Lewis Hamilton collided with Mercedes team-mate George Russell as Max Verstappen raced to pole position for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Hamilton will start fifth following a bizarre coming together with Russell, who lines up in 12th, at the end of Q2 at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.

Verstappen finished four tenths clear of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, with Lando Norris an impressive third for McLaren.

Pierre Gasly took fourth spot for Alpine, one place ahead of Hamilton, who was half-a-second back, with home favourite Fernando Alonso only ninth in his Aston Martin.

Hamilton had to take on a replacement front wing for Q3 after he made contact with Russell in the closing stages of Q2.

With both Mercedes men starting their hot laps, Hamilton moved out of Russell’s tow at 210mph on the main straight.

But the seven-time world champion was forced to take to the grass after his team-mate, who was making his way past Sainz’s Ferrari, unintentionally, closed the door on him.

Hamilton kicked up dirt from the grass as part of his front wing flew off his Mercedes.

“George just backed off,” said Hamilton over the radio. “That is really dangerous. I might have some damage on the car.”

Although Hamilton’s time was good enough to progress to Q3, Russell was eliminated in 12th.

“You didn’t tell me there was a car behind,” said Russell. “I don’t know what the hell was going on in this session. The car was bouncing. I couldn’t get my tyres working.

Russell will start one place behind Perez after the Red Bull driver also failed to make it out of Q2.

Perez is Verstappen’s closest challenger in the championship but a week on from his horror show in Monaco where he finished 16th and two laps down, he qualified only 11th here.

The Mexican ran through the gravel and, although he managed to keep his Red Bull out of the wall, his next lap was not quick enough to carry him through to Q3.

“Unbelievable,” said Perez.

On an afternoon of shock results, Charles Leclerc, who started this race from pole position last year, will line last but one on the grid.

Leclerc complained about the rear of his Ferrari and finished above only Williams rookie Logan Sargeant in the order.

“I don’t have the answers for now,” said Leclerc following his early bath. “The only thing I can say is the left-hand corners were undriveable.”

Q1 was suspended by nine minutes following multiple spins on a track drying out after earlier rain.

Alex Albon, Nyck de Vries, Yuki Tsunoda and Valtteri Bottas all ran off the road, and with gravel on the asphalt, race director Niels Wittich red-flagged the session.

Max Verstappen finished fastest in a rain-hit final practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Verstappen completed his speediest time in the early minutes before it started drizzling at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.

The double world champion finished two tenths clear of Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull, with Lewis Hamilton third, four tenths back.

Hamilton completed only eight laps as he elected not to run in the slippery conditions, despite the chance qualifying – which takes place at 4pm local time (3pm BST) – could also be disrupted by showers.

Behind Hamilton, Carlos Sainz finished fourth for Ferrari, one place ahead of his countryman Fernando Alonso in his Aston Martin. George Russell finished sixth for Mercedes.

The one-hour running was suspended for nine minutes after Logan Sargeant crashed out.

Sargeant lost control of his Williams through the high-speed final corner, before sliding into the gravel and grazing the wall.

Verstappen will head into qualifying having finished fastest in all three sessions as he bids to extend his 39-point championship lead over team-mate Perez.

Haas team principal Guenther Steiner has been summoned to the stewards following his outburst at the standard of officiating in Formula One.

Steiner, 58, described a five-second penalty handed to Nico Hulkenberg at last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix as “completely wrong” before calling for an overhaul of the FIA’s current model.

Four officials from a rotating pool steward every Grand Prix and at least one of those will be a former driver who has raced at a competitive level.

But speaking ahead of Sunday’s race in Spain, Steiner, who now faces a charge of bringing the sport into disrepute, said: “Every professional sport has professional referees.

“F1 is one of the biggest sports in the world and we still have laymen deciding on the fate of people that invest millions in their careers.

“There is no consistency. We need to step it up.”

Hulkenberg was penalised following an aggressive overtake on Logan Sargeant on the first lap in Monte Carlo.

Hulkenberg made his way ahead of the Williams driver without appearing to make contact.

