Fernando Alonso, the Aston Martin driver, believes that the Monaco Grand Prix should never be dropped from the Formula 1 calendar, after a thrilling qualifying session on Saturday.
The final part of Q3 saw Alonso, Esteban Ocon from Alpine and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc battle for the top spot, until Max Verstappen of Red Bull snatched his first Monaco pole with a stunning last sector.
The world champion from the Netherlands admitted he “touched a few walls” on his way to pole and Alonso also confessed he took some “uncomfortable risks” in his quest for his first pole since the German Grand Prix in 2012, almost 11 years ago.
The Monaco Grand Prix, which has been part of the F1 world championship since 1950 and a permanent fixture since 1955, is often criticized for its lack of overtaking opportunities and its outdated infrastructure and logistics, as the paddock is squeezed into the narrow harbour area with no room for expansion.
The race on Sunday may not be very exciting, but Alonso argues that Saturday’s qualifying spectacle shows that Monaco – which has a unique 3.337-kilometre circuit in Monte Carlo – still deserves its place in modern F1.
“I think the lap is high adrenaline and if we see also how it looks on TV, when I was sitting in the car, you see the whole Monaco today on a sunny day, I think is a very unique place,” said Alonso.
“Even last year, when there were talks that maybe Monaco was not on the calendar for the future, it doesn’t sound right. It has to be, always.”
Verstappen said that a qualifying lap around Monaco’s tight and unforgiving circuit makes his heart beat faster than any other session.
He was clearly excited on the radio when he told his engineer how close he had been to crashing on his brilliant pole lap, something that happened to his team-mate Sergio Perez in Q1.
“I can feel that every time you jump in the car, your heart rate probably is a bit higher than on other tracks when you do a qualifying lap,” Verstappen explained.
“Because you know that when you make one tiny misjudgement or whatever, you end up in the wall.
“From all the street circuits we do, this one over a qualifying lap is definitely the hardest to nail and you feel it when you jump out of the car. You’re full of adrenaline and your heart rate is still higher than other qualifyings.”
Leclerc, who lives in Monaco and took pole in 2021 and 2022, agreed that Saturday’s qualifying session makes up for Sunday’s lack of action.
“Race day, yes, it is not the most exciting race in terms of overtaking but the Saturday is just incredible,” he added.
“The feeling that we have over a qualifying lap is so good. It’s like nowhere else on the calendar.”