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.

Lewis Hamilton felt "amazing" to have clinched P4 in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix, though he warned there is still work to do for Mercedes.

Hamilton has endured a frustrating season in 2022, with the seven-time world champion struggling to adjust to his new car.

On Friday, after a poor practice session, Hamilton said "it's like the car's getting worse".

However, Hamilton will now look to build on Saturday's impressive qualifying display after securing fourth on the grid in Montreal for Sunday's race - his best qualification result of the season.

After finishing behind Max Verstappen, Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz, Hamilton told Sky Sports F1: "I feel amazing, so happy – P4 has never felt so good to be honest.

"Maybe in my first year of racing, in 2007, when I got my first P4 it probably felt great then, I think this probably feels like that. Particularly because it’s been a really difficult year, to go through what we were faced with today, it was difficult for everyone out there.

"I'm so happy to put us in a position, because everyone's working so hard, constantly facing these challenges with this car.

"We did a lot of work yesterday to try and get the information. The car didn't feel that great, so tomorrow should be a much better position. Hopefully I can try and hold position at least."

Saturday has not altered Hamilton's disappointment with his car, however, but he has full faith in the Mercedes engineers to get things clicking.

"With this car you need everything and more to come together," added the 37-year-old, who is sixth in the drivers' standings.

"I like to think that I have rhythm, and on this track in particular you have to have rhythm. I feel this car works on a completely different beat.

"It doesn't work on the normal beat so that's been difficult to get used to. The rain makes it much different, if it was dry I don't know if we'd have been in this position but the rain opens up opportunities and I love this track.

"It's been a struggle so far, there's still a lot of work to do, but I hope all the team are feeling positive. Please continue to push, I need you, we need you, we're all working as hard as we can and I believe in them so much, I hope at some stage we can stop this bouncing and move forwards."

Hamilton's team-mate George Russell endured a frustrating Q3, however.

Russell went out on slick tyres, but that decision backfired when he lost control and ultimately had to settle for P8.

He told Sky Sports F1: "It was high risk, high reward. It was literally just turn one, I think had that been as dry as the other corners we could have been in a really good place.

"Surprised my lap was only half a second off P4, so it shows the strong pace today, but as I said on the radio I'm not here to settle for P4, P5 – we need to try things.

"At the end of the day the points are tomorrow, I’m glad we tried something different."

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.

Lewis Hamilton said his Mercedes feels like it is "getting worse" after struggling in Friday's two practice sessions ahead of Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix.

Hamilton is in the unfamiliar position of sixth in the drivers' championship, already 88 points behind rival and defending champion Max Verstappen eight races into what has been a tough 2022 campaign so far.

The seven-time world champion finished fourth last week in Azerbaijan, with team-mate George Russell claiming third, but called the race the "most painful" of his career after suffering severe back pain throughout.

Hamilton's discomfort, which saw him struggle to exit his car after finishing, was caused by the team's W13 car porpoising, bouncing unevenly.

The FIA confirmed on Thursday it had issued a technical directive to teams to provide guidance on how the porpoising problem will be dealt with in future, with a number of drivers complaining about its effects.

But Mercedes have continued to struggle in Montreal.

Following Friday practice, Hamilton summed up his day: "Pretty much like every Friday for us, trying lots of different things, an experimental floor on my side which didn't work.

"Nothing we do generally to this car seems to work, so we're trying different set-ups; me and George went with much different set-ups in this P2 just to see if one way works and one way doesn't. I'll wait to hear how it felt for him, but for me it was a disaster.

"It's like the car's getting worse, it's getting more and more unhappy the more we do to it. I don't know, we'll keep working on it; it is what it is. I think this is the car for the year, so we'll just have to tough it out and work hard on building a better car for next year."

Having won each of the past eight F1 constructors' championships, Mercedes are third in the 2022 standings, behind leaders Red Bull by 118 points.

"It's not the Montreal that I know, that I'm used to and that I've experienced in my career,” Hamilton added. "It's the worse that I've ever felt any car here, so I'm hoping overnight we can try and make some changes.