“Nico comes from the inside, is in front, dives into the corner, but I can’t see a collision,” said Steiner, who will face the stewards at 2:30pm local time (1:30pm UK).

“A collision is touching, no? That’s what the definition is. We’re trying to get it explained because I think the decision was completely wrong.”

Lewis Hamilton fears he will start Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix outside of the top 10 following a disheartening day in practice for the British driver and his Mercedes team.

As Max Verstappen predictably set the pace for Red Bull with a practice double at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, Hamilton finished only 11th, more than six tenths of a second back.

Home favourite Fernando Alonso raised hope that he could challenge Verstappen and his all-conquering Red Bull team after he finished second for Aston Martin, just 0.170 seconds back. George Russell was eighth in the other Mercedes.

Before stepping into his cockpit this weekend, Hamilton admitted that his team’s much-anticipated upgrade, which made its debut in Monaco a week ago, had not provided the magic fix he was hoping for.

And on his new machine’s second outing at a track where the Silver Arrows said they would obtain a greater understanding of their upgrades, the evidence suggests they are no closer to taking on the mighty Red Bull, or leapfrogging rivals Aston Martin and Ferrari.

Indeed, Mercedes might have fallen further down the pecking order, with Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, and the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas all above the seven-time world champion in the order.

Asked about his prospects for qualifying on Saturday, Hamilton said: “From the pace that I had today it will be a struggle to get into the top 10. It is not going to be easy, that is for sure.

“We are fighting as hard as we can. It was a difficult day getting on top of the tyres. The car feels… like the car. Hopefully we can make some changes overnight.

“It is impressive to see the improvements that everyone has made around us – if you look at the Alpines, and you can also see the Aston Martin is right behind the Red Bull which is impressive.”

Hamilton said after May’s Miami Grand Prix that he was “counting down the days” for the upgrade he hoped would propel him back to the front. But there appears no end in sight to his 30-race losing streak.

Verstappen, 39 points clear in his pursuit for a third successive title, has been in a class of one for the past 18 months and his dominance continued on Friday.

A day after he made the ominous prediction that Red Bull could win all 16 remaining races this year, Verstappen finished seven tenths faster than anyone else in the opening running before returning to the top of the timesheets for the day’s final action.

Alonso however, lingers with intent. His home race this weekend marks the 10th anniversary of his 32nd and last win in the sport.

However, the Spaniard, 41, is enjoying a career resurgence following his transfer from Alpine to Aston Martin, finishing on the podium at five of the first six races.

“Every time I have come to Barcelona I have been told it has been five years since I last won, and then seven years, and now it is 10,” said Alonso.

“But it doesn’t feel that long to me. Last year we saw how much Mercedes improved during the season, and they won in Brazil with George. There will be an opportunity around the corner and we have to be there to take it.”

Max Verstappen completed a practice double for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton finished only 11th on a disheartening day for the seven-time world champion and his Mercedes team.

As Verstappen predictably set the pace for Red Bull at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, Hamilton, 12th in the day’s first running, ended second practice six tenths off the pace.

Home favourite Fernando Alonso raised hope that he could challenge Verstappen and his all-conquering Red Bull team after he finished second for Aston Martin, just 0.170 seconds back.

Nico Hulkenberg was an impressive third for Haas, with Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez fourth.

Hamilton admitted on Thursday that Mercedes’ much-anticipated upgrade, which made its debut in Monaco a week ago, had not provided the magic fix he was hoping for.

And on his new machine’s second outing, at a track where the Silver Arrows said they would obtain a greater understanding of their upgrades, the evidence suggests they are no closer to taking on the mighty Red Bull, or indeed, leapfrogging rivals Aston Martin and Ferrari.

Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell finished eighth, half-a-second off the pace.

Russell also came within inches of a nasty accident with Oscar Piastri after he was blocked by the rookie McLaren driver.

Russell was forced to take evasive action, running off the road and into the gravel.

“Who the f*** was that in the McLaren,” said the usually mild-mannered Briton as he limped through the sandtrap.

Verstappen has been in a class of one for the past 18 months and his dominance continued on Friday.

