Verstappen takes maiden Monaco win
By Mat Coch
Monday 24th May, 2021 - 1:05am
Max Verstappen has claimed victory in the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix and moved into the lead of the world championship for the first time in his career.
The Dutchman controlled the race, ceding top spot only during the pit sequence, to head Carlos Sainz to the flag by 8.9 seconds.
Third went to Lando Norris, the McLaren driver seeing off a late challenge from Sergio Perez, while Lewis Hamilton trailed home in seventh.
It was a tough afternoon for Mercedes, which found itself out-foxed strategically with Hamilton while Valtteri Bottas was forced out with a problem during his pit stop.
Charles Leclerc was missing from pole, the Ferrari a non-starter, leaving Verstappen to cover off Bottas on the run to Ste Devote for the first time.
It was a clean start, the leading duo followed by Sainz, Norris, Pierre Gasly, and Hamilton into Ste Devote.
Daniel Ricciardo meanwhile went backwards, dropping from an effective 11th at the start to complete the opening lap in 13th.
The early laps saw Verstappen and Bottas ease their way clear of third placed Sainz, who quickly found himself alone on track as he in turn pulled clear of Norris.
It was a case of car management in the opening stages, the front-runners all turning in similar lap times as they pulled clear of the midfield.
That saw them quickly out of range of Lance Stroll, the Aston Martin driver on hard compound tyres running 11th.
After 15 laps, the pace began to lift; Verstappen setting the fastest lap at 1:15.818s having run almost a second slower than that at the start of the race.
Meanwhile, Bottas reported that he felt as though he was driving on wet tyres.
Having run just over two seconds back from Verstappen, he quickly dropped a further two seconds and quickly came under the attentions of Sainz.
Hamilton was the first of the front runners to pit, swapping his soft tyres for a set of hards on Lap 30.
He rejoined in eighth place, having been running sixth behind Gasly prior to his stop.
It triggered a flurry of other stops, Bottas pitting next time through.
His front-right wheel would not budge and the Mercedes driver’s race promptly ended in retirement after a cross-threaded wheel nut machined the hub.
As that had happened, Gasly stopped and rejoined ahead of Hamilton, much to the Englishman’s frustration.
Aston Martin played a strategic blinder, pitting Sebastian Vettel and jumping both Hamilton and Gasly as he returned to the race.
He went side-by-side with Gasly up Beau Rivage, but the German held on to the place to seize fifth.
Red Bull took the opportunity to pull the pin, with both Verstappen and Perez lifting their pace as they ran first and second.
The race leader was in on Lap 34 and was stationary for just two seconds as he handed the lead to his team-mate.
The Mexican was flying, turning in strong lap times which saw him in a good position to also leapfrog Hamilton.
He pitted on Lap 35, a 2.8s stop that saw him climb to fourth having been eighth earlier in proceedings.
Following the pit cycle, the race duly settled back into a rhythm, with Verstappen clear of Sainz, Norris, and Perez.
Trapped a lap down, Ricciardo showed he had the pace to run higher up the order.
In 12th, the Australian was the second fastest driver on track, just 0.02s slower than Perez.
He’d made up one spot during the pit sequence over Fernando Alonso, but had no answer for Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.
In the final third of the race, Norris was unhappy, reporting that the car was difficult to drive.
He began to lose time to Perez, who was reeling him in by 0.7s a lap at points and by Lap 65, the pair were together.
Hamilton pitted for a second time after 68 laps as he pursued the point for fastest lap.
The Mercedes driver had sufficient gap to Stroll behind him to take a free stop and duly went fastest on Lap 69, recording a 1:12.909s at a time when the next best lap was 1:14.037s, set by Yuki Tsunoda.
The Perez-Norris battle stagnated, the gap between them expanding back out to more than a second.
Down the order, a scrap developed over ninth place, with Esteban Ocon joined by Antonio Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, and Ricciardo.
There was little between the quartet, the Alpine driver something of a cork in the bottle.
With overtaking at a premium, there was little doing and the order remained unchanged to the flag.
Verstappen therefore cantered to victory by 8.9 seconds over Sainz, with Norris holding on to third having seen off Perez’s late effort.
Vettel scored his first points for Aston Martin in fifth, followed by Gasly, Hamilton, Stroll, Ocon, and Giovinazzi.
Ricciardo was 12th, the first time this season he’s failed to score points, though demonstrated front-running pace but for his track position.
Verstappen now leads the world championship for the first time in his career with 105 points over Hamilton on 101, while Red Bull has a single point advantage over Mercedes in the constructors’ title fight.
McLaren remains third, now just two points ahead of Ferrari after five rounds, with daylight back to Aston Martin in fifth.
Formula 1 next moves to Baku for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on June 4-6.
Results: Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix
|1||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing||78|
|4||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing||+20.490s|
|5||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||+52.591s|
|6||10||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia AlphaTauri||+53.896s|
|8||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||+1 lap|
|9||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine||+1 lap|
|10||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+1 lap|
|11||7||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+1 lap|
|12||3||Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||+1 lap|
|13||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine||+1 lap|
|14||63||George Russell||Williams||+1 lap|
|15||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||+1 lap|
|16||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Scuderia AlphaTauri||+1 lap|
|17||9||Nikita Mazepin||Haas||+3 laps|
|18||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas||+3 laps|
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing||105|
|5||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing||44|
|9||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia AlphaTauri||16|
|11||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||10|
|12||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||9|
|14||Yuki Tsunoda||Scuderia AlphaTauri||2|
|15||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||1|
|1||Red Bull Racing||149|