"But fundamentally, it's just the fundamentals of the car, it is what it is. It's going to be a struggle.

"It's just a monumental fight the whole time to keep it out of the wall.

"When it bounces, when the car leaves the ground a lot, and then when it lands it grips up and it goes in different directions, and you're just trying to catch a car that jumps, hops, grips, hops, grips... it's tough, it keeps you on edge. And there were some big hits today. We've raised the car, but it doesn't make a difference."

Mercedes pushed Lewis Hamilton too far during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the team's head of strategy James Vowles has admitted.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton finished fourth in Baku, with team-mate George Russell claiming third, but called the race the "most painful" of his career after suffering severe back pain throughout.

Hamilton's discomfort, which saw him struggle to exit his car after finishing, was caused by the team's W13 car porpoising – bouncing unevenly – and led team principal Toto Wolff to initially suggest the 37-year-old could miss the upcoming Canadian Grand Prix. 

While Hamilton has since quelled those fears by saying he "wouldn't miss it for the world", Vowles said the team had pushed him too far in the last race and could not afford to do so again.

"[Lewis] is an elite athlete that will push the bounds of endurance of himself and the car", he told Mercedes' YouTube channel. "That's what Formula One drivers do, that's what makes them exceptional.

"On this occasion, though, we pushed the package and our drivers too far, we are putting them into significant discomfort and we simply can't do that again. 

"Our drivers are not the only ones suffering, you will see in the media a number of comments from a number of drivers who are equally in discomfort and pain. And we have a responsibility now to make sure that this doesn't carry on."

Having won each of the last eight F1 constructors' championships, Mercedes sit third in the current standings, trailing leaders Red Bull by 118 points eight races into the 2022 campaign.

While Vowles acknowledged Red Bull and Ferrari remain the "benchmark", he believes Mercedes could narrow the gap to the leaders in Montreal.

"We didn't expect perhaps to drop back as much as we did in Baku, but that provided a platform to learn from," he added. 

"Montreal isn't going to be substantially different to the last two races, I think we will still have a package that isn't at the front on merit. Red Bull and Ferrari will still be the benchmark that we have to compare ourselves to.

"I think though that the large gap that you saw in qualifying in Baku perhaps won't be that big in Montreal – it will be back down from where it was and as we go through all the races from then onwards, I am fairly sure we will find small steps and developments that push us back towards the front."

Toto Wolff has dismissed a suggestion Lewis Hamilton is in decline and says the seven-time Formula One champion has proved he is a "genius" this season.

Hamilton dramatically missed out on a record eighth F1 title last year when he was dethroned by Max Verstappen in the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

The Briton is languishing in sixth place in the driver standings eight races into the 2022 season, with his team-mate George Russell fourth.

Mercedes sit third in the constructor standings, 108 points adrift of leaders Red Bull, and Hamilton suffered back pain due to his rattling car during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix last weekend.

Wolff, Mercedes' team principal, does not believe Hamilton's high standards have slipped this year.

"No, I don't think it’s like that, he is the best that has ever been," he said when asked if Hamilton is in decline.

"Between Abu Dhabi in 2021, dominating the last third of the season, to four months later, you are not losing your ability."

He added: "How they appear to me, both of them [Russell and Hamilton], it’s very professional.

"They have been given a car that is a bit sub-par, each of them tries to develop the car further, they have both gone [in] a different set-up direction, Lewis [during qualifying in Azerbaijan] again very experimental, but can be available in the long term.

"I think as long as the car is not good enough to really be racing at the front, the differences are small and I don't think you can have a pattern saying 'George is continuously outperforming Lewis' or the other way around."

Wolff pinpointed Hamilton's recovery from making contact with Kevin Magnussen on the first lap of the Spanish Grand Prix to finish fifth as an example of Hamilton's brilliance.

"He went as far as to say that in Barcelona, where Hamilton recovered from early contact with Kevin Magnussen to finish P5, the genius," he said.

