Red Bull and Max Verstappen capitalised on Mercedes’ pit stop blunders with Carlos Sainz in a well-deserved second, while Lando Norris hung on to earn his first Monaco podium finish.
After the highs of yesterday’s pole, it was despair for Charles Leclerc as his Ferrari gearbox gave up in his installation lap. That left Max Verstappen with a clear run-up to Sainte Devote, while Valtteri Bottas also had a clear run with no one in front of him.
As the light went green, Verstappen cut across Bottas as the drivers made their way safely through Sainte Devote. Fernando Alonso had a great start; the Spaniard moved up two places to fourteenth. With five laps completed, Verstappen and Bottas started to pull away from the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, the gap stretching to three seconds.
Lap 8, and Lando Norris set the fastest lap from fourth, while Lewis Hamilton was still stuck in sixth behind the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly. With 70 more laps to go, the drivers were managing their tyres with a heavy fuel load.
After a frustrating qualifying session, Sergio Pérez was stuck behind the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel, Pérez set the fastest times lap after lap but was not able to make the jump as the gap between Hamilton and Vettel stretched to six seconds.
As Verstappen stretched his gap to Bottas over two seconds, Toto Wolff came on the radio to Bottas: “Show us more pace Valtteri.” The reasons were obvious, since Hamilton fell 14 seconds behind Verstappen in the lead.
On lap 18, Lando Norris got his Black and White flag for exceeding track limits in Turn 10. Carlos Sainz in third closed-in within two seconds of Bottas, as the Finn started to struggle with his rear tyres, while Verstappen stretched his lead to five seconds.
With almost 30 laps completed, and Vettel’s pace keeping him within Verstappen’s pit window, Mercedes jumped the gun by bringing Hamilton in to jump Gasly, but Gasly jumped Hamilton instead in the next lap with the overcut.
Disaster struck for Mercedes in Lap 31, when Bottas came in for his stop but his front right tyre didn’t come off. It was a cross-threaded wheel nut that got stuck and, unfortunately, the Finn had to retire from the race. Elsewhere, Sebastian Vettel jumped both Gasly and Hamilton with the overcut to move into fifth place.
Carlos Sainz came into the pits on lap 32, while Max Verstappen came in on lap 34, both with sub-two second stops. That left Sergio Pérez in the lead of the race, who pumped in some hot laps before stopping on lap 36 and jumping the whole trio of Vettel, Gasly, and Hamilton to move into fourth place.
With almost all the pit stops completed, it was Verstappen who was followed by Sainz and Norris, all within ten seconds. Pérez, Vettel, Gasly, Hamilton, Lance Stroll, Esteban Ocon, and Antonio Giovinazzi rounded off the point-scoring positions.
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When Verstappen came out of the pits, the gap between him and Carlos Sainz was eight seconds. By Lap 41, the gap had dropped down to three seconds, with the Spaniard putting on a charge.
Fernando Alonso came into the pits on Lap 48; the Spaniard came in for a new set of soft compound tyres. Verstappen picked up his pace as the gap from Sainz hovered around the three-second mark.
While it looked like Verstappen had picked up the pace, Carlos Sainz came on the radio on Lap 55, “Can I put some pressure now?”, and he certainly pushed more, gaining a tenth each lap for the next few laps.
Sergio Pérez started to gain on Norris, who struggled on his hard compound tyres. Lance Stroll and Yuki Tsunoda were the last to pit, with Stroll jumping five places with his long run to come out in eighth place.
With 15 laps remaining, both the Red Bulls were flying as Verstappen stretched his lead to over five seconds, while Pérez closed up his gap to Lando Norris within three seconds. Esteban Ocon, in the meantime, did all he could to keep his ninth place, with the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi almost pushing him out of corners.
Yuki Tsunoda, on a new set of soft compound tyres, set the new track record with a 1m14.037s, while Hamilton pitted in the same lap for a new set of soft compound tyres in an attempt to steal one extra point for the fastest lap. He duly took the honours in his first attempt with a 1m12.909s, setting the new track record in the process.
With five laps to go, Sergio Pérez was still stuck behind Lando Norris; the young Brit held off the Mexican for the better part of the last 15 laps. Kimi Räikkönen and Daniel Ricciardo huffed and puffed but were not able to overtake Antonio Giovinazzi, who was sitting in that last point scoring position.
In the end, it was Max Verstappen who took the win and took the lead of the world championship, with Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris to complete the podium. Sergio Pérez had a stellar race as he came up short behind Norris, while Aston Martin’s pit-stop gamble paid off with Sebastian Vettel in fifth.
Pierre Gasly did exceptionally well to hold off Lewis Hamilton to finish in sixth. Lance Stroll, after a long run in his first stint, ended up in eighth, while Esteban Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi rounded off the Top 10.