After a year’s hiatus, F1 returns to the iconic Monaco street circuit. This race is always more of an event than perhaps a typical race, the tight, twisting, very narrow circuit making it virtually impossible to overtake during the race. However, with no room for errors, there is also a high chance of safety car-inducing incidents occurring.
Qualifying is more important here than any other race and it ended with mixed feelings for Leclerc and Ferrari. Having set the fastest provisional lap, the Monagesque put his Ferrari in the wall, bringing the session to an early end. This prevented his rivals from setting faster times—therefore sealing pole position—but also giving his mechanics some serious repair work. Several drivers believed they could have, given the chance, taken that pole away from Leclerc but it wasn’t to be.
Race day turned delight into heartbreak, however, as Leclerc’s Ferrari fails to make it to the grid. The team remain quiet on what exactly the issue was with the car or whether it was related to the qualifying crash. To me, it seems a little coincidental for it not to be.
So, with Leclerc on the sidelines, the pole position remains empty as the drivers line up for the race. Verstappen is in second, Bottas in third, and both have a clear track ahead of them.
Off the line, Verstappen knows it is imperative to get ahead of Bottas, despite the Mercedes initially getting a better start. Verstappen quickly moves across to cover off any potential pass. A firm and decisive move from Verstappen leaves Bottas no choice but to ease off the throttle and slide into second position. The top ten starts and finishes the opening lap in the same order—yes, Monaco can be a procession at times! Further back, there are a few changes: Ricciardo dropping behind Stroll and Raikkonen and Alonso passing both Russell and Tsunoda, who also loses a place to Latifi.
The opening part of the race becomes pretty processional, Verstappen controlling the pace and working on tyre management, trying to establish a safe pitstop window. On a track where it’s so difficult to overtake, one doesn’t want to return to the track after a pitstop—on fresh tyres—behind a slow car. The top eight cars run a similar pace throughout the opening stint, waiting to see who will pit first.
Strategy and track position are absolute key in Monaco. It’s virtually impossible to overtake on track, but with a clever strategy, you may be able to jump a competitor or two if you’re lucky. Mercedes opt for an undercut, bringing Hamilton in early and hoping to use fresh tyres to outpace Gasly, who is still out on older tyres. But, as the pitstop strategies unfold, it becomes clear that the overcut is the way forward—pitting later than your competitors. Coming in just a lap after Hamilton, Gasly returns to the track in front of a frustrated Englishman. There’s even worse news for the other Mercedes, however, as the team are unable to change Bottas’ right front tyre. The wheel gun strips the thread on the wheel nut and the team are simply unable to remove the tyre from the car—ultimately, Bottas has to retire from what was an almost certain second-place finish.
Vettel and Perez were clear winners from the pit stops, both drivers utilising the overcut strategy worked out for them by their teams. Vettel jumps both Gasly and Hamilton with his later stop, moving into fifth position. Perez—with a clear track ahead as competitors around him pit—puts in blisteringly fast laps to see him jump Vettel, Gasly and Hamilton and moving into fourth position. Needless to say, this did not make Hamilton’s day!
There is very little action in the rest of the race, drivers remaining in their positions. At times, Hamilton gets closer to Gasly ahead and then drops back. Similarly, Gasly catches Vettel and then drops back. Unable to run closely behind competitors, and unable to overtake, all one can do is try to pressurise those ahead into a mistake. Giovinazzi puts pressure on Ocon for ninth place and Ricciardo chases Raikkonen for eleventh, but ultimately, no one can make a pass.
Small tensions rise through the latter part of the race as third place man Norris’ tyres begin to lose grip. Perez catches Norris, and it seems the Mexican may have a decent chance to pass at any other track—but not here! Norris keeps his head and keeps the Mexican behind to take the final step on the podium.
Not the most exciting race, it must be said! No safety car, no glancing of barriers, not even a yellow flag! The first time in Monaco history.
