Lewis Hamilton took pole for the 2019 Formula One Monaco Grand Prix after finishing fastest in qualifying on Saturday.
Hamilton claimed pole at the expense of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who endured a weak middle section during Q3. Bottas was still second-fastest, giving the Silver Arrows a front-row lockout for Sunday's race. Meanwhile, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel finished outside the top three.
The day began with Charles Leclerc giving Ferrari hope by posting the fastest time in the third practice session before shockingly being eliminated after Q1.
The third practice session was Ferrari's chance to rebound from a rough first few days in Monaco and offer proof the team can put Mercedes under pressure. Sadly, Vettel hit the crash barriers early on to stymie Ferrari's hopes.
Vettel was unharmed, but his crash meant it was left to Leclerc to carry the fight on his home track. Fortunately, the 21-year-old answered the call by showcasing some impressive pace.
The Frenchman was fastest on the soft tyres with the session drawing to a close. Mercedes were still on the case, though, as Bottas and Hamilton kept up their speeds.
Hamilton ultimately opted against trying one last lap to set the fastest time, seemingly leaving Leclerc's place as the session leader secure.
Yet not everybody was impressed by the team's performance:
Even so, Leclerc had set the table for a tense qualifying run by letting the Silver Arrows know they wouldn't have it all their own way.
The story of Q1 was Ferrari's erratic run. Leclerc was 12th when the team decided he wouldn't go out for a final lap. It proved to be a costly decision as Carlos Sainz and Kevin Magnussen took advantage.
While it was bizarre ending for Leclerc, things were just as unpredictable for Vettel. The German looked doomed after again making contact with the barrier:
To his credit, Vettel not only recovered but upped his game and speed to finish fastest and ironically contribute to Leclerc being sent packing:
Andrew Benson @andrewbensonf1
Leclerc: “I asked whether they were sure. They said, 'We think we are.' I said, ‘Shouldn’t we go again?' Didn’t have explanations yet in detail. V difficult to take. Plenty of time to go again. The weighbridge was not the problem. We had fuel to go again. Need some explanations."
The remarkable run was somewhat overshadowed by Leclerc missing out.
Typically, Mercedes took full advantage of Ferrari's turmoil. Bottas responded first by breaking a track record on his opening lap in Q2.
With the opening lap in the books, Hamilton and Verstappen focused on upping their speed. The latter made his move first, soon breaking the track record en route to topping the session with the best time.
It was a notable achievement for Red Bull Racing, but the presence of Bottas and Hamilton finishing second and third offered an ominous reminder Mercedes were coming good ahead of the decisive stage of the process.
At the other end of the grid, Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean were among those who failed to make it through to Q3. However, both drivers felt aggrieved at events on track, with Pierre Gasly appearing to have blocked off Grosjean.
The third qualifying run began with Bottas setting yet another track record for the fastest lap. His swift start made a front-row lockout look inevitable for Mercedes as Hamilton rode along as second fastest early on.
Pressure was mounting on Vettel to summon some extra power for depleted Ferrari. His chances of answering the challenge looked bleak when he struck the barrier once again.
Further ahead, Hamilton looked like he had some speed in reserve, and so it proved, as Bottas waned in the middle, while Hamilton seized the opportunity to snatch pole.
It was rough on Bottas, given how fast the Finn had been for the most part on track. To his credit, Bottas was philosophical about missing out and still rates his chances for Sunday:
Bottas has his best moments ahead of him, but a veteran like Hamilton knows the importance of securing pole on this track:
Ultimately, Mercedes have stayed efficient in sharp contrast to the muddled picture at Ferrari. Leclerc is supposed to be the rising star who helps push Vettel past Hamilton.
Instead, both drivers are struggling, while communication issues among the team will be a priority after the gaffes during Q1.