Drama already unfolded even before starting the race as Polesitter Charles Leclerc has experienced some gearbox issues on his out lap. Later on, Ferrari confirmed that he would not be racing this afternoon. This is a hard one to swallow for the Monegasque after claiming pole in his home Grand Prix; however, he will now be on the sidelines.
It’s lights out and away we go in Monaco!
It’s a good start from Max Verstappen in the Red Bull, and we see a lock-up from Valtteri Bottas into Turn 1. It’s been a somewhat aggressive start from Verstappen, who now has a decent lead over Bottas in the front of the field. Carlos Sainz also got away very well. According to replays, Bottas had a slightly better start than the Dutchman. He might have been able to cut back on any other track once Verstappen went through him to take the racing line, but not on a street circuit like this.
We’re going into Lap 2, and all 20 drivers moved up one place after the DNS from Charles Leclerc, and we see Max Verstappen earning the fastest lap. In the top 10, there doesn’t appear to have been much change, but that’s Monaco for you. Nikita Mazepin received the first black and white flag of the race for breaching track limits in Lap 14. He’s crossed the line far too many times. We’re only 16 laps into the race, but another infringement will result in a penalty for the Russian.
Lap 19, and we can hear Verstappen on the team radio saying, “For these tyres, I’m happy.” So far, it seems that everything has gone according to plan for the Dutchman. Not for Norris, who has now been handed a black and white flag. Lance Stroll launches his Aston Martin over the kerb where Leclerc crashed in Saturday qualifying in Lap 21 but saved it from hitting the barrier just in time. We’re in Lap 22 when we hear Bottas complain about the left front tyre that seems to be starting to drop. As seen on the AWS tyre condition graphic, Bottas has indeed 20% left of his tyres. Lap 26 and Max Verstappen sounds very happy again. This time he mentions to be having “Quite a good front end” on the team radio. Something that used to be a problem during the free practices has been improved with the Red Bull.
Lewis Hamilton is the first to make a pit stop in Lap 30 and made a swift pitstop of 2.2 seconds Lap 31, and there is a disaster pit stop for Bottas. which causes a lot of chaos. Three tyres came off easily, but the front right refused to come off. We saw the wheel gun shattering into shards, and the team was unable to remove his tyre, forcing the Finn to retire from the race. Meanwhile, we hear a fuming Lewis Hamilton on the team radio: “I don’t understand, guys. I saved the tyres to go longer, and you made me stop before.“
Max Verstappen, the race leader, pits on lap 35. A short two-second stop for the hard tyres there, and it’s all looking quite good for the Dutch Red Bull driver now. Still, in Lap 35, Hamilton dropped two positions by pitting, and he’s just been warned that he’s in threat from Sergio Perez, who is currently leading the race and has some breathing room to extend his lead. Lewis sounds very unhappy. Sergio Perez has finally pitted for a set of hard compound tyres on Lap 36. It’s a smooth stop, and he returns to the track in fourth place. Red Bull is so far experiencing an amazing day, while Mercedes seems to be having a disastrous one.
Now we’re on Lap 50, and things are starting to get interesting. Sainz is putting a lot of pressure on Verstappen, and while the Red Bull still has a three-second lead, the Ferrari has been fast all weekend. Lap 53 and things are getting unfortunate for Daniel Ricciardo, who is currently in P12, as his teammate will lap him. While he begins to get to know his McLaren, it’s not the weekend he expected. For the Aussie, today is a race to forget after two poles and a win.
Verstappen and Sainz are separated by only 2.7 seconds in Lap 56. This race has felt like a parade from the start, but if the Ferrari keeps up this pace, there could be some surprises near the finish. Lap 58 and Lando Norris just informed the team over the radio that his car is undriveable on these tyres. If this keeps up, he’ll soon have Perez on his tail. The youngster sounds very concerned. Sergio Perez has closed the gap on Norris to four seconds in Lap 61, but that gap isn’t closing fast enough when you consider he has to go past him somewhere. Unless, of course, the tyres will lose their condition, in which case Norris will be in serious danger.
We’re in Lap 63, and Lance Stroll is under investigation for supposedly failing to maintain his position in the pit lane to the right. After such a strong performance, a time-penalty might be devastating for the Canadian. Carlos Sainz is starting to drop from his position in Lap 65. He’s 7.2 seconds behind Verstappen but might be satisfied with second place today, which would be a fantastic first podium for his new Italian team. Were in Lap 69 and a set of fresh soft tyres for Hamilton. This seems like Mercedes’ acceptance that Hamilton will not finish in the serious points at the front of the field. Therefore he will rather try for the fastest lap bonus point.
The stewards investigated the incident involving Stroll in Lap 70 and concluded that he did not go over to the right side of the pit lane, deciding that the Aston Martin did not break the rules. Meanwhile, in the same lap, Hamilton is about to be lapped by the race leader Max Verstappen. Hamilton has just set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 72. The defending world champion’s gamble to switch to a fresh set of soft tyres might just pay off, though it’s still been a very frustrating afternoon for Mercedes.
Lando Norris appeared to be struggling to keep Perez behind him a few laps ago, but the McLaren has found some more grip and pace and appears ready to finish on the podium. Max Verstappen is now one lap away from winning the Monaco Grand Prix and taking over the Drivers’ Championship lead for the first time this season. For the Dutchman, it’s been a parade, but he really hasn’t put a foot wrong today.
A true display of strength from the young driver hoping to help Red Bull win the championship this season. Max Verstappen and Red Bull have had a phenomenal day! Not only does the Dutchman win in Monaco, but he also takes over the lead in the Drivers’ Championship for the first time in his career.
Carlos Sainz comes in second, with Lando Norris completing the podium in third!