The Circuit de Monaco is one of the most famous stops on the Formula 1 schedule, but it is also one of its most treacherous. Hairpin descent. The walls close enough to kiss. A dark tunnel that throws the driver into a flash of blinding sunlight.
And that’s a good day.
Sunday wasn’t a good day: When the rain started during the Monaco Grand Prix and the tires began to lose grip, conditions deteriorated so quickly that even the most experienced teams could be filled with fear.
But Max Verstappen is not an average driver. While others struggled, he just hustled and scored his fourth win of the season and 39th of his career. It was his second victory in Monaco in three years and extended his and Red Bull’s lead in points for the season.
“It was incredibly slippery,” Verstappen said of handling the conditions, the first rain of the current Formula 1 season.
“We clipped the walls a few times – it was very difficult there – but that’s Monaco.
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso finished the race where he started in second place, with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon claiming a satisfactory third place. But neither was a serious challenger for Verstappen in a race that lasted almost two hours as the fast cars slowed at times and the drivers struggled to hold their nerve.
Where the race turned
Rain, which had been on everyone’s radar for the first half of the race, finally arrived around lap 50, triggering a frantic series of pit stops and tire changes for the leaders. The problem was that initially it didn’t rain in all sectors of the track, so tires that were fine on dry roads suddenly became unmanageable where it was slippery.
This led to frantic scenes and various decisions. Alonso runs second, twice in quick succession after his team initially fitted the wrong type of tyres. Ferrari called its two cars into the pits at the same time to make changes. The other drivers lost sight and then control.
The combination of tight turns, tight passes and slick tires created dozens of nerve-wracking moments. Carlos Sainz Jr. from the Ferrari slid into the barrier. Kevin Magnussen lost control of his Haas but escaped serious damage. Lance Stroll was not so lucky; he was forced out of the race when his Aston Martin was unable to continue after a late-race crash.
But through it all, Verstappen kept his cool and his team made the right call. He emerged from a few messy laps exactly where he was when the race started, when the rain started, when the changes started: in the lead.
Race in photos
Top rated days
Verstappen. He was masterful in his strategy and race management, even if he couldn’t help himself from the late departure. He led by more than 20 seconds and gave his team one last scare when he cleared the barriers. But on a day when so much could have gone wrong, it worked out for him and Red Bull. His lead over team-mate Sergio Pérez, who started last after a crash in qualifying and crept home 16th on Sunday, has grown to 39 points and 51 ahead of third-placed Alonso.
Window. His third place in qualifying was a surprise to some, and his place on the podium may not matter. But he and Alpine managed their car and their position well all day and were rewarded with the team’s first podium of the year.
Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell quietly came home fourth and fifth. And while neither was ever in contention for the lead (or indeed the podium), Mercedes finds hope in these performances. While the tight situation in Monaco did not offer the best laboratory to test the improvements the team introduced last week, Mercedes will leave with points and a wealth of valuable data. It’s a win for a team trying to catch up to their opponents in a hurry.
What are they saying
“That was the real Monaco. — Verstappen.
“The braking was extremely fragile. I think everyone did an amazing job today to keep the cars on track.” — Fernando Alonsowho saw some things.
Drivers’ championship standings
After five starts, Red Bull’s only race remains a head-to-head race: