Carlos Sainz is optimistic his first Ferrari win could be just around the corner after pushing Max Verstappen close to the limit in the Canadian Grand Prix.

Defending Formula One drivers' champion Verstappen defended expertly to keep Sainz at bay over the closing laps in Montreal, sealing a sixth win of his season and extending his championship lead to 46 points.

Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, who abandoned Sunday's race in its early stages, sits second, while Sainz is fifth but producing strong results every time he finishes.

The Spaniard has had three DNFs, twice crashing out, but he has had five podiums and a fourth place in the other six races to date.

For the 27-year-old, however, the wait for a first Formula One race victory goes on.

Formerly of Toro Rosso, Renault and McLaren, he has been a staple of the top 10 in recent seasons, without yet scaling the top step.

He said of Sunday's race: "I was pushing flat out. I wasn't leaving any inch to the walls. I was pushing everything with the battery.

"I tried everything to pass Max, but today we just didn't have enough pace to get close enough in the hairpin to then get him a bit out of line into the chicane.

"But the positive thing is we were quicker, we were faster all race, we just [needed] that little bit more to overtake around here.

"I'm particularly happy with the race pace, with the way we managed to put pressure on Max during the whole race, and the timing of the pit stops I think was right."

Team-mate Charles Leclerc, third in the championship, has won twice already this season. He surged from a back-row start to earn fifth place in Canada.

Silverstone and the British Grand Prix is next on the calendar, with Sainz seeing grounds for Ferrari optimism.

He said: "Honestly, we tried everything, and we were very, very close to winning today, so I take the positives and keep trying in the next one."

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has hailed Max Verstappen for being in the "form of his life" after he extended his lead at the top of the drivers' championship.

Verstappen started on pole at the Canadian Grand Prix and ultimately held off Carlos Sainz to claim his sixth win of the season and mark Red Bull's best start to a Formula One season.

Sainz remained within DRS range for the final 10 laps of the race but was unable to make the move stick, with Verstappen holding firm.

Red Bull have now won seven of the nine races so far this season to put themselves 76 points ahead of Ferrari in the constructor's championship.

In the drivers' standings, the win gives Verstappen a 46-point lead over team-mate Sergio Perez, whose race ended prematurely, and Horner believes the reigning world champion is showing the best level of performance so far in his career.

"It wasn't very comfortable at all in those last 10 laps or so because Max just couldn't break the DRS and the Ferrari was very quick in the straight line today," Horner told Sky Sports.

"They could attack the kerbs and stay close but there wasn't a single mistake. We lost communication with the car, it was only one-way traffic where he could hear us but we couldn't hear him.

"All credit to Carlos today, he pushed him really hard. The strategy wasn't clear because we went for that early stop, we felt that was the best route to the end of the race, and then Sainz got a free stop too which set it up nicely for the end of the race. It was super tight.

"We've just got to take each race at time. We've put a great run together and it's great to be heading to Silverstone leading both championships. Max is in the form of his life and doing a great job."

Despite the late surge from Sainz putting Verstappen under pressure, the Dutchman felt it was a "fun" finale.

"It was really exciting at the end – I was giving it everything I had and, of course, Carlos was doing the same," he said.

"I could see he was pushing and charging, but when you're on the DRS it's a lot easier to charge. The last few laps were a lot of fun.

"Luckily, this year, we seem really quick on the straights so that helps a lot."

Max Verstappen showed dogged resistance to secure victory in the Canadian Grand Prix after holding off Carlos Sainz, as Lewis Hamilton returned to the podium.

After the ninth leg of the 22-race season, Verstappen's lead in the Formula One drivers' championship stands at 46 points, and that is because his Red Bull team-mate and closest rival in the championship Sergio Perez was an early casualty in Montreal.

Sainz, in the Ferrari, clung tight behind Verstappen over the closing laps after a lengthy safety car delay but could not quite forge an overtaking opportunity.

That meant Verstappen's 150th grand prix was a triumphant one, as Sainz was kept waiting for his first F1 victory.

Hamilton had not finished on the podium since the season-opening race in Bahrain, a wait of seven races, so the Briton was delighted to get third, ahead of Mercedes team-mate George Russell. Hamilton said it was "quite overwhelming".

