Monaco Grand Prix: Dominant Verstappen and heartbreak for Leclerc

Before the race began, Leclerc had issues on his lap to the grid. Finally making it back to his garage, it was a race to discover and fix the problem before the pitlane closed. This, however, was not possible.

After several messages between the FIA and Ferrari, the car was not able to start the race due to a failure of the left drive shaft. This was more heartbreak for the Monégasque, who has never finished a race in Monaco after getting DNFs in both 2018 and 2019 and in 2017 with Formula 2.

Because of this there was some question over whether the grid would be shuffled up. The FIA quickly decided, though, to keep everyone in the grid positions they qualified in. This meant that, for the first time since David Coulthard in 2001, nobody would start in pole position at Monaco.

Bottas then had a clean track on the inside to start with only Verstappen on the dirty side, leaving a potential for carnage at the start of the race.

Lights out and Bottas had a better start, but this was shut down by Verstappen before Turn 1. The rest of the pack got away cleanly, which is unusual for Monaco.

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From there it was a relatively straight forward race before the pitstops. On lap 24, Hamilton was the first to pit in an attempt to undercut Gasly. However, it didn’t work on this occasion.

Bottas pitted on the next lap and drama unfolded as the wheel nut on the front right was machined off and the wheel became stuck on the car. Initially it looked as if they may be able to get it off, but this was to be the end of his race.

This created a huge opportunity for Red Bull and Verstappen. Some excellent team play by Red Bull meant that Perez had opened up a gap on Hamilton, Gasly and Vettel to be able to pit without losing too many positions. Bono had to break the news to an already very annoyed Hamilton that he had lost a further position to Perez as a result.

With 20 laps to go, Lando Norris started to complain about his tyres as Perez began to catch him at nearly one second per lap. However, as is normal around Monaco, it is very difficult to overtake and Norris managed to hold off Perez for the final podium position.

McLaren Media Centre

Having accepted his position on the track, Hamilton pitted for soft tyres to fight for the fastest lap point. This was not as simple as it seemed, as he had to let Verstappen lap him before charging for fastest lap. He did eventually get the extra point, a consolation prize after a not-so-successful weekend. This point, whilst not important now, could become crucial in the last stages of the season.

Finally, after a very dominant performance, Max Verstappen won the Monaco Grand Prox. He broke his Monaco ‘curse’ by making it onto the podium for the first time. Sainz followed in P2 with Norris in P3. This was one of the happiest podiums in Formula 1, with all drivers excited to be there. It also gave the fans a great Sainz and Norris reunion which everyone has been wanting since Sainz moved to Ferrari.

Vettel got a well deserved driver of the day vote after a great performance, gaining two places in the race and making a great move on Gasly when he came out of the pits to secure him P5.

Due to his win Verstappen now leads the driver championship, which is the first time since Australia 2013 that it has been led by someone other than a Mercedes driver or Vettel. This is also the first time Red Bull have led the constructor’s championship since 2013.

Monaco Grand Prix Qualifying: Leclerc crashes onto pole at home race

Charles Leclerc took pole in his home race at Monaco on Saturday afternoon after delivering a good lap on his first run in Q3. The qualifying session did not end in the best way for the rest of the drivers though, after the Monegasque driver lost control of his car coming out of the swimming pool section and ended up in the barriers and brought out the red flag.

This bitter-sweet ending to his qualifying session meant that Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz, who were all setting decent times behind him, had to abort their laps.

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A frantic Q1 got underway under cloudy Monaco skies with cars all over the short layout track and drivers had to do multiple warm-up laps to get the tyres to running temperatures as the track was colder compared to previous sessions. Both the Haas cars saw their drivers go out in Q1, especially Mick Schumacher who had a huge crash coming out of the casino square in free practice even failed to make it onto the track in the session.

A surprise knockout of Q1 was Fernando Alonso of Alpine who has had such a brilliant record at the track previously and this meant he would only be starting as high as P17 for tomorrow’s race. His teammate Ocon on the other hand qualified at a decent P11 giving himself a chance to score points. Highly talented Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda in the Alpha Tauri was another driver who had to exit Q1 after his hot lap could only manage to put him at P16. Latifi in the Williams could only manage a P18 while his teammate George Russell got out of Q1 yet again and will be starting at P15.

Q2 saw the 2018 Monaco GP winner Daniel Ricciardo get knocked out after his lap was only good enough to be placed at P12 which shows that the Australian is still getting accustomed to the McLaren car. His teammate Lando Norris however had yet another good qualifying session at put his McLaren at P5. Lance Stroll of Aston Martin and Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo were the rest of the drivers to be knocked out of Q2 and they are set to start from P13 and P14.

