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Leclerc secures pole position for the Monaco GP, ending Verstappen's attempt to break the F1 record

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Charles Leclerc secured top spot for Ferrari at the Monaco Grand Prix, ending Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen's attempt to secure pole position for a record ninth time in a row on Saturday.

Verstappen, who shares the F1 record with the late Ayrton Senna, will start Sunday's race for Red Bull from sixth place on what is widely considered to be the series' most difficult overtaking track.

Leclerc took his third pole position in four years in Monaco, where he grew up and has his eyes on the start-finish line, bringing his total to 24 pole positions in his career. “This weekend was incredible,” said Leclerc. “Qualifying in Monaco is a crucial part of the job.”

He finished 0.154 seconds ahead of McLaren's Oscar Piastri and 0.248 seconds ahead of his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren's Lando Norris qualified fourth ahead of Mercedes driver George Russell.

“I'm happy with the lap,” said Leclerc. “I know that qualifying isn't always everything in the race.”

Leclerc secured pole position in 2021 but was unable to start due to a gearbox problem. In 2022, he led from pole position until Ferrari made the wrong decision to change his tires.

Charles Leclerc gesticulates after qualifying

“The team has improved a lot since then,” said Leclerc, who also led the second and third practice sessions. He is on course to end his nearly two-year winless streak, which stretches back to the Austrian GP in July 2022. “I just have to get off to a good start,” said Leclerc, who has won five F1 races in his career.

McLaren is performing well: Norris won the Miami GP three weeks ago and almost caught Verstappen at the end of the Emilia Romagna GP last weekend.

“The pace was good,” said Piastri. “We were pretty confident before this weekend that we could fight for pole position and win again.” However, Sainz was not entirely satisfied with his Ferrari.

“When you're so close to the walls, it immediately affects your confidence,” said Sainz. “You lose control of the car in unexpected places.”

Lewis Hamilton starts from seventh place, Yuki Tsunoda (Red Bull), Alexander Albon (Williams) and Pierre Gasly (Alpine) complete the top 10.

Max Verstappen gets out of his car

Some drivers had to dodge others jostling for space on Monaco's tight and twisty 3.3km street circuit, with Spanish veteran Fernando Alonso narrowly avoiding debris just before entering the tunnel section in Q1, the first part of qualifying.

Alonso and Red Bull's Sergio Perez failed to make it into Q2. Perez voiced his frustration on race radio. His contract with Red Bull ends this season and Red Bull has not yet confirmed whether he will have a seat in 2025.

Norris just made it into Q2 but then found his rhythm. Verstappen won from pole position last year but faces tough competition for his sixth win of the season.

Before the third training session, he chatted to Liverpool footballer Virgil van Dijk while enjoying the sun on the roof of Red Bull's motorhome.

The two Dutchmen used binoculars to admire the views, including the fleet of huge yachts and Prince Albert's palace, which overlooks the race track.

Charles Leclerc signs autographs for the fans

Perhaps they were talking about the upcoming European Championship, where Van Dijk will lead the Netherlands in their quest for their first international trophy since Euro 1988.

Thanks to his winning streak, Verstappen secured a record 19 victories in F1 last year – surpassing his own record from 2022. He is currently third in the all-time F1 rankings with 59 wins and is aiming for his fourth consecutive world championship title.

However, Verstappen was not in the lead in any of the three practice sessions in Monaco. He was even summoned to the race stewards for driving too slowly in the final practice session and received a warning.

At the start of the third practice session, the red flag was waved after Sauber driver Valtteri Bottas hit a wall when leaving the swimming pool chicane. Hamilton also briefly went off the track in the first corner, but was able to get his Mercedes back on track.