Perez, who crashed out in Q2 on Saturday, pulled over to the side of the track and abandoned the race on lap nine, seeming to lose power and complaining of being stuck in gear.

It was clear that Fernando Alonso, in the Alpine, would not be able to convert second place on the grid into a top-three finish as the two-time champion gradually drifted down the field.

Alonso did not pit until lap 29 and came back out on hard tyres in seventh place, behind team-mate Esteban Ocon and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.

Leclerc first went to the pits on the 42nd lap, but it was a painfully sluggish stop and left the man from Monte Carlo down in 12th place. It was a credit to him and his team that he was able to surge through the field and close in to just three points behind Perez in the championship.

Yuki Tsunoda crashed out on lap 49 and that forced the drivers to proceed behind the safety car for five laps, drawing the field tightly together.

Leclerc, who started on the back row of the grid after his car was fitted with an all-new power unit, jumped ahead of the Alpines of Alonso and Ocon to go fifth, while at the front, Verstappen fittingly showed the defence of a champion to fend off Sainz.

Max Verstappen clinched pole position for Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix and Fernando Alonso secured an unlikely spot on the front row in Montreal.

Alonso, who set the pace in the final practice session, claimed second place in tricky, wet conditions in Saturday's qualifying session.

That hands the 40-year-old Spaniard his first front-row start in Formula One since he won from pole position at the German Grand Prix just under 10 years ago.

The two-time world champion, racing for Alpine, was the recipient of a huge ovation from the crowd as he celebrated his supreme qualifying performance, clocking up a time of 1:21.944 behind championship leader Verstappen's 1:21.299.

"It feels great. It was an unbelievable weekend for us so far, we’ve been competitive in free practice – which we normally are on Friday but on Saturday we seem to lose a little bit of pace – but in wet conditions today the car was mega, I was so comfortable driving this car and I think the fans gave me a push," a jubilant Alonso said.

When asked what his approach will be on Sunday, Alonso quipped: "Let's see, I think I will attack Max on the first corner."

Verstappen's pole ended the day on a high note for Red Bull, with team-mate and fellow title contender Sergio Perez set to start in 13th place after crashing out in Q2.

In difficult conditions, the reigning world champion – who will be further buoyed by title rival Charles Leclerc having to start at the back on Sunday due to Ferrari changing his entire power unit – was delighted with the composure shown by his team.

"Of course I still expect it not to be a straightforward race, today with tricky conditions, we stayed calm and we made the right calls in Q3 so of course, super happy with that to get pole position here and to be back in Montreal and great to see all the fans," he said.

"You really get that go-karting sensation back on this track with proper curves. We always enjoy driving here and I’m looking forward to tomorrow."

Carlos Sainz looked poised to push Verstappen, but a mistake on the final corner cost the Ferrari driver, who will start third on the grid. An incident involving the Spaniard and Esteban Ocon was investigated, but the stewards decided no further action was required.

Sainz said: "I was feeling quite okay with the car, especially in the full wet. In that lap I knew I had lost a bit too much, I tried to do a very quick last corner but it didn't pay off and it cost me half a second. I ended up with three for that mistake. I think it's going to be a good fight with Max up front and Fernando has been fast all weekend."

Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton – who did not hide his frustration with his car after struggling in practice on Friday – was lifted by claiming fourth.

Mercedes team-mate George Russell had to settle for eighth, however, after a decision to go on slicks in Q3 failed to pay off.

Ferrari's recent issues with reliability have put a major dent in their driver's and constructor's title hopes, but they will need to quickly bounce back at this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix.

It was a painful day for the Scuderia at the Azerbaijan GP on Sunday, with both cars retiring due to technical issues.

For Charles Leclerc, it was the second time in three races he was forced out because of a power unit problem while leading, and the fourth consecutive race where he failed to convert pole position into a race win.

Sergio Perez took full advantage in Baku, moving ahead of Leclerc in the driver's standings with his win, with Max Verstappen opening up a 34-point gap to the Ferrari driver.