Credit: McLaren Media Centre

Q3 got off to a brilliant start as expected with Verstappen in the Redbull taking on the Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc but it was Leclerc who came out on top after the first runs. Mercedes who were struggling all weekend will take some comfort from the fact that Valtteri Bottas atleast managed to put his car onto P3 at the grid after the end of the session. Concern will still be present around Lewis Hamilton’s starting position after the championship leader could only manage a lap good enough to put him at P7.

Pierre Gasly put in another stellar performance even outqualifying Hamilton in the process and will be starting his race P6 alongside Norris in P5. Sebastian Vettel in the Aston Martin impressed yet again after qualifying for Q3 and he will lining up alongside an old rival in Lewis Hamilton at P8.

The Monaco GP returning after a 1 year break is all set to alter the course of the championship standings should Verstappen finish where he is starting from. Fate could still intervene for Charles Leclerc at his home race as his pole position might be taken away from him if his gear box has suffered from the crash but for now, Ferrari have a real chance of making a statement after a horrible season of 2020.

 

‘Performance is strong’ at Red Bull Racing

The iconic Monaco Grand Prix marked the sixth race of the 2019 F1 season, and while the focus this week has been on the loss of F1 legend and Mercedes mentor Niki Lauda, the race around the streets of Monte Carlo finally brought a long-awaited challenge to reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, in the form of Max Verstappen and Red Bull.

Red Bull’s decision to kiss goodbye to their partnership with Renault in 2018 was hardly a surprise to the world of F1, after a number of seasons falling short of their dominant years with Sebastian Vettel. It was also hardly a surprise to find that fans were dubious about their subsequent contract with Honda, who famously struggled in their partnership with McLaren.

With Max Verstappen hungry to win his first championship, the move to a power unit that had been even less reliable than Renault seemed like very risky business, but is the risk beginning to pay off?

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Rob Marshall, Red Bull’s chief engineering officer, certainly seems to think so, even if they are under no illusion they still have a way to go.

“We can see areas around the power-unit packaging-wise,” he said. “It’s just making different bits and moving a few things around. [Honda] are very open to our suggestions.”

The Red Bull and Toro Rosso drivers both felt the benefit of an upgrade brought to Baku, which was reflected in Verstappen’s solid performance. The same could not be said for his team mate Pierre Gasly, however, who was forced to retire on lap 40 out of 51 due to a loss of power.

In the run up to the Monaco Grand Prix, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who has been highly critical of the suppliers in the past, expressed the teams delight in working with Honda this season.

“We are very happy with the progress that’s being made […] to have closed that gap [to the top 2 teams] and put that performance on the car is really encouraging,” he said.

Horner was under no illusion about still having work to do with the car generally but, aside from Gasly’s retirement in Baku, reliability hasn’t been as much of an issue for the team.

“Reliability compared to previous years has been fantastic, and performance is strong […] Now we have to try and focus on diminishing the gap further to Mercedes”.

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Verstappen found enough pace to challenge Hamilton’s Mercedes, running in second position in Monaco from lap 11 after exiting the pit lane ahead of Bottas following an unsafe release. Though Verstappen finished in fourth place as a result of his five-second penalty, he is still positive about his race overall.

“Of course I would have liked to have been on the podium but if we look at the pace and performance, we were strong,” he said.

Pierre Gasly also had a respectable performance around the streets of Monaco, finishing fifth and also taking an extra point for fastest lap for the second time this season.

In terms of points and podiums, then, Red Bull is building a steady lead ahead of the other teams. After Monaco, Red Bull are on 110 points and are beginning to close the gap between themselves and Ferrari, who currently have 139 points. In the drivers’ championship, Verstappen is in fourth position with 78 points, behind Vettel with 82 points.

Pierre Gasly is in sixth position with 32 points behind Leclerc who has 57 points. Verstappen has also finished third twice so far this season – Monaco would have been another podium had it not been for the unfortunate penalty.

It almost goes without saying that Mercedes are the ones to beat, however with Red Bull’s newfound pace, it’s certainly an encouraging start for a team that were once the ones to beat.

 

[Featured image – Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool]

Hamilton triumphs in an incident-packed Monaco Grand Prix

Over the course of the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, the world of Formula 1 came together to celebrate the extraordinary life of Niki Lauda, triple world champion who sadly passed away in Vienna on the 20th of May at the age of 70.