A day after he made the ominous prediction that Red Bull could win all 16 remaining races this year, Verstappen finished seven tenths faster than anyone else in the opening running before returning to the top of the timesheets for the day’s final action.

Alonso’s home race this weekend marks the 10th anniversary of his 32nd and last win in the sport.

However, the Spaniard is enjoying a career resurgence following his transfer from Alpine to Aston Martin, finishing on the podium at five of the first six races, and emerging as a possible threat to Verstappen.

Five days after he finished on the podium in Monaco, Esteban Ocon was fifth for Alpine, three tenths back, with the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz sixth and seventh respectively.

British driver Lando Norris finished 14th for McLaren, two places behind his rookie team-mate Piastri.

Lewis Hamilton finished only 12th in opening practice for the Spanish Grand Prix.

As Max Verstappen predictably set the pace for Red Bull at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, Hamilton ended the one-hour running 1.2 seconds behind the Dutchman.

Sergio Perez finished second, seven tenths adrift of his Red Bull team-mate, with Esteban Ocon, fresh from his podium at last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, third for Alpine. Home favourite Fernando Alonso was sixth.

Mercedes spent the first running of the weekend rooted to the bottom of the time sheets before late laps from George Russell, who finished two places and one tenth ahead of his team-mate, and Hamilton hauled them up the order.

Hamilton admitted here on Thursday that Mercedes’ much-anticipated upgrade, which made its debut in Monaco a week ago, had not provided the magic fix he was hoping for.

And on his new machine’s second outing, at a track where the Silver Arrows said they would obtain a greater understanding of their upgrades, the evidence suggests they are no closer to competing with the grid’s all-conquering team, or indeed, leapfrogging rivals Aston Martin and Ferrari.

Verstappen has been in a class of one for much of the past 18 months and his dominance continued on Friday.

He was the only man to break the 75-second barrier, a day after he made the ominous prediction that Red Bull could win all 16 remaining races.

Nyck de Vries has endured a trying start to his Formula One career but the AlphaTauri driver finished fourth in first practice, a spot clear of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, with Alonso, the 41-year-old Spaniard, the only other driver to finish within a second of Verstappen.

British driver Lando Norris was 11th for McLaren, six places ahead of Oscar Piastri in the other McLaren.

Second practice, which could be disrupted by rain, is due to start at 5pm local time (4pm BST).

Fernando Alonso believes Lewis Hamilton can still win an eighth world championship – but has warned that Max Verstappen is ready to break the British driver’s records.

Hamilton will head into Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix on a 30-race losing streak following Mercedes’ failure to provide him with a winning machine.

He is already 75 points behind Max Verstappen in the standings, with the Dutchman on course to secure his third world title in as many years.

Hamilton, 38, said he was “counting down the days” until the arrival of Mercedes’ upgrade, but following its debut at last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, he admitted here in Spain that the new design has not provided him with the step forward he was hoping for.

He also revealed it will be a “long process” to dethrone Verstappen’s dominant Red Bull team.

However, in an interview with the PA news agency, Alonso, who at 41 is the only driver older than Hamilton on the grid, said: “Lewis will be in contention for the eighth title.

“I don’t know if that will be next year, or in the future, but he will have another chance of winning the championship, that is for sure.

“Mercedes are a very strong team, and Lewis is a very strong driver. He doesn’t forget how to drive from one season to the next.

“The Mercedes car is not an easy one to drive and it is not a fast car, but you see every weekend that Lewis is always there – fourth, fifth, fourth, and he was second in Australia. He is driving on top of the car.”

Hamilton’s rival Verstappen took his maiden Formula One win on his Red Bull debut in Spain seven years ago.

On Sunday, a fifth victory of the year would put him on 40 victories for his career, leaving him just one shy of Ayrton Senna’s tally, and with only Hamilton (103 wins), Michael Schumacher (91), Sebastian Vettel (53) and Alain Prost (51) ahead of him.

On Thursday, Verstappen, 25, said Red Bull has the speed to win the remaining 16 races and complete an unprecedented clean sweep and Alonso believes the Dutch driver could eclipse Hamilton’s win record and the seven championships he shares with Schumacher.

