Hamilton digs deep to claim Monaco pole position

An emotional Lewis Hamilton delivered a brilliant last lap to snatch a crucial pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix.

The British star, too upset to speak to the media earlier this week following the death of Niki Lauda, saw off his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 0.086 seconds.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen finished third ahead of Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel in fourth. His team-mate Charles Leclerc is set to start 16th after a woeful Ferrari mistake.

“That is what I am talking about!” yelled Hamilton over the radio.

He then leapt out of his Mercedes car and onto the catch fencing to celebrate in front of fans at Rascasse.

“This is a race that every driver dreams about,” he added.

“We have arrived with a great car and it was a great battle with Valtteri. The pole means so much to me. I had to dig deeper than ever. The lap was beautiful. I feel amazing and super-grateful.

“When you take this car to the limit around here it is like wrestling a bull. We are on the limit the whole time.”

Mercedes have had it all their own way this year, starting the campaign with a record five one-two finishes from the first five grands prix. And the Silver Arrows will be favourite to make it six in six after another dominant performance.

It would be the perfect tribute to Lauda, who died, aged 70, on Monday. Mercedes have painted the halo on both their cars red, with the message “Niki we miss you”, in tribute to the three-time world champion.

“It has been a difficult week for the whole team, and personally for me,” added Hamilton.

Despite going fastest in final practice, Leclerc was dramatically knocked out of the opening phase of qualifying. Ferrari thought Leclerc’s lap time was strong enough to survive Q1, but Vettel’s late salvo bumped his team-mate out. The Monegasque shook his head as he spoke to Ferrari mechanics in another disastrous miscalculation by the Scuderia.

Charles Leclerc in action during final practice for the Monaco Grand Prix (David Davies/PA)
Charles Leclerc in action during final practice for the Monaco Grand Prix (David Davies/PA)

“I need some explanations,” said Leclerc. “I will have to take a lot of risks tomorrow, even risking a crash.”

This has been a season to forget for Ferrari – billed as the main contenders to bringing Hamilton and Mercedes’ dominance to an end, mistakes by both drivers and the team leave them well off the pace heading into Sunday’s race. Vettel already trails Hamilton by 48 points and Leclerc is 55 points behind the Mercedes star.

Overtaking is virtually impossible on the Monte Carlo street circuit and Leclerc faces a fight to score a single point at his home track. Ironically, it was Vettel, himself facing elimination from Q1 after whacking the wall at the high-speed swimming section, whose final lap ensured Leclerc would not progress.

Elsewhere, the British teenager Lando Norris finished 12th. Carlos Sainz, in the sister McLaren, will start three places above Norris in ninth. For the sixth straight race, George Russell out-qualified Williams team-mate Robert Kubica. The Williams cars will line up on the final row as they remain woefully off the pace.

- Press Association

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