The hits keep coming for Daniel Ricciardo in his year from hell as not even a visit to his favourite track resulted in a change of fortune.

Charles Leclerc secured pole position for his home Monaco Grand Prix with a sigh of relief after a crash-hit finale to a dramatic qualifying session, but there was more misery for Daniel Ricciardo.

Leclerc topped the times ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz in a commanding Ferrari front row lock-out to claim his fifth pole of the season and the 14th of his career.

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Ricciardo, who crashed out in practice and whose future has been a hot topic as McLaren boss Zak Brown acknowledged he hasn’t met expectations since being signed from Renault, suffered another grim outing and will start 14th on the grid — well behind teammate Lando Norris in fifth.

Ricciardo was 11th fastest in Q1 before being knocked out in Q2 at one of his favourite circuits in the world.

The Australian reports Ricciardo dropped his visor and banged his head against the steering wheel after qualifying came to an underwhelming end.

“FP3 (Free Practice 3) was just trying to get back into a bit of a rhythm and get back up to speed, and then we made some car changes as well for qualifying, and I think we were in a decent place,” Ricciardo told Sky Sports.

“Q1, I was making some good steps (but) a few mistakes as well. So I think, putting it all together, it was actually looking like we were there — let’s say competitive for where it was.

“And then in Q2 it just — you can see on your delta as well, you’re just not making the gains that you should with track evolution and all of this.

“It ultimately just becomes very difficult to feel where the limit is and how much more to go.

“I don’t know what the word is. It’s frustrating and just confusing — confusing to not make these kinds of natural steps that one should.”

It’s another disastrous result for the Aussie, whose best finish this year of sixth at his home grand prix has been the only highlight in a season from hell. His next best result after that was 12th at last week’s Spanish Grand Prix — where he dropped from ninth on the grid.

Speaking after yet another disappointing outing, former world champion turned analyst Nico Rosberg told Sky Sports: “Daniel was just a couple of years ago a top three or four driver in F1, and it’s so difficult to explain what happened.

“I really feel for him because this is a painful situation. His team boss came out this morning saying that there is a way to break the contract for next year with him. You don’t want to hear that stuff.”

Fellow Sky Sports pundit Paul di Resta said the way Ricciardo looked in the car after qualifying was worrying.

“They’ve done that to try and alert him to what’s going on. It’s about as low as I’ve seen Daniel, when he stopped and he was out of qualifying, he sat in the car and you could see him staring,” he said.

“It was almost like that stare in Baku that Lewis (Hamilton) had when he didn’t believe in the package he had, that’s happened for Daniel. You’ve got to turn that around, make Daniel happy and keep him there because when you give him something he can do it.

“He’s such a good guy to have in the paddock, part of Formula 1, he’s an ambassador for the sport. If you look at the driver line-up, it’s quite incredible but it’s not gelling, something is not working.”

Sainz’s hopes of snatching the prime grid position from Leclerc were dashed on his final lap when he collided with Sergio Perez’s Red Bull, seconds after the Mexican had slammed his Red Bull into the barriers at Portier.

“It’s such a shame,” said Sainz. “I tried to avoid him the best I could. It’s another year when a red flag has cost us at the end of a session and I could not go for pole, but that’s just so typical of Monaco.”

Perez qualified third ahead of his Red Bull teammate series leader and defending champion Max Verstappen, who was a frustrated fourth.

Last year, Leclerc crashed after securing pole, but he was unable to start the race and remains in search of his first finish on the streets of his native Mediterranean principality.

“It’s so very special for me,” said a delighted Leclerc, who is six points behind Verstappen in the title race. “I’m so incredibly happy!

“It’s been a very smooth weekend until now. The pace was in the car, I just had to do the job. It went perfectly and that last lap, before the red flag, was really, really good, but it didn’t change anything for us.

“It was really on the limit, but the car felt amazing and it’s great to have Carlos with me on the front row.”

With dark clouds looming and rain forecast for Sunday, he said: “I think dry is a bit more predictable, but whatever comes we are competitive so we are fine.”

Sainz added: “We had really good pace all day just building it up for ‘quali’ but we will never know. Anyway, let’s try and finish the job tomorrow. I think we are in a great position to score a great result for the team. The car has felt amazing and we’ll go for it.”

Leclerc clocked a best lap in one minute and 11.376 seconds to outpace Sainz by more than two-tenths in a scrappy end to an intriguing day’s action ahead of Sunday’s classic 78-lap race.

Behind the Ferraris and Red Bulls, Norris led the rest of the pack for McLaren taking fifth ahead of fellow Brit George Russell of Mercedes, Fernando Alonso of Alpine and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.

Alonso also survived a late crash unscathed as the teams checked weather forecasts carefully with rain expected to sweep into the Mediterranean principality later on Sunday.

Norris was first out for the season’s most famous qualifying hour, his time quickly beaten by Hamilton before Verstappen went top.

The track was clearly evolving in slightly changed conditions with clouds and cooler weather prevailing.

“I have no grip whatsoever,” reported Russell on team radio, a complaint reflecting a general early struggle before tyres warmed and grip improved.

He persevered as Ferrari swept to the top with Leclerc leading Sainz before a late red flag halted the action when Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu clipped a barrier at the “Nouvelle” chicane, suffering a puncture.

Only four minutes remained, just time enough for another flying lap, but not sufficient for Hamilton, Bottas, Pierre Gasly or Zhou, the only rookie in the field, who missed their opportunities in a frantic finish.

Out in a stream of profanities went Williams’ Alex Albon, Gasly of Alpha Tauri, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, Nicholas Latifi in the second Williams and Zhou. It was the first time Gasly had failed to progress from Q3 in Monaco.

In the second session out went Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, Valtteri Bottas of Alfa Romeo, Kevin Magnussen and his Haas teammate Mick Schumacher, along with the under-pressure Ricciardo.

Leclerc, however, showed no such concerns as he set the pace again in the top-10 shootout with a stunning lap, two-tenths faster than Sainz.

Monaco Grand Prix Qualifying: Top 10

1) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

2) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari

3) Sergio Perez, Red Bull

4) Max Verstappen, Red Bull

5) Lando Norris, McLaren

6) George Russell, Mercedes

7) Fernando Alonso, Alpine

8) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

9) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin

10) Esteban Ocon, Alpine

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