For Red Bull, it was a great race; the team absolutely nailed the strategy. Verstappen’s aggression from the start ensured him track position and the victory. Opting for the overcut with Perez was the right choice and he delivered the pace when needed to make this strategy succeed. With a first and a fourth position, Red Bull now lead in the constructors’ championship. Verstappen—for the first time ever—leads the drivers’ world championship. Not a bad day for Red Bull then!
Ferrari had a mixed day; the prancing horses had genuine pace here, so to have their home town pole-sitting driver unable to start the race was obviously difficult. Sainz put in a great performance today with an impeccable drive to second position. The guy has serious pace and talent and has been able to tune into that Ferrari very quickly.
A tale of two halves for Mclaren; Norris nailed Saturday qualifying, therefore setting himself up well for the race today. The young Brit also managed to keep his head under pressure from Perez and difficult to manage tyres to be rewarded by a third position. Ricciardo, however, just couldn’t find any pace in the car, qualifying, and finishing the race, in twelfth position. The Australian unquestionably is a seriously fast driver, he just seems to be struggling to really connect with the Mclaren, having moved to the team for the start of this season. There is inevitably a transition period when moving to any team, it just seems to be taking Ricciardo a little longer than usual.
This was the best race of the season so far for Aston Martin and a return to form for Vettel. After a great performance on Saturday, the German executed a brilliant strategy by the team to come in sixth place. Stroll too had a strong race, starting thirteenth, running a long first stint to overcut opponents and finishing in eighth position.
Gasly put in yet another sterling performance, nailing qualifying, executing a decent race strategy, and coming in sixth. Teammate Tsunoda had a quiet race, running mainly towards the rear end of the pack and finishing sixteenth.
Hamilton finished seventh in what was a disappointing weekend for the Brit, who struggled for pace throughout the weekend. Qualifying down in seventh, he was unable to gain positions on the track and the undercut didn’t work for him. Bottas had better pace throughout the weekend but was very unlucky, having to retire from the race when the mechanics couldn’t remove a tyre during the pit stop.
Alpine had a relatively quiet race, Ocon jumping Giovinazzi in the pitstops and finishing ninth. Alonso never really seemed to have any pace, although he managed to get a good start, making a few places up and ultimately coming in thirteenth.
Alpha Romeo had a great weekend, showing good pace throughout the weekend. This was Giovinazi’s best race weekend: getting into the qualifying three-session, executing a brilliant overtake on Ocon on the opening lap and coming home with a point to boot—the first point for the Alpha team this year. Raikkonen too had a strong race, gaining a few places from his starting position and coming in eleventh, one place behind Giovinazzi.
Another quiet one for Williams: Russell coming in Fourteenth and Latifi fifteenth.
Haas was once again rounding up the grid, with Mazepin and Schumacher in Seventeeth and eighteenth respectively. Schumacher did pull off one of the only overtakes of the race—and a great overtake it was too—on teammate Mazepin at the hairpin on the opening lap.
So, definitely not the most exciting race ever! But, good performances right the way through the grid from the Aston Martins, Norris, Giovinazzi, Red Bulls to name a few. As unfortunate as it was for Bottas, it was refreshing to see a podium without Mercedes on it. And, for the first time in a VERY long time, Mercedes lead neither the drivers nor constructors championship—both moving the way of Red Bull and Max Verstappen.
Driver of the Day: Perez
Honourable mentions: Vettel, Norris, Giovinazzi.
Monaco Grand Prix Race Results
- Hamilton (Fastest Lap)
Azerbaijan: In some places tight and twisty, in others wide and open—we’ve only raced here three times before and each time it’s been absolutely gripping.
Where to Watch
USA: Sunday 6th June Live on ESPN race start at 9:00 am EST
UK: Sunday 6th June Live on Sky Sports F1 race start at 1:00 pm GMT
Highlights on Sky One and Channel Four-time TBC Sunday 6th June.