“Until the regulations change in 2026, Red Bull will contend for the championships so there will be many chances for Max to win races,” said Alonso.

“He is young, the calendar is longer than ever before, with 24 opportunities to win every year, so he can break the records along the way.

“But there are also no guarantees. When I won two championships [in 2005 and 2006], I thought I would win a few more and have a lot of wins, so Max cannot relax because things can change quickly.”

For Alonso, his home race this weekend marks the 10th anniversary of his 32nd and last win in the sport.

However, the Spaniard is enjoying a career resurgence following his transfer from Alpine to Aston Martin, finishing on the podium at five of the first six races and earning a new fan base along the way. And he still hopes he could yet be a contender for this season’s crown.

“Things can change rapidly so I will not give up on the title until it is mathematically impossible,” said Alonso, speaking at ‘IL PITSTOP’ – an immersive Aston Martin garage experience from Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0%

“We have a low chance and we have to be realistic about that. Max is showing great performances and no weak points.

“But we need to challenge him closer to see if he makes any mistakes because at the moment life is too easy for Max.

“We have a new generation of younger fans who didn’t see me stepping on the podium before. They probably thought you lose performance and ability with age and I was just a driver from the past.

“But eventually they see the car – as we repeat many times but sometimes you need to prove it once again – is the most important thing in Formula One, and they suddenly see you are a good driver.

“My popularity is on a high, and for Aston Martin and the sport in general, too, so we have to ride this wave.”

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Lewis Hamilton has admitted that Mercedes’ upgrade is “definitely not the step forward” he was hoping for ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix.

The seven-time world champion said after May’s Miami Grand Prix he was “counting down the days” for the upgrade he hoped would propel him back to the front, and he was given his first taste of Mercedes’ revamped machine at last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

Hamilton qualified sixth in Monte Carlo before making up two places in the rain-hit race. Team-mate George Russell finished one spot behind Hamilton in fifth, while Max Verstappen raced to his fourth win of the season.

The Monte Carlo layout has been among Mercedes’ worst tracks and Sunday’s race here at the Circuit de Catalunya on the outskirts of Barcelona is set to represent a truer reflection of the team’s outright speed.

But addressing Mercedes’ upgrade on the eve of the seventh round, Hamilton said: “It is definitely not the step forward that we were hoping for.

“The true step forward we were hoping for was to [overturn] a one-second delta [to Red Bull] in race trim, and we have not covered that with this step.

“When you bring upgrades, naturally you should be progressing forwards, and the fact is that it is an improvement, but it just not the improvement we had dreamed of.

“It is one step at a time. I don’t feel negative towards it, I am grateful we have it, and I understand how much work has gone into making these parts, the rush that has gone on, and the amount of flat-out work by the team.

“We are hugely hungry to move in the right direction so I would say that I am just hopeful that it puts us on a better track.

“We have taken account of where we are, where we have gone wrong, and now we are slowly chipping away and navigating our way back to the front but unfortunately it is just a long process.”

Hamilton finished 39 seconds behind Verstappen on Sunday as the Dutchman extended his championship lead over team-mate Sergio Perez to 39 points.

Red Bull have won 16 of the last 17 grands prix, with Verstappen firmly on course to secure his third world title in as many years.

And Verstappen said his team – which has dominated the sport since a major overhaul of the regulations at the beginning of last season – has the speed to win all 22 races.

“I would say at the moment, that we can,” said Verstappen. “But that’s very unlikely to happen.

“There are always things that go wrong, a retirement or whatever. But purely on pace at the moment we can.

“We have always seen dominant periods in Formula One and this is nothing new. If we look back at the 80s, the 90s, the 2000s, early 2010s to all the way until 2020, it’s pure dominance of certain teams.

“The longer you leave the regulations the same, the closer people will get. So maybe this is something we need to look at.”

Toto Wolff has warned Lewis Hamilton that Mercedes’ upgrade is unlikely to provide a swift end to his losing streak.

Hamilton and team-mate George Russell were given their first taste of the team’s revamped machine in Monaco.