With two retirements sandwiching Ferrari's strategic blunder at his home race in Monaco, the Monegasque moves to four wins from 15 pole positions, with only Jarno Trulli holding a lower conversion rate (25 per cent) among winning drivers in the history F1.

Meanwhile, only Michael Schumacher (+23) and Alain Prost (+18) have a higher differential between race wins and pole positions than Max Verstappen, who has claimed 25 and 14 respectively.

Verstappen will already be making his 150th GP appearance at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, looking for his sixth win of the season out of nine starts.

It would provide little solace to the 24-year-old but he has been in supreme form on the Saturday, claiming six poles out of eight this season, and could match his highest tally in a single season from 2019.

Pole position is not essential but it has proved to be convenient in recent years, with each of the past five winners in Montreal coming from the front of grid on the Saturday, the longest such streak in F1.

Since the opening race of the season in Bahrain, Ferrari remain one more one-two finish away from surpassing Mercedes for the most all-time in F1, with both on 82.

Ferrari customers facing similar strife

Problems have persisted for the factory team and Ferrari power unit customers since the first upgrade at the Miami Grand Prix, where Zhou Guanyu retired.

Both he and Leclerc then retired from the Spanish GP, after Valtteri Bottas was forced out of FP2 in the other Alfa Romeo due to an engine failure.

Both Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen experienced MGU-K failures in Monaco, before Leclerc, Magnussen and Zhou had power unit-related DNFs in Baku.

Red Bull in control

After rectifying their own reliability issues at the start of the season, Red Bull have picked up the pieces and are now in control of both championships.

Red Bull drivers have finished on the podium in 11 of their 13 finished races, securing the one-two in three of the last five Grands Prix and are one more from securing the highest tally in a single season.

The last time the team had six wins in the opening eight races of the season was when Sebastian Vettel coasted his way to the driver's title in 2011.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 150
2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 129
3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 116
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 99
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 83

Constructors

1. Red Bull 279
2. Ferrari 199
3. Mercedes 161
4. McLaren 65
5. Alpine 47

Max Verstappen accepts he was "a tiny bit lucky" after Charles Leclerc was forced to retire from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but the Red Bull driver was always confident of victory.

Leclerc once again failed to turn pole into victory in Baku due to a second engine-related retirement from the lead in the space of three grands prix.

He was passed into the first corner by Sergio Perez, who eventually finished second to team-mate Verstappen, and after doing well to recover his day soon got a whole lot worse.

Having dived into the pits under the virtual safety car after fellow Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz had retired with a hydraulics issue, Leclerc's engine failed on lap 20.

It was a procession for Red Bull from that point, with Verstappen leading Perez to a Red Bull one-two in the eighth race of the season, five of which the Dutchman has won.

Verstappen has 25 career wins to his name, meanwhile, and leads second-placed Perez in the 2022 drivers' standings by 21 points, with Leclerc 34 points back in third.

Reflecting on his latest triumph, coming on the same circuit where he himself retired when leading last season, Verstappen said: "We were a tiny bit lucky with what happened.

"But nonetheless our car was really quick, so I could have closed that gap, and then you have a race on your hands.

"You can never make up for what we lost last year, but we had incredible pace in the car and we could look after the tyres and chip away at it. Overall, I'm really happy with how the balance of the car was."

Verstappen has now claimed 66 podium finishes, breaking the record of Sebastian Vettel, who finished sixth for Aston Martin, for the most by a Red Bull driver.

With Perez finishing second, Red Bull are 80 points clear of closest challengers Ferrari in the constructors' standings with 14 race weekends remaining.

"To have a one-two as a team, it was a really good day for us," Verstappen added. "I don't know what clicked exactly – maybe tyre behaviour and general grip of the car? 

"That's what you need around here so you can look after your tyres."

Perez started strongly in the Azerbaijani capital and claimed a bonus point for setting the fastest lap, though he was ultimately unable to match Verstappen's pace.

The Mexican was instructed by his team not to fight against Verstappen for first place, a decision in which he accepts

"I think it was the right call by the team because at that time Max was a bit further ahead. It’s a good team result," he told Sky Sports.