"We have seen Lewis in Barcelona, he was the genius that we know, so I think what I enjoy is them working together and trying to bring the car back to the front."

Lewis Hamilton has declared himself fit for the Canadian Grand Prix despite a back injury suffered in Baku, stating he "would not miss it for the world".

Seven-time world champion Hamilton finished fourth at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but repeatedly struggled with his Mercedes W13 car porpoising – otherwise known as bouncing unevenly.

That issue combined with the bumpy street circuit of Baku caused severe back pain for Hamilton, who described the race as the "most painful" of his illustrious career.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff suggested his star driver may be unable to feature in Montreal due to the injury, adding there was a "definite" risk of him missing out.

However, Hamilton took to Instagram on Monday to confirm his participation in Canada, with practice starting on Friday.

"Good morning world," Hamilton wrote on his Instagram story.

"Yesterday was tough and had some troubles sleeping but have woken up feeling positive today. Back is a little sore and bruised but nothing serious, thankfully.

"I've had acupuncture and physio with Ang and am on the way to my team to work with them on improving [the car]. We have to keep fighting. No time like the present to pull together and we will.

"I'll be there this weekend, wouldn't miss it for the world. Wishing everybody an amazing day and week."

Hamilton sits sixth in the drivers' standings with 62 points, some 88 points behind Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who is on course for back-to-back titles.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has revealed that Lewis Hamilton is doubtful to compete in next weekend's Canadian Grand Prix due to a back injury sustained in Azerbaijan. 

The seven-time world champion had an impressive drive to finish fourth in Baku, one place behind team-mate George Russell, but encountered physical struggles due to severe bouncing during the 51-lap race. 

Mercedes' W13 has encountered issues with bouncing throughout the season so far and the addition of a bumpy street circuit left Hamilton describing the race as the "most painful" of his illustrious career, having complained over team radio about the pain in his back during the race. 

Wolff said there is a "definitely" a risk that Hamilton will sit out of the next race in Montreal, stating: "I haven't seen him or spoken to him afterwards, but you can see this is not muscular anymore. This goes properly into the spine and can have some consequences. 

"He's really bad and we just have got to find a solution at this stage. He's maybe the worst affected of all drivers, but pretty much everyone, as far as I understand from the drivers, said something needs to happen. I couldn't give you an explanation as to what that is." 

A debate in the paddock has been developing as to whether Formula One's design regulations for the 2022 season need to be revised to protect the drivers, with bouncing being an issue for several drivers across the grid. 

There were questions as to whether the issues in Baku were caused by bottoming, where the bottom of the car makes contact with the road, or whether it was bouncing in general, but Wolff believes it is both. 

"I think they are very much linked together. We are seeing tracks where we have porpoising and then we have bouncing," he said.

"Some cars are bottoming so it's not really clear – it's all interlinked with the aerodynamic performance of the floor." 

McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo was among those to suffer with bouncing in Baku and, while it hasn't been a regular problem for him throughout the course of the season, he expressed his sympathy to Mercedes and stated he will support any push for changes. 

The current regulations are in place until 2026 but are likely to be revised along the way, with increases to the annual budget and the potential of a driver salary cap currently being hot topics throughout the paddock. 

Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes know they must "take a beating" in order to recover the lost ground they trail Red Bull and Ferrari by ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The seven-time world champion will start seventh on the grid following another disappoint qualifying session in Baku, while team-mate George Russell will start in fifth.

Mercedes have remained dramatically off the pace of their rivals, with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc sealing a fourth consecutive pole position in his title race with Max Verstappen.

Hamilton – who won on this track in 2018 – admitted he and his team are continuing to draw the same conclusions from their struggles, in what could be a bad omen for their prospects over the rest of the season.

"I'm not surprised [about the gap], I mean it was the same in Monaco," he told Sky Sports. "It was a really difficult qualifying session, we're constantly pushing.

"We have a very, very small window where we can work this car and everything we try doesn't give us what we want.