Hamilton and Russell qualified sixth and eighth, before making up two and three places respectively in Sunday’s rain-hit race following an early call to move from slick to wet rubber.

Traditionally, the Monte Carlo layout has been among Mercedes’ worst tracks with this weekend’s race at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona set to represent a truer reflection of the team’s outright speed.

But Wolff believes he did not see enough progress from their upgraded car to suggest they will immediately move ahead of Aston Martin and Ferrari in the pecking order, or challenge Max Verstappen’s Red Bull team who have won all six races this year.

“We need to be careful,” said team principal Wolff. “We will collect more data in Barcelona, but I don’t expect us to clear Ferrari and Aston Martin there either.

“It is about understanding what does this car do now and how do we set it up?

“We are good at grinding away. Last year, the package was terrible at the beginning of the season, and we won a race in Interlagos [at the penultimate round] so we will get there.”

Hamilton finished 39 seconds behind Verstappen on Sunday as the Dutchman claimed his fourth victory in six races to extend his championship lead to 39 points.

Red Bull have now won 15 of the last 16 grands prix, with Verstappen, who grazed the wall en route to taking the chequered flag in Monte Carlo, remaining on course to race to his third world title in as many years.

Asked if Verstappen’s dominance is proving to be a turn-off for the sport, Wolff replied: “When you win in Formula One it is a meritocracy.

“They have done a good job and the car is fast in all conditions and the driver is at the top of his game.

“We need to do a better job, catch up, find intelligent solutions and hope our development slope is steeper than theirs, and eventually fight again.

“Whether it is good for the show or not, a strong fight between 10 drivers, or at least two, is obviously much better for all of us, but we have to accept it and work to get back there.

“The best driver in the best car spending the same money wins the championship, and if you break the rules you should be heavily penalised, but only then, and you should not be penalised for simply doing a good job.”

Fernando Alonso has not given up hope of defying the odds and beating Max Verstappen to the Formula One world championship after he finished second at Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix.

Alonso took the chequered flag 27.9 seconds behind Verstappen and has now secured five podiums in six races following his transfer from Alpine to Aston Martin.

The 41-year-old Spaniard will head to his home race at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya next weekend 51 points adrift of Verstappen and a dozen behind Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull.

“The championship is long and we will not give up,” said Alonso after he finished runner-up for the first time in nine years.

“Red Bull and Max are dominating every race. The Red Bull is untouchable and even with great results, we are behind them. We are relying on weekends where they have issues.

“If Max has one or two of those, then we will be a little bit closer in the championship.

“This is motorsport and anything can happen. On true pace we are not there yet, but we won’t give up.”

Alonso kept Verstappen honest throughout Sunday’s race and was holding out on old rubber in the hope that rain would arrive.

But when it did, Alonso stopped for drys believing the track would not be wet enough for intermediate tyres.

However, the downpour continued and the Spaniard was forced to come back into the pits on the next lap, scuppering any chance of claiming his first victory in a decade.

“Maybe it was extra safe but in that minute-and-a-half it took to go through Turns five, six and eight again, the track changed completely,” added Alonso.

“The lap we stopped was completely dry but on my out-lap from the pits, it was wet.

“There was a huge margin behind me to do two stops and we thought it was the right thing to do. It was a complex race to read and execute.”

Christian Horner fears the Monaco Grand Prix will be “left behind” unless drastic changes are made to Formula One’s most famous track – as rain saved another procession in the principality on Sunday.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen led every lap to win for a second time in Monte Carlo, extending his championship lead to 39 points after six rounds.

Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso took second place, with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon third. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished fourth and fifth respectively for Mercedes.

Sergio Perez, Verstappen’s closest title challenger, endured a horror show. He started last and finished 16th after five pit stops, and multiple collisions with different competitors, and the walls that wind their way round the two-mile course.

For 51 laps, the race was a dud. Verstappen saw off Alonso on the short run to Sainte Devote and the major players followed round one by one.

The rain enlivened the predictable spectacle. Carlos Sainz slid off and kissed the wall at Mirabeau in his Ferrari, while Russell and Perez made contact after the Mercedes man rejoined the track following an error, also at the rain-soaked Mirabeau corner.