"In this place anything can happen. At the end of the day we managed to do a one-two so it’s a great team result."

Despite climbing above Leclerc into second in the overall standings, Perez believes lessons can be learned ahead of next week's Canadian Grand Prix.

"Unfortunately we missed the virtual safety car stop," he said. "There was some miscommunication and in the end it was a bit too late. 

"We were a bit unlucky there because that would have made our race when we were leading.

"The degradation was extremely high on that medium tyre. It's something we have to understand because certainly Max was a lot stronger on that medium stint.

"There are a lot of things we have to review from today, but it was still a very good team result."

Charles Leclerc is desperate to "finish the job" after surging to pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. 

In Baku on Sunday, the Ferrari driver will start from the front of the grid for the fourth successive grand prix. 

Leclerc has failed to turn each of his previous three pole positions into a victory, something that has become a familiar story for the Monegasque. 

From his 14 pole positions in Formula One, he has managed just four victories (29 per cent) – only Jarno Trulli (25 per cent – one win from four poles) has a worse ratio among drivers to have topped the podium at least once. 

Leclerc is keen to avoid another disappointment and believes upgrades made by Ferrari can help him get over the line this time. 

"I just want to finish the job. The past two weekends I've already said that on the Saturday and it didn't happen on the Sunday," said Leclerc. 

"So, we need to make it… I mean, we don't need to make it work but it will be very nice if we make it work. Let's see how it goes in the first few laps, and then I will try to keep the lead.   

"I think since we have the new package, we've tried different things. And from my feeling it feels better in the race. But we still need to confirm it. But the feeling is there and it's good, so I'm optimistic." 

Verstappen qualified third for the second successive Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Last year he crashed out from the lead with three laps remaining, handing Sergio Perez the win. 

The reigning champion does not expect to make his move early but still believes he will be in with a good shot of a fourth victory in five races. 

"I think last year I started third here, so a lot of things happen. If you have good pace, I do think you can do something out there in the race," said Verstappen. 

"We'll just look through the data to optimise everything and make sure that the car is good on the tyres. 

"The run to Turn 1 is super short, so there's not a lot you can do there, but it's a long race. Baku has shown that a lot of things happen. We just need to stay calm and focus on having a good race car." 

Charles Leclerc stormed to pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, surprising himself by getting the better of the Red Bulls.

Leclerc produced a sensational final lap in Baku to become the first Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher in 2001 to record six pole positions in the first eight races of a season. 

He was almost three tenths of a second faster than Sergio Perez, who pipped team-mate Max Verstappen to a place on the front row. 

"It feels good. Obviously all poles feel good, but this one I did not expect because in Q1 and Q2 I really struggled to see that we could be faster," said Leclerc. 

"In the last lap everything came together and I managed to do good, so I'm extremely happy. 

"I'm really excited for [the race]. Tyre management is a big thing here. In Barcelona and Monaco we were managing it well but overall our race pace has gone a step up since we brought in the upgrades." 

Championship leader Verstappen was disappointed to miss out on a place on the front row but is confident Red Bull will be able to challenge for the win on Sunday. 

"I think the start was good, then it went away from me a little bit with tiny mistakes," said Verstappen. 

"It's not ideal but in general I was just struggling to find balance over one lap. It's not what I want but being second and third the team has a good opportunity. 

"We'll find out tomorrow, but we maybe seem to lack a bit of pace over one lap but in the long run we should be quite good." 

Perez, who experienced an issue in the garage in Q3, said: "On the first run of Q3 is when you go all out. I hit the wall a couple of times – luckily we managed to survive, which is the key here. 

"We had a problem with the engine at the end, we couldn't turn it on. We lost a few tenths, but I think Charles has done a very good job. 

"It's a very long race ahead, so we just have to make sure we are there. You can make a mistake at any point and that's it." 

Lewis Hamilton could only qualify seventh and was facing an investigation for driving unnecessarily slowly in Q2.

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:41.359
2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.282s
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.347s
4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.455s
5. George Russell (Mercedes) +1.353s
6. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1.486s
7. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1.565s
8. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1.697s
9. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1.732s
10. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1.814s

Max Verstappen says it would be "completely wrong" to introduce a salary cap for Formula One drivers who "put our lives at risk".

