Monaco Grand Prix – Max Verstappen led from lights to flag in the Principality despite heavy rain arriving part way through to shake things up.
There was quite an even split of drivers starting on the hards and the mediums – polesitter Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon P3, Lewis Hamilton P5, Yuki Tsunoda P9, Lando Norris P10, Nyck de Vries P12, Alex Albon P13, Logan Sargeant P16, Nico Hulkenberg P18 and Sergio Perez P20 were all on the mediums while the only soft runner was Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu in P19.
After an incredible final sector to secure pole for today’s race, Verstappen led the field away at the start of the Grand Prix and held his spot at the head of the pack with Fernando Alonso remaining in P2.
There was contact on the run to the hairpin between Hulkenberg and Sargeant, while Stroll tapped the wall and also made contact with Sargeant. The Aston Martin driver reported a puncture but he stayed out on track while the Haas along with Zhou and Perez all pitted at the end of the opening lap and emerged on the hards.
A couple of laps in, the Stewards announced an investigation into George Russell for incorrect starting location, though it was then decided there’d be no further action, while Hulkenberg was given a 5 second penalty for his collision. At the front though Verstappen and Alonso were out on their own with over six seconds separating them from Ocon and the rest of the pack.
There was action on lap 11 when Carlos Sainz tried to make a move on Ocon for P3 but the gap closed and he clipped the back of the Alpine, damaging the Spaniard’s front wing. Ferrari had a new wing ready in the pits but Sainz decided to stick it out after the right end plate fell off.
A couple of laps later Alonso reported that he thought he’d picked up a front puncture but there wasn’t anything wrong on the data Aston Martin could see. Sainz meanwhile was given a black and white flag for his incident with Ocon warning him that anything else like that wouldn’t be acceptable.
Lap 21 saw Ferrari tell Sainz to “box to overtake Ocon” but they then change their mind and he’s instead told to remain out on track. By lap 25 Verstappen had pulled out over 11 seconds on Alonso while the Spaniard was out on his own with 17 seconds of clear air between him and Ocon.
There were differing weather forecasts coming in from teams – McLaren telling Norris there should be some around lap 35 while Ferrari were predicting some in 45 minutes, which would be near the end of the race. There was also a sense of deja vu over the Ferrari radio then as they once again told Sainz to box to overtake Ocon before reversing their decision.
Hamilton was the first of the point runners to head to the pits, the Mercedes driver dropping from P5 to P8 as he swapped to the hards on lap 32. The following lap Ocon did the same and he emerged in P7, just in front of Hamilton. The Alpine managed to stay ahead of Sainz when the Ferrari driver made his own stop.
Verstappen had been reporting a lot of graining on his tyres and Alonso had halved the gap between the top two. There was an incident between Stroll and Perez that the Stewards had to have a look at, as Verstappen was overtaking the Canadian on the run out of the tunnel Perez, who was in a battle with the Aston Martin, tried to follow his teammate though but Stroll tried to close the door causing some contact and Perez went across the Nouvelle Chicane to take the place. A few laps later Stroll got the place back before the Mexican pitted and the Stewards decided that that sorted it all out.
Sainz wasn’t overly happy with the Ferrari strategy, he felt that he should’ve stayed out longer on the hards to overcut Ocon but his team pitted him to cover Hamilton, to which the Spaniard angrily responded “I don’t care about Hamilton”. As it was Sainz was now on the mediums while Ocon and the seven-time champion were now on the hards.
Lap 45 and it was Charles Leclerc’s turn to stop from P3, and he emerged in P8 with the medium compound on.
On lap 50 Red Bull informed Verstappen that there were a few drops of rain around T6-T8 while Russell then reported in that there were some spits at T3 and a lap later that it was getting a bit heavier. Despite all that, lap 52 saw McLaren pit Norris for the hards while a lap later Race Control were reporting slippery conditions in a few sectors while multiple cars were slipping around on track.
Bottas and Stroll made the switch to intermediates on lap 53 and on lap 55 the pits got very busy with everyone changing tyres, Alonso taking mediums while the Alpines and Mercedes went intermediates. There was a brief Yellow Flag when Sainz slid off in the rain at Mirabeau but he was lucky there was a run off for him to slide into and get back on track quickly, only losing a place to his teammate.
Lap 55 saw Verstappen switch to intermediates while Alonso abandoned his mediums to go onto the inters himself. That meant the Aston Martin racer was over 20 seconds behind the race leader but with the Ferraris going so slowly on dry tyres Alonso remained P2.
Stroll wasn’t as lucky as Sainz, hitting barriers at the hairpin and Portier before retiring his car on track.
The final driver on dry tyres, Magnussen, hit the wall at La Rascasse but was able to reverse out and get to the pits but he lost time getting a wing change that the team weren’t ready for. At that stage the top ten were: Verstappen still P1 ahead of Alonso, while Ocon was back in P3 though the Mercedes drivers, who’d been some of the earlier inter adopters, were P4 and P5 ahead of Leclerc, Pierre Gasly, Sainz, Tsunoda and Norris.
Lap 59 saw the Stewards hand Russell a five second penalty for an unsafe rejoin when he came out of the run off and there was contact with Perez when he did. Hulkenberg was also handed a ten second penalty for not serving his penalty correctly.
Despite having the intermediates on there was still a lot of slipping and sliding on track while at the back, Perez, and the Haas cars were circulating on the full wets. Hamilton reported to Mercedes that it was very dangerous but his team felt that the rain should be decreasing soon.
With ten laps to go things had mostly calmed down again and Perez felt the track was drying up. The two McLarens had just got past Tsunoda, who’d been dealing with brake issues, that demoted him to P11 before he went off a Mirabeau which lost him a few more spots.
There was a bit of drama at the front of the field too, Verstappen clipping the wall at the exit of the swimming pool on lap 71 but he got away with it and he still had a 24 second buffer between himself and Alonso.
There wasn’t any change in the points places in the final few laps and so Verstappen took his second win in the Principality, 27 seconds later Alonso took the chequered flag in P2 while Ocon took the final podium spot for Alpine to round up a great weekend for them.
Hamilton and Russell followed them home in P4 and P5 while the home driver, Leclerc, was P6. The Ferrari racer was closely followed across the line by Gasly to give Alpine a bumper points weekend. After being P4 for the pre-pit stop portion of the race things fell apart for Sainz and he could only manage P8. The two McLarens rounded out the top ten with Norris ahead of Oscar Piastri. Hamilton took the fastest lap of the race, a 1:15.650.