Lance Stroll hit the barriers twice and Haas’ calamitous decision to keep Kevin Magnussen on slick tyres backfired as the Dane crunched the wall at Rascasse.

But take away the sodden race track, and the top dozen were on course to take the chequered flag in the order they started.

And even with the downpour, Verstappen, Alonso and Ocon, who started first, second and third, finished first, second and third.

“It was an exceptionally boring race until the rain came down,” was Russell’s damning verdict.

Red Bull team principal Horner, fresh from celebrating his team’s sixth win from as many races, picked up the debate.

“It’s Monaco and it’s here for its history and its uniqueness,” he said. “But the problem is that the cars are so big now.

“All venues have to evolve a little and if there was just one area where you could create space for an overtake it would just give that chance, because so much weight is placed on qualifying. The race is won or lost on Saturday.

“I am sure that with the creativeness there is and the amount of land they are reclaiming here, there’s got to be the opportunity to introduce a bigger braking zone.

“Maybe make Turn 1 a little sharper or slower, or extend the circuit if there is the opportunity to add in another kilometre that included a hairpin – that would be phenomenal.

“It’s something to contemplate because when you think of the next 20 years of Monaco you don’t want to see it left behind.

“It earns its place on the calendar. It’s the jewel in the crown in many respects, but as the sport continues to move forward you can’t stand still, and Monaco needs to be part of that process.”

Despite being considered among the most glamorous events in world sport, the Monaco track has remain largely unchanged from the first grand prix staged in 1929, and some have claimed it is no longer fit for purpose in its current guise.

F1 bosses have looked at ways to adapt the tight and twisty layout, but have made little progress.

Verstappen kept his composure in the changeable conditions, and even survived a bump with the wall when the rain landed at Portier, to take his 39th win for Red Bull, surpassing Sebastian Vettel’s record of 38 victories for the grid’s all-conquering team.

“If you have a good car you can break these numbers,” said Verstappen.

“I never thought I would be in this position in my career. Growing up, I wanted to be a Formula One driver and I am now winning these races. It is amazing and better than I could have ever imagined.”

Max Verstappen survived a rain shower and the looming threat of Fernando Alonso to secure an impressive victory at a one-sided Monaco Grand Prix.

Verstappen, who beat Alonso to pole position by just 0.084 seconds, kept his cool in the slippery conditions to lead Sunday’s 78-lap race, which lasted nearly two hours from start to finish, as he secured his fourth win of the season.

Alonso finished 27.9 seconds behind the Red Bull driver with Esteban Ocon third for Alpine, as the Frenchman claimed only the third podium of his career.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell took advantage of the rain to cross the line in fourth and fifth respectively for Mercedes.

Sergio Perez started last after he crashed out of qualifying and finished 16th following a terrible race for the Mexican driver which included five pit stops.

With Perez failing to score, Verstappen extended his lead in the standings from 14 to 39 points after six rounds of 22.

A dreary race suddenly burst into life on lap 51 as it started spitting at Casino Square, through Mirabeau and on the entry into the tunnel.

Verstappen held a 10-second lead over Alonso but, despite the rain, Aston Martin hauled the Spaniard in for his first stop of the day and elected to send him out on the dry rubber.

However, the spots of rain became heavier and Verstappen – now on 52-lap old slick tyres – had to tippy-toe his way back to the pits.

“I have to drive super-slow because my tyres are f*****,” said Verstappen.

The Dutchman briefly lost control of his Red Bull on the entry to the tunnel, grazing the wall, before safely making it back to the pits to bolt on the intermediate tyres.

Aston Martin’s call to send Alonso out on the dry tyres afforded Verstappen some much-needed breathing space, with the Spaniard back in on the following lap for the intermediate rubber. He managed to hang on to second, but was now 22 seconds down the road.

A lap earlier, Mercedes and Alpine had been the first to move from dry to wet tyres, propelling Hamilton above Carlos Sainz and Russell ahead of Charles Leclerc. Ocon remained in third.

