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MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 27: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Monaco at Circuit de Monaco on May 27, 2023 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Verstappen: We need to keep it clean and calm

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 27: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Monaco at Circuit de Monaco on May 27, 2023 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

After claiming his 23rd Formula 1 career pole position start, this time for the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix, Red Bull’s double World Champion Max Verstappen knows exactly what he has to do to win Sunday’s race: “We need a clean start and just to keep it clean and calm.”

On Saturday afternoon under clear blue skies, with intense pressure, a constantly evolving track surface, dropping temperatures and only fifth on his first Q3 attempt, Verstappen had it all to do on his final run. Cometh the hour cometh the Man they say, and the Dutchman once again showed why he has an F1 GOAT written all over him as he left Pirelli rubber on several Monaco barriers, threading his way through the narrow tricky streets.

Conservative early on until halfway around the lap, with foot to the metal he gobbled up a quarter-second deficit to the fastest lap in the final sector, it was an uncanny sight, almost unbelievable around the place.

It was a special very lap, best ‘described’ by watching it! Immediately after taking pole, the words of a driver that is insanely hard to please (and used to delivering mesmerising performances) were telling: “I’m very happy.” As was the huge grin!

Verstappen went on to give a hint of his game plan for Sunday’s race: “We need a clean start. It’s a short run to Turn One. In Monaco anything can happen, a Safety Car, rain, you name it. There’s always a bit of chaos involved. Race pace wise the car is quick so that is not the problem. Just need to keep it clean and calm.

“We knew that this was going to be a little bit of a struggle to get everything together. Yesterday wasn’t the best start but we kept on improving and kept on being better.”

Horner: One of the best laps Max has ever driven in qualifying

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 27: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing is presented with the Pirelli Pole Position Award by Maria Sharapova during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Monaco at Circuit de Monaco on May 27, 2023 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Verstappen continued: “In qualifying you need to go all out and risk it all. My first sector wasn’t ideal in my final lap, I was a bit cautious but then I knew I was behind so the last sector I just gave it everything I had, clipped a few barriers and was very happy to be on pole here for the first time.

Like any true racing fan witnessing a great F1 driver at his very best, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was in awe of his driver: “I think that is one of the best laps he’s ever driven in qualifying.

When he arrived at the Swimming Pool, he was 0.2secs down on Fernando and all the time through that last sector. I think he hit the wall on both sides, but carried the momentum and carried the speed and I could see him gaining the time. I knew it was going to be close and he just did it.”

With Sergio Perez messing up in Q1 and starting from the back of the grid, after pranging the Red Bull heavily thanks to a rookie mistake, Verstappen is the outright favourite to win on the streets of Monte Carlo. Only a feisty and determined Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin and, of course, Fate can prevent that.

Whatever the case, by tomorrow evening Monaco time, the smart money is on Verstappen extending his 14-point lead in the 2023 F1 Drivers’ World Championship over teammate Perez.