Leclerc puts Ferrari on pole in Monaco GP as Perez crashes

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc of Monaco steers his car during a Formula One pre-season testing session at the Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, just outside of Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)
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MONACO (AP) — Charles Leclerc positioned himself to reclaim the Formula One points lead from reigning champion Max Verstappen by winning the pole for the Monaco Grand Prix.

Leclerc was already atop the leaderboard Saturday when a crash by Sergio Perez stopped the session with about 30 seconds remaining. Perez had spun his Red Bull and was blocking the course, and Carlos Sainz Jr. saw him too late to avoid hitting Perez.

Despite the contact with Perez, Sainz qualified second as Ferrari locked out the front row for Sunday’s race.

For Leclerc, he must actually finish a race on his home circuit.

He won the pole a year ago but was unable to start the race because of damage to his Ferrari suffered in warmup. Leclerc, winner of two of the first three races of this F1 season, lost the championship lead to Verstappen in Spain last week when Verstappen won his third consecutive race.

Verstappen will start fourth on Sunday alongside Perez, who was third-fastest before his late spin in qualifying.

Lando Norris of McLaren qualified fifth, one spot ahead of George Russell for Mercedes. Russell’s teammate, seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, qualified eighth and was unable to improve his position because of the red-flag brought out by Perez’ spin.

Fernando Alonso qualified seventh, while Sebastian Vettel and Esteban Ocon were ninth and 10th.