Sainz then became the first of the major players to spin – losing control of his Ferrari under braking at Mirabeau, kissing the wall, and dropping him down the order.

The rain continued to fall and the chaos continued. Russell was hit with a five-second penalty after he ran off the road, and rejoined in front of Perez, causing the two men to make contact.

Lance Stroll hit the barriers twice and Haas’ calamitous decision to keep Kevin Magnussen on slick tyres backfired as the Dane crunched the wall at Rascasse.

Up front and with Verstappen in control, Russell put the power down to ensure his penalty would have no effect on his result, and called on his Mercedes team to allow him past team-mate Hamilton to help his cause.

“I am just stuck right up Lewis’ gearbox here,” said Russell, but the Mercedes men did not trade positions. Russell took the chequered flag 10 seconds clear to keep fifth.

Leclerc finished sixth, one place ahead of Pierre Gasly, with Sainz eighth and Lando Norris ninth for McLaren.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff suggested marshals had turned the Monaco Grand Prix into a circus act following their unusual removal of Lewis Hamilton’s car.

Hamilton crashed out of final practice on Saturday after he lost control of his Mercedes under braking at Mirabeau.

Hamilton’s stricken machine was hoisted high into the air by a crane, allowing photographers to capture the underbelly of the seven-time world champion’s upgraded machine.

The car’s floor is a heavily guarded secret in Formula One, but Mercedes’ new design – which broke cover for the first time here in the principality – was put on show for their rivals to see.

“Whoever performed the crane has probably worked for Cirque du Soleil before,” said Wolff.

“Honestly, that I don’t even comprehend. The car was on the road. You could have put it on a truck. You’re showcasing a car to everyone in the world. That was suboptimal for us, to say the least.”

Wolff added: “We should not thrash the stewards. Everybody is doing their best and I don’t want to be a team principal that lashes out at stewards who are doing their job.”

After giving up on this season’s car on the eve of the opening race in Bahrain, Mercedes have spent the ensuing dozen weeks working on a new design philosophy.

The Silver Arrows have abandoned their controversial zero-sidepod concept and introduced a new front suspension, new floor and cooling system in a drastic change of development on a car which has contributed to the longest losing streak of Hamilton’s career.

Mercedes are keen not to draw too many conclusions at this week’s unique Monte Carlo configuration – and believe the following round at the well-trodden Circuit de Catalunya venue on the outskirts of Barcelona will present them with a better understanding of where they stand.

Hamilton starts fifth on Sunday following Charles Leclerc’s three-place grid penalty. George Russell lines up eighth in the other Mercedes.

“This car is a son of a gun,” said Hamilton. “I was pushing so hard and overdriving which is the worst place to be.

“If I underdrive, or I drive the car to its limit, we might not get into the top 10. But the upgrades were good this weekend, so I’m grateful for those.”

Fernando Alonso hopes he can take advantage of Max Verstappen’s inconsistent starts to end his 10-year wait for victory at Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix.

The evergreen Alonso, 41, lines up behind Verstappen following an exhilarating qualifying session in the sun-cooked principality.

Home favourite Charles Leclerc will be third on the grid for Ferrari, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell sixth and eighth respectively in their revamped Mercedes machines.

Alonso took his last pole at the 2012 German Grand Prix, but he looked destined to end his 3,961-day losing streak when he moved to the top of the time charts in the closing stages.

Verstappen was the only driver who could spoil the dreams of Alonso, and his Aston Martin mechanics, who had already celebrated wildly in the belief that their man had captured pole.

Verstappen trailed Alonso by two tenths before he delivered a mesmerising final sector on the most famous streets in Formula One to take pole by just 0.084 seconds.

“We will try to win,” said Alonso, who claimed his 32nd and final victory in Spain a decade ago. “We need some help from Max but I am not going to take it for granted.

“It’s a very short run into Turn 1. We normally have a good start. Max is a bit inconsistent, so maybe he has one of those bad ones tomorrow.”

Qualifying is crucial in Monte Carlo given how troublesome it is to pass at this tight and twisty venue.

