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Monaco Grand Prix 2023

How track evolution enabled Verstappen to snatch Monaco pole from Alonso

Tyre warm up, track evolution and a lot of risk paid off for Max Verstappen in his hunt for a first pole around the streets of Monaco.

It is likely going to be the closest anyone will get to Red Bull on pace during a qualifying session all season, after Max Verstappen edged Fernando Alonso to pole by just 0.084s.

Monaco is the shortest track on the calendar, so it is not uncommon for the margins to be this close. The top 18 were separated by less than one second in Q1, with Alex Albon in the often-uncompetitive Williams setting a time that was good enough to be third quickest.

It was clear then, that track position and timing would be key if anyone wanted to upset Red Bull's run of four poles out of five so far. With it came the jeopardy of potentially getting your lap spoiled by a crash, which is what happened in Miami when Charles Leclerc shunted during the final runs.

Verstappen's lap time of a 1:11.365 set in the dying moments of Q3 was a sensational effort, after the Red Bull driver dived to the pits with three minutes to go for a swap to a new set of Soft tyres.

This proved to be crucial for Verstappen, as it enabled him to be the last car on track to set his time. While his first and second sectors did not beat Alonso, he managed to pull three tenths on him in the final sector.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Verstappen gains most time through final sector

The data from both laps mimics the strengths we have already come to know about both the AMR23 and the RB19; quick through the medium speed corners for the Aston and fast on the straights for the Red Bull.

Alonso's performance on the brakes enabled him to pull some time away from Verstappen on the exit of Sainte Devote, but the run up to Casino Square was where the Red Bull exhibited superior straight-line speed.

Interestingly, during the brief braking zone into the Casino Square where drivers change down two gears was where Alonso clawed back some time - the Spaniard changing down fractionally slower and carrying more speed.

The traction on the exit of the Lowes hairpin was better from Alonso, as was the exit into the tunnel section. Alonso also carried more speed into the Nouvelle Chicane, but this time Verstappen had better traction on the exit of the corner.

The medium-speed section of Tabac played to the strengths of the AMR23, but from the Swimming Pool section onwards Verstappen had the speed to cover off the Aston.

Verstappen activated DRS earlier compared to Alonso and ensured that his run to the line was as quick as it could be, despite brushing the wall on the exit of Anthony Noghes.

Sector times head-to-head

Sector Alonso Verstappen
1 18.496 18.642
2 33.844 33.902
3 19.109 18.821
1:11.449 1:11.365

Tyre warm up was critical to maintaining pace throughout lap

Key to extracting a fast lap throughout qualifying was maintaining the tyre temperatures throughout, something Pirelli Chief Engineer, Simone Berra explained would be a factor after runs on Friday.

"In terms of performance, we are in line with our expectations. So in terms of balance, we are speaking about mid-corner understeer in low speed sections," he told media, including RacingNews365.com.

"Then when the run goes on you have overheating and graining from the rear axle, so you start to slide more from the rear. So the rear is the latest limitation."

The Red Bull was much better at maintaining the life of the tyre throughout the lap compared to the Aston Martin, which is where Verstappen could edge out Alonso in the final sector.

"It's even a characteristic of the two softest compounds. But we've seen it many times in the last season and even this year, that these two compounds are quite peaky.

"So when you do a push lap and try to get the performance on the new tyres, it's peaky and it's difficult to go beyond the working window, or to be not perfectly in the working window."

Verstappen admitted that he struggled with tyre warm up on his initial lap, which is why he went much quicker on his out-lap for his final run on Q3.

"I struggled a bit in the first lap with warm up of the tyres and just putting together all the sectors. But I knew that the last lap I had to do it because they all improved," said Verstappen.

"I also knew going into the last sector I was down on them, so I had to push flat out in the last sector and risk everything to get back to lap time."

Although he risked potentially crashing out sensationally in similar fashion to his lap at Saudi Arabia in 2021, this time Verstappen produced one of the all-time great laps around the iconic streets of Monaco.

F1 2023 Monaco Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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