Cover image source: Racefans.net
We arrive in the principality for the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix, taking place on the narrow streets of Monte-Carlo. After taking a one-year break from the “action” at Monaco, we finally got the chance to see how each driver performs on arguably the toughest track on the calendar.
And the race yielded very interesting results.
If you watched qualifying on Saturday, you probably had some mixed feelings.
Charles Leclerc had provisional pole, as Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, and Valtteri Bottas all lined up for their final flying laps. It actually seemed like Max was going to snatch pole, with a flying first sector, and a second sector in the process. But Charles, on his final qualifying lap, introduced his right front tyre to the barrier of the swimming pool chicane, crashing out and red flagging the session. Quali ended right then and there, giving Charles pole position, Max 2nd, Valtteri 3rd, and Carlos 4th. The question I, and possibly you, were asking after that incident was: “Did he do it on purpose?”
I don’t think so, and here’s why.
The swimming pool chicane is the fastest section of the circuit. A crash there would equal a larger impact, which roughly translates into more damage. It’s way too big of a risk to be done on purpose. If he wanted to secure pole by crashing, he could’ve pulled a Schumacher at Rascasse, a much safer corner to intentionally retire from.
My point was (unfortunately) proved before the race, where Charles’ car had to be removed from participating due to a driveshaft issue.
His luck at home continues to be poor, with him failing to finish a race in Monaco yet again.
With Charles out of the race, Max took pole, with Valtteri in 2nd and Carlos in 3rd. And since Monaco shares the same overtaking allergy as Spain, the driver that leads into the first corner will effectively control the race.
The five lights went out, and Valtteri got a better start than Max. Max, not wanting to surrender track position, aggressively but legally cut in front of Valtteri, forcing him to lift off the throttle. He lead into Sainte Devote, and the race was his to run.
Since literally nothing happened for several laps, we now fast forward to the crucial pitstop phase, where Valtteri comes in for fresher tyres in an attempt to overtake Max. Instead, the right front refused to unscrew, causing him to retire from the race. We’ll definitely come back to this later.
With Valtteri no longer a player, Carlos moved up to 2nd, and Lando Norris arrived in 3rd. And as if this wasn’t surprising enough, Sergio Perez moved up five positions in a pitstop to take P4. Hats off to Checo and the team of Red Bull strategists, they’re really making up for the loss they took in Spain.
Carlos made an effort to catch the Red Bull of Max, but his race pace just wasn’t enough, and he took P2 at the end of the race. Lando took P3, and Max, who led about the entire race, took P1 and the lead in the driver’s championship, which gave us my favorite podium of the season so far. Not only was this Max’s first win in Monaco and his first time leading the driver’s championship, but it is the first time since 2013 that Red Bull have led both championships. I mean, the moment I make a post about Red Bull losing the title fights to Mercedes, they take the lead of both of them within one race. I know we’re only 5 races in, but this season is looking really good.
The Midfield ft. Lewis Hamilton
Doesn’t matter if you’re a Lewis fan or not, when you saw him start in 7th, you knew this was gonna be good.
His qualifying lap was, well, disturbing compared to the usual. 7th place while Valtteri manages 3rd? I did not expect that, and I’m sure you didn’t either. He started alongside his old rival Sebastian Vettel, with Pierre Gasly in front of them both. When the lights went out, he tried to get around Pierre, but Monaco is Monaco, and he ended up stuck behind him at the start.
The pitstop phase came around, and him and the team attempted an undercut on Pierre and Seb, putting on Hard tyres to go to the end. However, after hearing Lewis was starting his outlap, Pierre went flying on his in-lap, came into the pits, and held onto his position. He held up Lewis to the point where Seb could come into the pits and get past both of them, much to the champ’s frustration.
Seb later finished in P5, which F1 fans around the world delighted to see.
Lewis didn’t gain any places, and finished the race in 7th, surrendering his lead to Max Verstappen.
The thing about Formula 1 is that when you win, you win as a team, and when you lose, you lose as a team too. The Mercedes car wasn’t really suited for this circuit, and the evidence was clear as Lewis ended up starting in P7, and Valtteri could only manage P3. And even during the race, when Lewis wanted to stay out on his first set of tires, Mercedes tried the undercut and failed miserably, costing him the chance to clear the midfield. So even though Lewis blamed the team for the race result in an interview, when he didn’t do a good job at all in qualifying, the team really messed up the strategy and the car today. A lot of things they’ll need to talk about post-race.
Same award as usual, different name.
This weekend the award goes to Valtteri Bottas’ pitstop, where the team took almost a minute to change his right front tyre, realized it wasn’t coming off, and gave up.
What is going on with Valtteri’s luck in the pits? Sakhir 2020, Bahrain 2021, at this point I’m genuinely shocked if the team can successfully change the man’s tyres.
It’s just disappointing, not because Mercedes lost their championship lead, but because you and I know Valtteri is an incredible driver, who drives his heart out day in day out. He can challenge for wins, and he wants to challenge for the title. But the luck seems to favor the other side of the Mercedes garage, and it’s costing Valtteri points and possibly wins.
We can bet this’ll be an interesting race debrief for the Mercedes team.
For now, Red Bull and Max have reeled themselves back into the fight, capitalizing on the mistakes of the Silver Arrows. Ferrari also can’t be forgotten, as they showed serious pace across the entire weekend. Lando and Carlos shared a podium, Seb got a great result, Pierre held off Lewis Hamilton, and the rookies kept it out of the wall.
Mercedes have some serious upgrades to make, Ferrari has the motivation to improve, and Max and Red Bull have to be ready to counter the determination Lewis now has to fight back. Will Red Bull hold the lead? Will Lewis take his place right back from Max? And will Ferrari find themselves mixed up in all of this? We’ll have to wait until we return in Azerbaijan, but let me know what you think by shooting an email, sending a message, or just leaving a comment down below, because as always, I love hearing from you!
I’ve been Miles Stewart, and if you liked this post, make sure to sign up for our newsletter below so that you never miss an update from The Late Brakers! I’ll see you in the next one, take care!