"So, we're making lots of changes, but we're always out with the same conclusion, which is most often bouncing, which loses us a lot of performance.

"All the performance is when you get the car low… so we said let's take a beating in our necks and backs to get the car as low as possible for the performance."

Russell, who is out to better his best-ever 15th-place finish at the circuit, posted in 2019, suggested improvements were harder to decipher from within the cockpit.

"The lap felt good, the car felt good but obviously it is pretty shocking when you cross the line and you are one and a bit seconds behind pole position," Russell said.

"We expect so much of ourselves and we are working so hard to bring more performance, but definitely this weekend has brought out the strengths and the weaknesses of all of us.

"To be honest, it truly is just not going fast enough.

"It feels ok from within, except when we are going down the straights because every single bump is the most rigid I have ever felt from any race car before.

"In the breaking zones, it is so bumpy down those straights and feels awful from within but through the corners itself the car feels good.

"So we know it isn't a balance thing getting the car in the right window with the set up, it is more we don't have the downforce and we are balancing a lot of limitations to try and get the downforce.

"We know there is a lot there but we don't know how to extract it."

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

Lewis Hamilton has confirmed he is working on a Formula One movie with Brad Pitt.

It was reported this week that seven-time F1 world champion Hamilton had taken on a producer role in a film starring Hollywood legend Pitt for Apple TV+.

Hamilton says he has relished the opportunity to work on such an alternative project.

He said during a media conference ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix: "It's a really cool project and we are already working on the script. 

"I'm much involved in the script, which is fun, and spending good time with Brad, which is pretty epic… and really from my responsibilities and something that I take on is just making sure the cast and crew in the background is diverse – something I really highlighted at the beginning.

"It's been very difficult, if you look at all the racing movies, you can't necessarily say all the racing movies that have been in the past have been spectacular and that's something we want to change.

"It's really about showing how great this sport really is to people that have never watched it and also making sure that we keep the real heritage and the true racing spirit within the movie and within the script, so that's part of my role."

The Mercedes driver says a cast has not yet been finalised.

Hamilton added: "We're going to need drivers I'm sure at one stage. What I think will be important is - it's not my movie, it's Formula One's, it's for all of us, so there's lots of people within the sport who are being a part of this, helping educate those who are trying to create this movie, so it's going to include lots and lots of people and there's talk already of how we're going to capture the footage and it's going to take us drivers to be involved in that.

"But we're not actors. We don't want it to be crap… which is probably why I'm not going to be a part of it! We need some good actors."

Sebastian Vettel has questioned how much Lewis Hamilton is enjoying racing amid his struggles in the 2022 Formula One season.

Hamilton, a seven-time world champion, and Mercedes have battled issues with the new design of their car during the early throes of the campaign.

The 37-year-old has just 50 points to his name in the drivers' standings, and sits 75 behind leader and defending champion Max Verstappen heading into the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Hamilton has just one podium finish this campaign, a third-place finish at the Bahrain Grand Prix opener, from seven races as Mercedes have failed to keep the pace with Red Bull and Ferrari.

Aston Martin driver Vettel pondered whether Hamilton is still getting the same joy he previously did.

"He had a package where he was able to win," four-time world champion Vettel said. "Obviously, it's been a little different for myself the last few years, but that's how it goes sometimes.

"You still try to make the most of it, but for sure, in terms of how much you enjoy it, when you get used to winning there is no feeling that can replace that.

"But having said that you have to work together as a team to try and get back up."

Mercedes have repeatedly struggled with 'porpoising' – bouncing at high speed – and not racing at the optimum height with their W13 car.

That has left them in the wake of a dominant season so far for Red Bull and Ferrari, and Vettel acknowledged the difficulties as he suggested Aston Martin are having problems of their own.

"I don't think Mercedes pulled back voluntarily; I think they are obviously having difficulties extracting the most from their car just like many other people have," he added.

"But others that have got it together more so the balance has shifted a little bit. But for us that’s not what is most important, the most important is about looking at ourselves where we are.