The drivers all paid their respects, and the teams placed their own tributes on their cars, with Mercedes’ tributes have been most poignant. Lauda had been the non-executive chairman of the team and was regularly seen in the team garage alongside Toto Wolff; he had been an enormously important figure in bringing Lewis Hamilton to the team.

Lauda was always seen in the paddock wearing a red cap and so, in tribute, Hamilton and Bottas‘ cars had a red star painted on the bodywork – a reportedly permanent change – and the normally silver halo was painted red in the triple world champion’s honour. 

2019 Monaco Grand Prix, Thursday – Steve Etherington

Prior to the start of the Grand Prix, a minute’s silence was held to remember the Austrian, who fought against all odds following a horrific crash at the Nürburgring in 1976. At the time, his chance of recovery was slim and a priest administered the last rites and yet, miraculously, he survived. As the F1 world took a moment to remember a legend, few words were needed, other than ‘Danke Niki. 

Qualifying once again saw Mercedes at the front of the pack, with Lewis Hamilton taking pole position with a staggering 1:10.166. Teammate Valtteri Bottas, who posted a time just eight hundredths of a second slower, lined up alongside the Brit. Max Verstappen had looked quick in free practice and secured third position, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel securing 4th. Unfortunately for Charles Leclerc, his home race weekend didn’t get off to the best of starts and he qualified 16th after a major strategic error from his Ferrari team. The midfield once again remained incredibly close, bringing hopes of wheel-to-wheel action and entertainment in a race which is notorious for being fairly uneventful.

As the race got underway, Hamilton got a perfect start, with teammate Bottas also starting well. Around Sainte Devote, Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi had to cut the corner, however the stewards deemed an investigation was unnecessary. Leclerc fought his way past the cars ahead, making a memorable move around Lando Norris at the hairpin. Despite an impressive start and progression up the pecking order, a tussle with Nico Hülkenberg caused a puncture in the Ferrari driver’s right rear tyre and damage to the floor of his car.

With debris from Leclerc’s tyre littered across the circuit, the safety car was brought out and many drivers dived into the pits. In a rare mistake from the Red Bull pit crew, Max Verstappen was let out of his pitbox too soon and found himself pushing Bottas near to the wall. As a result, Bottas lost second place and was forced to pit again, changing onto the hard compound tyres. The stewards investigated and gave Verstappen a five-second penalty for the unsafe release, which was to be added to his time post-race. He was also given 2 points on his license. 

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Leclerc was stuck at the back of the train of cars due to his collision with Hülkenberg, and on lap 16, both himself and George Russell found the road ahead blocked by Antonio Giovinazzi and Robert Kubica, the latter having been hit by the Alfa Romeo when the Italian took the inside line at Rascasse. Luckily, all four drivers managed to get back on track and carry on with their race, even though Giovinazzi was given a ten-second penalty for the incident.

Leclerc made another pitstop and switched to softs, but his car was suffering from a severe lack of downforce. Unfortunately, he was forced to return to the Ferrari garage and retire from his home race. 

Stroll was investigated by the stewards for a clash with Kimi Räikkönen – the Finn taking part in his 300th Grand Prix – and was given a five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. 

By lap 48, the leaders were caught in a train of backmarkers, with Bottas being compromised by Lance Stroll and losing a chunk of time.  

Lewis Hamilton was doing his utmost best to care for his tyres, however their deteriorating condition and Mercedes’ strategy left the Brit anxious.  In the closing stages of the race, Verstappen remained on Hamilton’s tail, posting similar lap times which kept him on average just half-a-second behind the leader. Sebastian Vettel had been running in 3rd place for most of the race and it was a quiet and uneventful afternoon for the four-time World Champion. 

Ferrari Media

After a brilliant effort to pass the race leader with two laps to go, Verstappen and Hamilton made contact at the Nouvelle Chicane, but luckily both escaped the incident unscathed. The stewards reviewed the incident, but confirmed no further action was needed. 

Hamilton took his fourth victory of the season, dedicating the win to Niki Lauda, with Verstappen finishing second. However, because of his penalty, he was classified fourth behind Vettel and Bottas.

Pierre Gasly secured a bonus point for posting the fastest lap time, the second time he has done so this year. Carlos Sainz had a strong race for McLaren, finishing in 6th, while both Toro Rossos impressed in 7th and 8th. Daniel Ricciardo took the final point for Renault, with Lando Norris just missing out in eleventh. 

There are now 17 points between Hamilton and Bottas in the Drivers’ Championship. Mercedes appear to be running away at the top of the Constructors’ standings 

The seventh round of the 2019 Formula 1 season will take place on the 9th of June at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the Canadian Grand Prix.  

