By now, we can all agree that, at Monaco, qualifying on Saturday is far more influential than the actual race. Due to the narrow track, overtaking is difficult so starting higher up the grid is a driver’s best chance of a good race result. Unfortunately for Sergio Perez, he crashed out of Q1 and was forced to the back of the grid for Sunday – a major setback to his title hopes.
The pole shootout was exciting for fans as they saw Ocon, Leclerc, Alonso and Verstappen battling to start on pole. Fernando Alonso, in the Aston Martin, must have been feeling the pressure knowing it was his best prospect in over a decade to win a race. With seconds to go, Alonso had provisional pole until Max Verstappen’s stellar final lap managed to just edge the Spaniard and secure the premier spot. Alonso revealed in a post-qualifying interview that: “Half a tenth from pole position is obviously quite close but we gave it all and that’s the most important thing.”
For the home favourite, Leclerc, his ‘Monaco curse’ continued and he was awarded a grid penalty for impeding Lando Norris in qualifying. This meant Verstappen would start P1, followed by Alonso and Ocon, who put in a mighty lap in the Alpine to earn a spot on the second row of the grid.
On Sunday, there appeared to be two different strategies, either opting to start the race on medium or hard compound tyres. Crucial to the race result in the streets of Monte Carlo, strategy is arguably the best way to gain positions on this track. Verstappen made a strong getaway as the rest of the drivers followed. Carlos Sainz, in the Ferrari, was keen to get ahead of Ocon but ended up breaking part of his front wing as he attempted an overtake.
This was Alpine’s best result of the season and Ocon was celebrated as the first Frenchman on the Monaco podium since 1996. A post-race interview revealed he was “speechless”, and dedicated his podium to “all the team”
Clouds hovered over the circuit, making teams reluctant to pit. Many had planned for a one-stopper but as showers hit the track, teams began to reassess their approach. The worsening conditions throughout the race saw drivers struggling to keep their car on the track and many brushed the barriers. Alonso pitted for mediums under light drizzle in the hope of ‘undercutting’ Verstappen but timed it wrong with weather conditions as he was forced to pit again and change to the intermediate. Verstappen managed to get away with going straight to intermediates which proved critical for the Red Bull lead.
The twice-world champion dealt well with the conditions and crossed the chequered flag in first place. Alonso maintained second place while Ocon was able to stay composed and convert his strong qualifying performance to third place and take the final spot on the podium. This was Alpine’s best result of the season and Ocon was celebrated as the first Frenchman on the Monaco podium since 1996. A post-race interview revealed he was “speechless”, and dedicated his podium to “all the team”.
Eyes were on Mercedes this weekend as they introduced major upgrades to their car. Hamilton and Russell managed to rack up points, attaining fourth and fifth position respectively (the latter following a five-second penalty for colliding with Perez when he joined the track in an unsafe condition). The Monegasque, Charles Leclerc, suffered another week in his Monaco podium drought and finished sixth like he started. Pierre Gasly picked up seventh, followed by Sainz in eighth after spinning in the wet conditions. The Mclaren drivers were the last to finish in the points with Norris in P9 and Oscar Piastri in P10.
Looking ahead to the next race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain, Verstappen will aim to continue his championship charge at the next race. Teammate and rival Perez is hoping to have a strong weekend to remain a challenger, having been quoted: “I cannot afford another zero in the championship.” Mercedes will be hoping their newly upgraded W14 will once again have a solid weekend allowing them to edge closer to the Red Bull car, which currently appears leaps ahead of the rest of the grid.