"And as I said at the moment, we are not happy with where we are, we would like to be further up but there’s a lot of work going into the project and hopefully we will see some better results soon."

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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 was "incredibly happy" to claim pole position in Monaco Grand Prix qualifying, leading a Ferrari one-two – although Carlos Sainz felt he could have pipped his team-mate if not for a dramatic crash.

Monegasque driver Leclerc qualified fastest at his home race after the final session was cut short due to a red flag.

Sergio Perez hit the barrier, prompting a yellow flag that Sainz saw only in time to brake as he careered into the Red Bull.

That brought a premature end to proceedings but ensured a fine result for Ferrari and, in particular, Leclerc, who secured a precious pole; while he has converted only four of his 13 previous poles into wins, some 15 of the past 17 winners in Monaco have started from the front row, including 12 from first place.

For Leclerc to add his name to the list of winners, he will have to overcome an awful record which has seen him never manage to finish the Monaco race. Despite taking pole last year, his car also crashed heavily in qualifying, and it meant Leclerc could not take an active part on race day.

This time it could be a different story.

"It is very special. I'm so incredibly happy," Leclerc said. "It's been a very smooth weekend until now – I knew the pace was in the car; I just had to do the job, and it went perfectly.

"That last lap, before the red flag, was really, really good, but it didn't change anything for us."

That may be true for Leclerc, but Sainz felt he was on course to top the timesheets prior to the collision with Perez.

"It's a shame – another year that a red flag cost us the end of a session, and we could not go for pole position," he said, "but it's typical Monaco."

Sainz added: "I think we are in a great position to score a great result for the team. The car has been amazing all weekend, so we'll go for it."

Perez still qualified in third, ahead of an out-of-sorts Max Verstappen, while Lewis Hamilton's practice woes shifted only enough for him to make eighth before his final flying lap was halted.

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:11.376
2. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.225s
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.253s
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.290s
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.473s
6. George Russell (Mercedes) +0.736s
7. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +0.871s
8. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1.184s
9. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1.356s
10. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +1.671s

Lewis Hamilton suggested the problems with his Mercedes W13 were being exacerbated in Monaco on "the bumpiest track I've ever driven".

Seven-time Formula One champion Hamilton has endured a difficult season, complaining right from the outset about his "bouncing" 2022 car.

There had been some signs of progress in recent weeks, however, with Hamilton finishing fifth in Barcelona despite a first-lap puncture.

But things have taken another turn for the worse for the Silver Arrows in Monaco, where Hamilton finished in P10 in Friday's first practice session and P12 in the second.

The circuit itself has contributed, the Briton says, as he said: "Firstly, it's the bumpiest the track [has] ever been. It's probably the bumpiest track I've ever driven.

"So, one, that makes it difficult, and two, just generally our car bounces a lot.

"It's different bouncing to what we've experienced in the past; it's in the low speed also, but it's not aero[-related]. I think the bumps on the track just make it worse.

"I'm not really having to learn the track differently, just fighting the car. To put a lap together is... wow, holy c**p! I don't remember experiencing it like that before."

Team-mate George Russell was only a little better in P8 and P6, beaten in both sessions by McLaren's Lando Norris (P5 twice).

"I'm a little bit surprised to say we're ahead of Mercedes," Norris said. "I expected them to maybe be ahead of us at the minute.

"But the plan is to be ahead of them, and if we can be, I'll be very happy with that."

Yet McLaren colleague Daniel Ricciardo has work to do after hitting the barrier in FP2.

"We pushed a little too far probably in a couple areas with the set-up," Ricciardo said. "We had a good morning, and obviously you try a few things for FP2 to try to maximise a bit more performance, but let's say we overstepped it – you don't know until you try it.

"It was my first lap, so I couldn't really get much of a read on it; it happened straight away.

"I tried my best to save it, but I couldn't. We missed all of the session, but I'm okay. We'll be ready to go tomorrow."

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