F1 introduced a budget cap at the start of last season and that figure was reduced to $140m (£119m) a team this year.

There has been talk of a limit being place on the wages drivers are paid, but world champion Verstappen made it perfectly clear what he thinks about the prospect of that being implemented.

"It's still a bit vague. I think no one really knows where it is going to go but from my side, it's completely wrong," he said ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix: 

"I think at the moment, F1 is becoming more and more popular and everyone is making more and more money, including the teams and FOM [Formula One Management].

"Everyone is benefitting, so why should the drivers, with their IP rights and everything, be capped? We actually bring the show and put our lives at risk, because we do, eventually. So for me, it's completely wrong."

Verstappen says youngsters making their way in junior categories would also be affected.

He added: "Also, in all of the junior categories, if you see how many of the drivers have a sponsor or a backer who will have a certain percentage of their income in F1 or whatever.

"I think it's going to limit that a lot because they'll never get their return in money and if you get a cap, so it will hurt all the junior categories as well and I don't think you want that."

Sebastian Vettel does not believe there has been a "changing of the guard" in Formula One, saying older drivers would thrive with "the right tools" 

Max Verstappen won his first F1 world title last season, dethroning Lewis Hamilton in the most dramatic fashion in the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

Red Bull's Verstappen leads Charles Leclerc by nine points in the battle for the 2022 title, with the 37-year-old Hamilton sixth.

Vettel, 34, has picked up only five points for Aston Martin, while the 40-year-old Fernando Alonso having 10 points to his name

Verstappen, Leclerc and George Russell – all aged 24 – have emerged as a new generation of drivers with long careers ahead of them.

Four-time F1 champion Vettel says they are fortunate to have cars that enable them to challenge for victories. 

Asked about the young drivers coming through, the German told Stats Perform: "I think it very much depends how competitive your environment is.

"Obviously, usually you're saying that there's a changing of the guard, Lewis has been arguably fighting for the title until the very last lap last year, so it's not too long ago.

"I think it depends always on the situation you're in for sure. There's drivers that are a little bit older like Fernando and Lewis then myself, but I'm sure that you give us the right tools, we still can do the right work."

Vettel hopes Ferrari can give Leclerc every chance of winning his first F1 title.

He said: "Obviously, Charles is one of them and in a good car he deserves to be up there. Hopefully the car will be good enough for him to fight for the title this year until the end.

"We will see, throughout the field you have more that one or two drivers that will be able to battle for victories.

"But usually the right drivers get the right package at the right time, so I'm very happy for him and hopefully he has the car to do it until the end."

 

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Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto admitted team strategy halted Charles Leclerc from triumphing at his home race, with Red Bull's Sergio Perez winning the Monaco Grand Prix.

Leclerc finished in fourth place after starting the race from pole position, which is critical at a circuit like Monte Carlo, with its tight streets making overtaking difficult and track position paramount.

Perez managed to keep Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari at bay with an assured drive, but it was also borne of circumstance after a pit-stop mix-up before a second red flag tumbled Leclerc down the order.

Binotto conceded it was a team error that cost his drivers from claiming more points but specifically for Leclerc, a potential maiden Formula One win at a home race where he has been dealt constant bad luck.

"I fully understand the disappointment for Charles," the Ferrari boss told Sky Sports F1. "He was first and finishing fourth means that something was wrong in the decision we made.

"So clearly we need to review it and I think we underestimated the speed of the intermediate [tyres] at that stage, so we could have called a lap earlier for Charles or later on, maybe we should have left him outside on the extreme wet then going on the dry.

"These are mistakes that may happen, but more importantly it is a lesson to learn to try and understand why they happened and I am sure that is a process we will do."

Ferrari went down a further ten points in the constructor standings to Red Bull, who now lead by 36 points after both Perez and Max Verstappen finished on the podium.

Leclerc's fourth-placed finish also means Verstappen extended his lead atop the driver's standings to nine points, heading into the next grand prix in Azerbaijan.

Sergio Perez won an extraordinary Monaco Grand Prix as Charles Leclerc endured more misery in his home race on Sunday.

