm, but his friend Prince Albert visited Ferrari’s garage before qualifying. Albert messaged Leclerc when he took his first pole at the Bahrain GP in early 2019.

Albert’s hilltop castle overlooks the track, but he has never seen anyone local win.

Prince Rainier III, Albert’s father and husband to American actress Grace Kelly, was only a young boy when Chiron won.

If Leclerc wins, Albert’s wife Princess Charlene will not witness it. She left for a wildlife preservation mission to South Africa, the Royal Palace said.

Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz Jr. completed a great day for the Italian manufacturer by qualifying fourth in his first season with Ferrari.

Lando Norris of McLaren was fifth and followed by AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly.

Leclerc made an odd mistake when his rear front left tire locked and he hit a barrier. It made no immediate difference to his position on the grid, but the red flag ended the session and cost everyone behind him a shot at moving up on the starting grid.

Hamilton holds a 14-point lead over Verstappen after four races, with the rivals placing 1-2 in every race. But Verstappen has a great chance to narrow the gap at a Monaco track which notoriously difficult for overtaking.

After their first runs in Q3, the final section of qualifying, Leclerc had the fastest lap ahead of Verstappen, with Hamilton surprisingly sluggish.

“We definitely had some problems today,” Hamilton said. “I guess the minimum will be seventh, and then hope we can get higher.”

The deficit for Hamilton has radically changed his odds to win the Monaco GP. He opened at +110 at PointsBet Sportsbook, but immediately slipped to +1000 (10/1). Verstappen is now the prohibitive favorite at -125.

The 36-year-old Hamilton was bidding for a record-extending 101st pole and the 23-year-old Verstappen a fifth, but Leclerc caused a major surprise.

“It is a huge step forward. I think the pole is a good reward for the team,” Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said. “It will be difficult to win. Verstappen is very, very fast and he will give us a hard time.”

Earlier, Verstappen posted the fastest time in the final practice from Sainz Jr. and Leclerc, with Hamilton seventh.

An eventful session was twice interrupted for crashes near the end.

Nicholas Latifi hit the barriers and mangled the front right wheel of his Williams along the harbor. Then, Mick Schumacher crashed his Haas car coming out of Casino Square and there was not enough time to restart.

He needed a gearbox change and starts last.

Ferrari looked strong in Thursday’s first two sessions, too, with Leclerc topping P2 and Sainz Jr. second in both.

Some fans returned to the stands after the iconic race was canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Police stopped some buses coming through from Cap d’Ail – which is in France – into Monaco and checked people’s work permits. Security officials also checked passengers at the exit of Monaco-Monte Carlo train station, ensuring they had a negative PCR test for COVID-19 when entering.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Motocross season opener: Jett Lawrence rockets to the top

SuperMotocross Rankings season opener
Align Media

As the SuperMotocross season heads outdoors, the NBC Power Rankings change significantly with results from the Motocross opener at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. The Power Rankings assign a numeric value to each individual moto (90 points maximum) as well as the overall standings (100 points) and averages that number over the past 45 days. Included in the Power Rankings are results from the final five Supercross rounds, which fit into that 45-day timeframe.

Dylan Ferrandis finished on the podium in his first race back after experience a concussion in Supercross Round 4 at Houston. – Align Media

It didn’t take long for Jett Lawrence to rocket to the top of the SuperMotocross rankings – only about 74 minutes in fact. Lawrence dominated his first moto and beat his teammate Chase Sexton, the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross champion, to the line by 10 seconds. He had to fight a little harder for the second moto win as Sexton stalked him throughout the race and ended up less than a second behind.

Beginning this week, we have added the SuperMotocross points’ ranking beside the rider’s name and in one fell swoop, Lawrence went from being unranked in the 450 class to 26th. To qualify for the inaugural SuperMotocross’ guaranteed 20 positions that automatically make the gate for the three-race championship series, Lawrence needs to be inside the top 20 in combined Supercross and Motocross points. The bubble is currently held by Justin Starling and Lawrence needs to make up 44 points to overtake him.

Sexton’s second-place finish in the overall standings at Fox Raceway marked his ninth consecutive top-five finish. After the race, Sexton compared the battle he had with Lawrence to the one he experienced with Eli Tomac in last year’s Pro Motocross championship. These two riders had a significant advantage over the field in Pala, but there is still a lot of racing to be completed.

MORE: Jett Lawrence wastes no time, wins first 450 race

After missing 13 rounds to a concussion, Dylan Ferrandis told NBC Sports that he was not going to do anything risky in the season opener at Fox Raceway. If he dialed back his effort at all, one would be hard-pressed to notice. He finished third in both motos and was third in the overall standings. Ferrandis began the weekend just outside the top 20 in combined SuperMotocross points and climbed to 19th. In the next few weeks, he will get a little more breathing room over the cutline and then challenge for wins.

Adam Cianciarulo’s three-race streak of top-five finishes ended with a sixth-place overall at Fox Raceway, but that was enough to advance him one position in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings and land him eighth in the combined points standings. His individual motos were moderate, but Cianciarulo is still battling the effects of injury and a nagging loss of strength in his wrist.

Aaron Plessinger returned from injury in the Supercross season finale to finish second at Salt Lake City. He added another top-five to his season total and now has six of those in the 13 rounds he’s made. With Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac not currently racing in Motocross, Plessinger has an opportunity to rise to the third seeding in short order.

