The Monaco Grand Prix is without a doubt the jewel in the Formula 1 crown and the race most drivers want to win at least once in their career. However, the Monaco circuit is narrow, and notoriously difficult to overtake on, meaning that qualifying well is especially important.
It could have been Ferrari’s day yesterday when local hero Charles Leclerc took pole position ahead of Max Verstappen. But it was not to be, as Leclerc failed to even take the start having suffered a driveshaft issue effectively putting an end to his hopes of a Monaco victory.
Verstappen couldn’t believe his luck as he lined up second on the grid, but with no Ferrari ahead of him, it was his race for the taking, and that’s exactly what the Dutchman did, staying ahead of Valtteri Bottas at the start and taking his first Monaco Grand Prix win and second win of the season, and in so doing taking the lead in the Drivers’ Championship for the first time in his F1 career after Lewis Hamilton had a disappointing race, finishing down in seventh. Verstappen now leads Hamilton by 4 points on 105 points. Bottas compounded Mercedes disappointing weekend after encountering a stuck right-front wheel during his pit stop, forcing him to retire from the Monaco Grand Prix.
This left Ferrari and McLaren to take the other two podium positions, with Carlos Sainz offering some consolation for Ferrari with second and his first podium finish since joining the team, and Lando Norris yet again putting in a strong performance to score more valuable points for a resurgent and newly liveried McLaren.
The second Red Bull of Sergio Perez finished fourth, after a brilliant pit stop strategy allowed the Mexican to jump from P8 to P4.
Meanwhile new team Aston Martin put in their best performance to date, with Sebastian Vettel finishing fifth and teammate Lance Stroll finishing eighth. It also helped Vettel maintain his record of never being classified lower than P5 in a race he’s finished in Monaco.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly managed to hold off Hamilton’s Mercedes to claim sixth, with Hamilton salvaging a bonus point for fastest lap after an off weekend of racing.
The Alpine of Esteban Ocon finished just behind Stroll’s Aston Martin in ninth, while Antonio Giovinazzi got Alfa Romeo’s first point of the season rounding off the top ten.
It was therefore an unusual podium for this year’s Monaco Grand Prix, with no Mercedes drivers. But it was Verstappen’s day, taking his 12th career win and leading the championship ahead of Hamilton. He summed up his race win by saying:
“I’m super happy to win the Monaco Grand Prix. It’s such a tricky track and you need a smooth weekend so I’m very pleased with what we have achieved as a Team and of course with Honda. I just had to focus on my own race and make sure I had a clean start. Of course, it all looked under control but to keep your focus for so many laps is the hardest part because it’s easy to relax when you’re in the lead and make a mistake, so you have to keep reminding yourself to leave your thoughts on the road and stay focused. I think pace wise, we were always in control because every time someone tried to push me in terms of lap time, we were able to respond and increase the gap. I’ve never been on the podium here and then the first time it’s a win, so it’s a bit of redemption for the other races I’ve had here. Looking ahead to Baku, Mercedes I think are still the ones to beat, they are very quick on the normal tracks. We are leading the championship and I hope of course to be there at the end of the season because that’s the most important thing so we cannot get carried away. But for now, a massive thank you to everyone in the factory and here at the track, we won the Monaco Grand Prix so let’s enjoy it.”
Carlos Sainz summed up his feelings on finishing second by saying:
“The first podium in a Ferrari is an incredible feeling that I will never forget, especially being in Monaco! We knew we had a chance and the pace to make it to the podium this weekend and we executed a flawless race.
“The bittersweet feeling is still there though as I feel for Charles and for the team. All of us here at the track and back home in Maranello are working incredibly hard to be competitive and to make our way back to the top. So it was very unfortunate that today we could not fight with two cars.
“From my side, I am obviously happy with P2 because I think it was the maximum we could achieve today from where we started. We are still missing the final step that we all want to make, but if we keep pushing like this I’m sure we will get there sooner rather than later! Forza Ferrari!”
Charles Leclerc commented on his misfortune by saying:
“Not starting the race was difficult to take, especially at home. I was emotional in the car when I realised that there was something wrong. We still have to investigate what exactly was the issue. Overall, it was a good weekend for us though. Carlos was strong and consistent, and I am happy for him and the whole team for scoring his first podium for Scuderia Ferrari. After a difficult year in 2020, this was a great reward for everyone, both at the track and back home in Maranello, and the team fully deserves it.”
The teams head from one street circuit to another at Baku for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on 6th June where Valtteri Bottas took pole position when the race was last held on 2019.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a member of The Guild of Motoring Writers, professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Press Office, Red Bull Content Pool and McLaren