Perez claimed his first victory on the streets of Monte Carlo ahead of Carlos Sainz after a late start due to heavy rain and the loss of further time following a big crash for Mick Schumacher, who was fortunate to walk away unharmed.

Leclerc had started on pole but could only finish fourth after paying the price for poor Ferrari pit-stop strategies and so Max Verstappen extended his lead over the Monegasque to nine points in the battle for the title after taking third.

Verstappen’s Red Bull-mate Perez took the chequered flag in the sun on lap 64, as there was not enough time to complete the full 77 in the Principality as a result of the poor weather earlier in the day.

There was eventually a rolling start behind the safety car an hour and 10 minutes after the race was due to begin, with the red flag having earlier been waved during a deluge.

Leclerc maintained his lead ahead of team-mate Sainz on a drying track ahead of a Red Bull duo of Perez and Verstappen.

Perez pitted from fourth place for a set of intermediate tyres before both Leclerc and Verstappen came in for intermediates.

Leclerc was not happy when he was called in again at the same time as Sainz for hard tyres only three laps later, with Red Bull also opting for a double stack soon after and it was Perez who was leading after a string of pit stops.

The second-placed Sainz produced a great save to avoid crashing into the barriers on a wet part of the track, but the virtual safety car was deployed and subsequently another red flag following a big smash for Schumacher on lap 26.

Leclerc found himself in fourth behind Verstappen following some puzzling decision-making from the Scuderia and there were only 40 minutes of racing to go when the race restarted again on a significantly drier track.

Mexican Perez fended off Sainz to celebrate his first victory of the season. George Russell was fifth, with his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton only eighth behind Lando Norris and Fernando Alonso.

Charles Leclerc is confident hs Ferrari can secure him a maiden win at his home race, after qualifying on pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix on Saturday.

On a circuit where track position is critical, Ferrari took the front row of the grid for Sunday's race with Carlos Sainz finishing in second behind Leclerc after Q3 was halted by a red flag.

Sergio Perez hit the barrier at Portier, and Sainz could not react quickly enough to avoid a collision, when Leclerc was on track to beat his then-provisional pole time.

Ultimately, it secured the Monegasque driver top spot, and he was in high spirits afterwards following his second consecutive pole.

"I am very pleased with our overall performance so far this weekend," Leclerc said. "I felt confident in the car and started pushing a bit more in Q3. The first lap was good. I think that the second was one of the best laps I have ever done in qualifying.

"It was so much fun to drive, and I was really on the limit. I had a lot of oversteer, so the rear was quite loose. Still, I knew that the lap was coming together nicely and that felt particularly good.

"It’s a shame that I couldn’t finish it, but this is Monaco, and we know that the final attempt is always at risk of yellow or red flags. We secured pole anyway, so I am really happy.

"Whatever the conditions are tomorrow, we will start from the best place possible and will do everything to finish the weekend as smoothly as it has gone so far."

Max Verstappen finished in fourth, continuing his fight to find pace at low-speed corners from the Thursday and Friday practice sessions.

The reigning world champion finished almost three tenths of a second off Leclerc's pole time and could have been further off the pace had his rival finished his second hot lap.

"In general, my pace this weekend has been a bit of a struggle, I never really found the perfect balance," Verstappen said. "We were on for a good final lap in Q3, I was pushing to the limit on the last lap until I got to the corner, where I hit a little traffic jam.

"It was very unfortunate as I think we could have done better than fourth – not pole position, because I think that Charles is too far ahead. I think we could have at least got second place"

Formula One has arrived at the most prestigious race on the calendar, and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc would be desperate to end an awful run of form at his home race.

Born and raised in Monaco, Leclerc's string of bad luck on the historic circuit dates back to his days in Formula Two, where he set the F2 lap record in 2017 before suspension problems caused a DNF.

The next year, in F1, he was in the points for Sauber before brake failure led to a crash with Brendan Hartley.

After poor strategy and Q1 elimination in his first Monaco Grand Prix for Ferrari in 2019, Leclerc charged up the field early on but pushed a little too hard and collided with Romain Grosjean at Rascasse.