However, the omens are encouraging for Alonso. In the last seven years, the driver starting from second has won on more occasions than the man on pole.

The last time Alonso started a race in Monaco from the front row – back in 2007 – he won. Rain could also be a factor.

A victory for Alonso would be a popular one in the sport. But Verstappen’s team has won every race this season, and the Dutchman’s Red Bull is so often imperious over the course of a race distance, rather than a single lap.

“I would like to see Fernando win,” admitted Verstappen. “But I would like to win, too, so we will see.

“In qualifying you need to go all out and risk it all. My first sector wasn’t ideal in my final lap and I was a bit cautious, but then I knew I was behind so in the last sector I just gave it everything I had, clipping a few barriers along the way.”

Further back, Mercedes were banking on their much-anticipated upgrade providing them with a springboard to challenge the grid’s all-conquering Red Bull team. But on its grand unveiling here, Hamilton was at odds with his new car.

Hamilton, who earlier crashed in final practice on Saturday following a mistake at the right-hander Mirabeau, missed the chicane in the opening stage of qualifying – only avoiding an early bath with his final lap – before scrambling into Q3 after he grazed the wall at the swimming pool chicane.

“Man this car is hard to drive,” said the seven-time world champion, who also reported there was “something wrong” with his right-rear suspension.

He eventually finished 0.360 secs behind Verstappen, with team-mate Russell six tenths adrift.

Sergio Perez is Verstappen’s closest championship challenger, but the Mexican will start Sunday’s 78-lap race at the back of the pack after he crashed out of qualifying.

The running was just six minutes old when Perez – 14 points adrift of Verstappen in the standings – carried too much speed through the opening Sainte Devote corner and thudded into the wall before coming to a standstill in the middle of the circuit.

Max Verstappen saw off Fernando Alonso to take pole position in a scintillating qualifying session for the Monaco Grand Prix.

Alonso’s Aston Martin mechanics celebrated wildly after it appeared as though the 41-year-old Spaniard had taken his first pole in 11 years.

But Verstappen delivered a mesmerising final sector in Monte Carlo to take top spot with his final throw of the dice, beating Alonso by just 0.084 seconds.

Charles Leclerc finished third for Ferrari, one spot ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon with Carlos Sainz fifth.

Lewis Hamilton qualified sixth for Mercedes, two places ahead of team-mate George Russell, with Sergio Perez set to start Sunday’s 78-lap race from last place after he crashed out.

It has been 3,691 days since Alonso’s last pole in the sport and the rejuvenated Aston Martin driver looked on course to finally end his losing streak when he temporarily moved to the top of the time charts after declaring he was “pushing like an animal”.

Verstappen was the only driver who could spoil both the dreams of Alonso and Aston Martin, and he trailed the Spaniard by two tenths heading into the final sector.

But the double world champion danced his way through the final part of the circuit to finish clear of Alonso and claim a pole which he will be expected to convert into his fourth victory from the opening six rounds.

Mercedes were banking on their much-anticipated upgrade providing them with a springboard to challenge the grid’s all-conquering Red Bull team.

But on its grand unveiling here in the sun-cooked principality, Hamilton was at odds with his new machine.

The British driver, who crashed out of final practice following a mistake at the right-hander Mirabeau, missed the chicane in Q1, only avoiding an early bath with his final lap, before scrambling into Q3 after he grazed the wall at the swimming pool chicane.

“Man this car is hard to drive, mate,” said the seven-time world champion, who also reported there was “something wrong” with his right-rear suspension.

He finished four tenths behind Verstappen in Q3 with team-mate Russell six tenths adrift.

Perez is Verstappen’s closest championship challenger, but the Mexican driver will start the race at the back of the pack.

The running was just six minutes old when Perez – 14 points adrift of Verstappen in the standings – carried too much speed through the opening Sainte Devote corner and thudded into the wall.

Perez sustained extensive damage to the left-hand side of his Red Bull before coming to a standstill in the middle of the circuit.

“I crashed, I crashed,” said Perez, who now faces losing serious ground to Verstappen in the championship race with overtaking extremely challenging at this most unique of configurations.

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