450 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Jett Lawrence (26) 93.33 NA
2. Chase Sexton (1) 92.36 1 -1
3. Dylan Ferrandis (19) 89.00 NA
4. Adam Cianciarulo (8) 82.89 5 1
5. Aaron Plessinger (5) 81.20 9 4
6. Justin Hill (9)
Not racing MX
79.75 8 2
7. Ken Roczen (4)
injured | Not racing MX
79.13 3 -4
8. Jose Butron (30) 75.67 NA
9. Lorenzo Locurcio (29) 75.00 NA
10. Eli Tomac (2)
74.50 2 -8
11. Dean Wilson (10)
Not racing MX
72.88 7 -4
12. Cooper Webb (3) 71.17 6 -6
13. Jerry Robin (32) 70.33 NA
14. Justin Barcia (6)
70.00 4 -10
15. Kyle Chisholm (15) 65.36 11 -4
16. Dante Oliveira (36) 65.00 NA
17. Shane McElrath (11)
Not racing MX
63.63 12 -5
18. Ryan Surratt (38) 63.33 NA
19. Josh Hill (13)
Not racing MX
62.38 13 -6
20. Justin Starling (20)
Not racing MX
62.13 19 -1

Motocross 450 Points

A bad start to Moto 1 at Fox Raceway was not enough to deter Hunter Lawrence. Neither was the fact that he was riding with sore ribs after experiencing a practice crash earlier in the week. He was a distant 10th to start the first race and for most of the 30 minutes, it seemed he would finish off the podium. Lawrence did not win the 250 East Supercross championship by giving in to hopelessness or pain, however.

Lawrence picked off one rider and then another until he found the battle for the top five in front of him at the halfway point. Once the field started to lap riders, Lawrence used the opportunity to continue forward through the grid. He passed third-place Jo Shimoda with two laps remaining and challenged Maximus Vohland for second on the final trip around Fox Raceway, but had to settle for the final spot on the podium. Lawrence dominated Moto 2 and claimed the overall victory in Pala.

Justin Cooper made his first start of the season at Fox Raceway and earned enough NBC Power Average points to climb to second. Partly this was due to consistently strong runs in both motos and a 5-4 that gave him the fifth position overall, but he is also not weighed down with moderate Supercross results. It will take a week or two to see where his strength lands him on the grid.

Motocross 250 Points

In only his third Pro Motocross National, Haiden Deegan scored a second-place finish in the overall standings. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire may feel he has something to prove after finishing second to Jett Lawrence in the 250 SX West division. He certainly rode like that was the case in Moto 1 and easily outpaced the field on his way to victory lane. In Moto 2, he crashed twice on Lap 1 and dropped back to 39th. It took half of the race to get inside the top 20 and salvage points. By the end of the race, he was 11th and while that was enough to get him on the overall podium, it cost him points in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

Haiden Deegan surprised the field in Houston in his 250 Supercross debut by finishing fifth. At the time, he said his strong result was because there were no expectations. He echoed that statement after the Motocross season opener. His second-place finish in the overall standings was enough to project him five positions up the SuperMotocross Rankings. In 11 rounds in the combined series, Deegan has earned seven top-fives and a worst finish of eighth.

Jo Shimoda did not make his first Supercross race of 2023 until late in the season. He finished fourth on the hybrid track of Atlanta, which had some similar elements to Fox Raceway. His fourth-place finish in Moto 1 of the Motocross opener made it seem likely he would score an overall podium, but a sixth in the second race cost him points in the NBC Power Rankings in a field that promises to be extremely tight.

250 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Hunter Lawrence (1) 89.56 2 1
2. Justin Cooper (42) 84.67 NA
3. RJ Hampshire (3) 83.67 3 0
3. Haiden Deegan (4) 83.67 8 5
5. Jo Shimoda (16) 82.33 7 2
6. Guillem Farres (46) 79.33 NA
7. Levi Kitchen (6) 79.11 5 -2
8. Max Anstie (5) 77.83 12 4
9. Max Vohland (8) 77.50 14 5
10. Enzo Lopes (10) 76.00 11 1
11. Mitchell Oldenburg (13) 74.25 16 5
12. Carson Mumford (19) 71.22 17 5
13. Jordon Smith (7) 70.56 9 -4
14. Ryder DiFrancesco (48) 70.33 NA
15. Chris Blose (12) 67.00 13 -2
16. Chance Hymas (27) 66.00 19 3
17. Tom Vialle (9) 65.78 18 1
18. Jett Reynolds (55) 63.33 NA
19. Michael Mosiman (28) 62.33 20 1
20. Garrett Marchbanks (64) 59.00 NA

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner in Supercross and overall winner in Motocross. It awards 90 points for each Moto, Heat and Triple Crown win. The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 13 AT ATLANTA: Justin Barcia leapfrogs the Big 3
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 11 AT SEATTLE: Cooper Webb, Eli Tomac overtake Chase Sexton
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 10 AT DETROIT: Chase Sexton narrowly leads Webb
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 8 AT DAYTONA: Chase Sexton unseats Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 7 AT ARLINGTON: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 6 AT OAKLAND: Perfect night keeps Eli Tomac first
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 5 AT TAMPA: Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb close in
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 4 AT HOUSTON: Eli Tomac rebounds from A2 crash, retakes lead
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Ken Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage