F1 – Monaco GP – Race
Bonjour, MiniFans! Yesterday’s qualifying had a few surprises up its sleeve, such as Hamilton in seventh and Leclerc snatching pole, but Sunday morning didn’t want to disappoint and, knowing overtaking is deemed as extremely complicated in the Principality, it kicked off the chaos when the cars had barely made it out of their boxes to settle in on the main straight.
After yesterday’s crash at the end of qualifying, Ferrari had proudly claimed that the gearbox wouldn’t need changing and thus they would not incur in a grid penalty. Alas, fate doesn’t always follow the written plan and, before he even made it to the grid to leave his car on the first slot, Leclerc gave a shout for help over radio, claiming gearbox problems. Despite mechanics trying their best in the very short amount of time they had before the pit lane was closed, the only true home driver for this race had to pull out, leaving the pole position space barren.
The start was the cleanest it could be, with just a couple of overtakes sprinkled around here and there, mainly at the back, and a near miss between the Haas in Loews. The drivers settled into their positions, the race pace slowed down by Verstappen to manage his tyres and brakes better. Lap times only got better once the window to pit for new tyres started getting close, as drivers were trying not to be caught unaware. Purple sectors were shared among the top three and Pérez, on eight, while Mazepin got the first black and white flag for going over track limits in turn 10, as did Norris a handful of laps later.
The first stop of the day came courtesy of Hamilton, who had a fairly quick and painless change of tyres and prompted the steady trickle into the pit lane. The problem came with Bottas, who had followed suit, as his front right tyre would not come off, no matter how many different wheel guns they used and how much they pulled on the tyre. He was forced to retire, offering his spot to Sainz, who was called in by Ferrari. The Spaniard had a quiet stop for hards, copying everyone else so far. Complaints by Hamilton on radio started to be heard, as he wasn’t agreeing with the strategy choices by the team for his race, which had made him lose a couple of positions.
The cars settled in their positions for the usual train around the street circuit, the only overtakes seen being the ones when lapping of cars was taking place. When the last cars finally pitted for new tyres, some of them using softs as they had started on either mediums or hards, a small cry came from Norris, who wasn’t happy with the car’s performance on the white rimmed tyres. His struggles were relayed to Pérez and he got close, but it still wasn’t enough. In the last ten laps of the race, Mercedes decided to go for the fastest lap and the additional point it provides, as he was stuck in no man’s land in seventh and had enough time to the next car to get out in the same position. Further up, Pérez was still tailgating Norris, still not too happy with his car yet still managing to keep his stance. At the front, Verstappen, who had only lost his lead to his teammate when he was the first of the two to pit, made his way to the finish line undisturbed, winning his first Monaco grand prix, joining Sainz and Norris on the podium.
When a driver takes pole on Monaco, fate says they have two very likely outcomes. They either win, which is what has happened most of the times, or they do not finish the race, which is less common but still has a very high chance of happening. Unluckily for Charles Leclerc, the only Monegasque driver on the grid and who had reached a milestone by getting pole position in his home race, the second one was the destiny that had been chosen for him.