Connect with us

Formula 1

Verstappen vs. Leclerc: A Battle for Pole at Monaco GP 2023



Pole Monaco GP 2023

As the 2023 Formula 1 season charges ahead, the elusive Monaco Grand Prix presents a thrilling challenge. Will Ferrari and Aston Martin conquer the heretofore unbeatable Red Bull? Friday’s practice suggests a tantalising showdown on the horizon.

In spite of the Monaco Grand Prix potentially offering the greatest opportunity yet in the 2023 Formula 1 season for Ferrari and Aston Martin to overcome the thus far unbeatable Red Bull, evidence from Friday’s practice suggests that this task remains extremely challenging.

Indeed, the initial session hinted that the unique lack of straights and mild tyre conditions of Monte Carlo might indeed pose some challenges to the Red Bull RB19, which seemed to lend some credibility to the previously suggested theories.

During that session, Max Verstappen experienced severe difficulties due to the car bottoming out on the bumps, to the point of being ‘undriveable.’ This resulted in him achieving only the sixth-fastest time and lagging 0.9s behind Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari. He was also slower than Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin and Lewis Hamilton’s redesigned Mercedes.

However, a significant elevation in front ride height for the second session brought the Red Bull more squarely into its comfort zone. This adjustment allowed Verstappen to lead the timings, albeit by a slender margin from the two Ferraris.

While race pace may not be as crucial in Monaco as at other circuits due to the scarcity of overtaking chances, it’s worth noting that Esteban Ocon’s Alpine clocked slightly quicker times than Verstappen during the long runs. This observation, though, is under the presumption that Ocon’s vehicle was carrying less fuel.

DriverSofts Lap TimeMediums Lap TimeLaps
Russel1m 17.06s4

The medium tyre is largely preferred for the race, even though the soft tyre seems to be approximately 1s faster per lap. In the conventional race progression, it will be a one-stop strategy, likely using a soft/medium combination for those leading the pack. For those further back, a medium/hard combination might be favoured in an attempt to improve their track position by maintaining longer runs.


Barring the always possible impact of safety cars in Monaco, the two primary factors for winning are a) securing pole position, b) successfully transitioning from pole to the lead, and c) preventing the trailing car from gaining an advantage during the pitstop window through an undercut. The typical defence against this is to set a pace slow enough to group the entire field, thus preventing spaces for the pitting car to slot into. Therefore, tyre performance and compound differences are likely to be less influential than usual.

In terms of predicting which contender has the best shot at securing the season’s most prestigious pole, Verstappen is the front-runner based on his FP2 performance. However, his lead is not significant enough to guarantee his success. With less than a half-tenth of a second faster than Charles Leclerc, and Sainz being only a further half-a-tenth behind (before his late-session crash at the swimming pool exit), the outcome is likely to hinge on individual driver performances in Q3.

Leclerc, who has taken pole position for the last two years, has previously showcased his incredible ability to push the limits at Monaco when it really counts. However, there’s always the risk of pushing too hard and failing.

When comparing the best FP2 laps of Verstappen and Leclerc, one might notice a remnant of the Red Bull’s initial hesitation to fully warm up the tyres at the start of the lap, as Leclerc stays ahead all the way to Mirabeau.

It is only when they confront the narrow sequence from the hairpin to Portier that the Red Bull begins to pull ahead. Verstappen appears to handle Portier better than the Ferrari, and this advantage carries through the tunnel, which is where the most significant gains are made.

Leclerc demonstrates impressive control through the chicane, recouping all the time he had just lost. Verstappen retakes the lead until they reach the swimming pool section, where the Ferrari’s agility and Leclerc’s determination give him an advantage. Upon exiting the swimming pool section, Leclerc is more than 0.1s ahead. It’s possible that this pushed the Ferrari’s tyres too hard, as it’s only in the remaining sequence through Rascasse, Noghes, and up to the start/finish line that Verstappen regains the lead.

In other words, it appears to be a close enough contest that it could swing in either direction.


Although Sainz seemed nearly as fast as Leclerc during the practice sessions, possibly even leading at first, Leclerc’s proven ability to pull out exceptional performances means he likely poses the greatest threat to Verstappen’s pole position.

Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull had a couple of subdued sessions, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see his innate compatibility with the track become more apparent.

Even though Alonso’s Aston Martin was consistently quick whenever it was on the track, it doesn’t seem quite as nimble as the Ferrari, nor as speedy through the tunnel as the Red Bull. It’s competitive, but possibly lagging by a couple of tenths over a single lap.

The substantially revised Mercedes, with its new sidepods and front suspension, didn’t appear significantly more competitive than the original car at previous venues, with Lewis Hamilton trailing around 0.5s behind Verstappen and Leclerc. The drivers indicated that the car perhaps felt slightly better under braking than before, but GPS data suggests that it loses a considerable amount of time to the Red Bull, Ferrari, and Aston Martin in the slow corner sequence between the hairpin and Portier.

“Monaco is an exceptional circuit, not really suitable for evaluating changes on the car, and we were aware of that coming in,” George Russell said. “We’re almost disregarding the upgrade and will focus on that next weekend.

“Qualifying is undeniably the most crucial part of the weekend, and it’s also the part where we typically falter. Looking at the last 18 months, we always perform better on Sundays…

“We need to extract more from the tyre. We know that the fundamental performance of the car is good, but it tends to underperform on Saturdays and overperform on Sundays. Ideally, we need to reverse those characteristics this weekend, but such traits are usually deeply ingrained.”


Pole Monaco GP 2023 F1 Verstappen vs Leclerc Pole Monaco GP 2023 F1 Verstappen vs Leclerc Pole Monaco GP 2023 F1 Verstappen vs Leclerc

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.