In 2021, he surprisingly stuck an inferior Ferrari on pole position but crashed at the end of Q3, and extensive drive-shaft damage led to him cruelly retiring on the formation lap.

The 24-year-old became the first Monegasque to claim pole, but his three DNFs – from as many F1 entries – are his most at any circuit.

Despite ending up in the barriers on a demonstration lap in Niki Lauda's Ferrari last week, another pole could finally put Leclerc on the top step in his home race.

Twelve of the past 17 winners at Monaco have started from pole, as little room to overtake with bigger cars on Monte Carlo's notoriously tight streets makes track position critical.

It would be a welcome way for Leclerc to buck his trend of failing to convert poles into race victories, winning only four times from 13 starts at the front of the grid.

The title race adds another dimension, with Max Verstappen taking a six-point lead from him in the drivers' standings after successive victories at Imola, Miami and Barcelona.

In-form Red Bull with records in sight

Monaco has been a happy hunting ground for Red Bull, and this weekend could bring a number of records for the team.

This weekend could see Red Bull claim their highest number of race wins (six), pole positions (six), podiums (24, with both drivers) and points earned at a circuit, surpassing the 356 collected in Spain.

Meanwhile, reigning world champion Verstappen has the chance to record the longest winning streak of his career, beating last year's three wins between France and Austria.

Ricciardo in need of renaissance

Daniel Ricciardo has come under criticism from McLaren team principal Zak Brown for his recent performances, with a clear need for improvement.

The 32-year-old suffered one of the lowest points of his career last year in Monte Carlo, when he was lapped by teammate Lando Norris.

Ricciardo is suffering his worst streak of finishes outside the points (three) since 2012, when he had five consecutive empty-handed returns for Toro Rosso.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 110
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 104
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 85
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 74
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 65

Constructors

1. Red Bull 195
2. Ferrari 169
3. Mercedes 120
4. McLaren 50
5. Alfa Romeo 39

Max Verstappen tried to keep his frustration at bay as he overcame a "not nice" start to the Spanish Grand Prix before ultimately recovering to earn a crucial win.

The reigning world champion claimed his third consecutive Formula One victory in Barcelona on Sunday, profiting after title rival Charles Leclerc retired with a technical issue when seemingly on course to win.

Verstappen now holds a six-point lead at the top of the standings, an outcome that did not look likely when the Dutchman dropped from second to fourth after spinning in the early stages, as Leclerc built a huge lead.

The Dutchman also voiced his concerns on team radio as persistent issues with his DRS system hindered his attempts to pass Mercedes' George Russell during a thrilling tussle between the duo.

Verstappen, though, kept his focus and, after some help from team orders, recorded his first win in Spain since 2016, when he took his first-ever F1 victory at the same circuit.

Team-mate Sergio Perez was second in a great result for Red Bull, with Russell taking the final spot on the podium ahead of Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton.

"Of course I went off - I suddenly had a lot of tailwind, so I just lost the rear and went off," Verstappen said about his ninth-lap error.

"Then I was obviously in the train and trying to pass but my DRS was not always working. That made it very tough.

"But we managed use strategy to get ahead again [with three pit stops]. We tried to do our own race and eventually we got the win. So it was a difficult beginning but a good end.

"I just tried to stay focused - of course it is not nice when stuff like that happens - but at the end I am very happy to win and happy for Checo." 

Verstappen insisted his anger on team radio related to his car issues, not at the way Russell was defending his position. 

"It was more frustration because of my DRS," he said. "It is a great result for the team. The behaviour of the car was good on the softs."

As for Russell, third place represented a continuation of his strong start to the F1 season with Mercedes even as the team lacks its normal pace.

The Briton has finished in the top five for all six races so far, with this being his second podium.

"I gave everything I could do to hold Max off," he said. "I would love to say that [that Mercedes are back], I am proud to be standing here [in the top three]. 

"It hurt us a lot but when I had the Red Bull in the mirrors all I was doing was the maximum to keep them behind. It is a lot of points on the board for us and well done to Max."

Next up for the drivers is the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix, which will take place on May 29.

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