F1 – Monaco GP – Race
Bonjour, MiniFans! After Saturday’s electrifying qualifying session that went down to the wire, Sunday woke up with the promise of a fight for the win between a pair of two-time world champions who won’t back down against the other.
Tyres became an eye-catching detail, as mediums and hards were scattered throughout, with Verstappen leaning towards the softer compound of the two and Alonso choosing the opposite. An unexpectedly clean start gave way to a traffic jam around Loews, including a small collision between Hulkenger and Sargeant which ended in a 5-second penalty for the German. Verstappen, with his yellow rimmed tyres, started to open up a gap to Alonso, which settled around two to two and a half seconds. Both of them had left the rest of the field behind, as barely ten laps in, Ocon was more than eleven seconds away from the lead.
The first taste of a battle came courtesy of Ocon and Sainz, as the Ferrari was growing restless behind the Alpine, and his attempt after the tunnel ended up in a broken front wing for him. This also resulted in the first yellow flag of the race, due to a flap having gotten loose and flying away, as well as a punishment in the shape of a black and white flag. Panic set in momentarily for Alonso’s fans, as a call for help over the radio due to what he thought was a puncture ended up in his race engineer calming him down as the problem seemed to fix itself as the Spaniard went back to his previous race pace.
Further at the back, a handful of overtakes were seen on track, but they were mostly on Sargeant, who was struggling with his medium tyres. Pérez, who had started last after his crash on Saturday, was still stuck in the train of cars, his speed differential not being big enough to easily get past, having only managed to climb up to sixteenth. Meanwhile, messages about tyre degradation started to come through the radios, as it was higher than expected and graining started to visit the drivers. Talks of rain were also prevalent, with most agreeing that were it to arrive, it would be towards the race.
Reaching the train of cars at the back, added to the graining present on his tyres, meant that the gap between Verstappen and Alonso shrunk significantly, but it would go back up once Alonso got to them as well.
The battle for the podium heated up when Ocon pitted for hards. Ferrari called Sainz into boxes the following lap to try and gain the position after Alpine did a slow stop, but they weren’t successful and claimed to a very angry Sainz that the driver they had their eyes on wasn’t Ocon, but rather Hamilton.
As Verstappen lapped Stroll in the chicane after the tunnel, Pérez tried to get past as well, but rather caused a collision that warranted an investigation as he gained an advantage by leaving the track and cutting the chicane, but wouldn’t get a penalty as Stroll regained the position. Barely one lap later and at the exit of the chicane instead of the beginning, he collided into the back of Magnussen, crushing his front wing and forcing one more stop.
After many different messages about the possibility of rain, the first real reports of drops came courtesy of Russell, and soon part of the track was under rain and decisions needed to come quickly. A few drivers at the back started giving the intermediates a try and the top dogs held on, including an Alonso who pitted for mediums under the rain before he relented and changed them to intermediates as well. Before everyone was on the green tyres, a few small collisions were seen from the cars that were still sporting slicks, but even after they were all changed to wet weather tyres, the amount of water accumulated on some parts of the track meant that slipping and sliding were prominent among the drivers.
Despite all this, only Stroll crashed hard enough to damage the car beyond being able to drive it back to boxes, the rest of the incidents being at such slow speeds that the cars didn’t suffer damage. Once the chaotic start of the rainfall was over, the race settled in a very similar order to the one from before it started pouring, with the biggest change being Sainz losing a few places, as Ferrari had to double stack their stops after he lost his car and had to wait a bit to rejoin the pack.
Once the rain stopped falling, the drivers who had been hogging the podium positions were back in them, albeit sporting bigger distances between them, with the rest of the pack a bit more scrambled up after having fought for grip with both slicks and intermediates. The final laps, clear of rain but with the track still wet, became a victory parade for Verstappen, but also Alonso, who reached his first second step of the podium of the season, and Ocon, who completed a podium earned on Saturday and defended on Sunday.
Monaco is one of the crown jewels of the F1 calendar, even if the day to watch out for usually is Saturday rather than Sunday. The race had started out that way, with just a handful of moments spicing up the race. At least until the rain came and all hell broke loose, with drivers trying to hold off the intermediate tyres until it was beyond necessary, causing some moments of chaos when the slicks wouldn’t stick to the asphalt. Looking at the final podium standings, it would seem like it was just another parade around the Principality, but this time, the promised rain arrived and provided some fun laps around Monaco.