 

[Featured image – LAT Images]

Hamilton clinches pole in Monaco after disappointing qualifying for Ferrari

It was a dry but overcast afternoon in Monaco and, as the green light went out in Q1, eighteen of the drivers took to the Circuit de Monaco in a bid to claim pole position.

Monaco is a tight street circuit, so many choose to set competitive times early to avoid being caught out by a yellow or red flag. Early lap times are crucial at this track.

Both Red Bulls of Gasly and Verstappen sat in the garage at the beginning of Q1, with Verstappen’s car being pulled apart and swiftly put back together. Whatever issues he had seemed to have been fixed as he exited the garage.

Leclerc struggled to set a good lap time at the start of the session,  having been held up by Lance Stroll. Hulkenberg almost ran into Giovinazzi in a very similar situation at turn 18, with the pair being put under investigation for the incident.

Verstappen had the initial time to beat, three tenths quicker than defending world champion Lewis Hamilton. Leclerc was in third, with Alex Albon sitting in an impressive fourth place for Toro Rosso.

Hamilton also seemed to struggle, as replays showed the Mercedes driver locking up going into the chicane. After a bit of a scrappy lap, his teammate Bottas managed to set the pace with a 1:11.562.

Steve Etherington

Leclerc then missed the weighbridge procedure, as did Perez and Hulkenberg. All were investigated after qualifying came to a close for the infringements.

Vettel clipped the barrier at the Swimming Pool exit before pitting and returning to the track to set a competitive time. The Ferraris were cutting it fine in P17 and P15 as the chequered flag came out.

After topping the session in FP3, Leclerc dropped out of the session in a disappointing P16 at his home Grand Prix, having been left in the garage by Ferrari as the session came to a close. It was a costly and frustrating mistake which resulted in Leclerc falling behind traffic on his final attempt. Joining Leclerc in the drop-zone were Perez, Stroll, Russell and Kubica.

Both Mercedes went out at the beginning of Q2, with Bottas setting a new track record and Hamilton struggling to match the pace of his teammate in P3 behind Verstappen. Hamilton quickly managed to slot into second spot.

Several drivers made minor mistakes throughout the session, including Magnussen who clipped the wall going into Mirabeau as his Haas struggled to find grip.

With five minutes remaining in Q2, all drivers bar Verstappen went out to set their quickest laps. Verstappen sat in P1 in front of both Silver Arrows as the session ended with Hulkenberg, Norris, Grosjean, Raikkonen and Giovinazzi in the elimination zone. Grosjean was majorly unhappy with P13 after having been held up by the Red Bull of Pierre Gasly, who was then put under investigation for the incident.

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Both Alfa Romeo cars had a disappointing session after showing great pace in free practice, finishing in P14 and P15.

Vettel sat in P4, followed by Kevin Magnussen and both Toro Rossos. Gasly sat in P8 with Daniel Ricciardo behind in P9. Rounding out the top 10 was McLaren’s Carlos Sainz.

The final part of qualifying got underway as all ten drivers took to the track on soft compound tyres. Valtteri Bottas set the initial pace with a staggering 1:10.257, four tenths ahead of Max Verstappen in second position.

Hamilton initially made a mistake going into the chicane which meant his first lap had to be aborted, but he managed to slot into P2 on his second run, two tenths behind his teammate.

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo made a risky decision to go for only one flying lap in the session and managed P6.

Sebastian Vettel made a late mistake and ran into the barrier at Tabac, but he didn’t sustain any damage.

After a flawless performance throughout qualifying by Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton pipped his teammate as the chequered flag came out, clinching pole position by half a tenth from Bottas.

Behind, Max Verstappen lined up P3 followed by Sebastian Vettel in P4, Gasly, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Sainz, and Albon.

It was certainly an interesting session with several cars being investigated for impeding the regulations throughout the afternoon. It was another dominant session by Mercedes, but an extremely disappointing day for Ferrari who will have to rethink their strategy for tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix. What’s more, with a 60% chance of rain, it certainly seems as if the race could be full of surprises.

 

[Featured image – LAT Images]

Monaco Grand Prix: Among the Monte Carlo casinos, Ferrari look to finally strike lucky

Five: the number that bought endless jubilation to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes last year was also a haunting figure for Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari, as Hamilton claimed his fifth drivers’ championship, and Mercedes their fifth consecutive constructors’.

Now, five has become the shining symbol of utter and unbridled dominance from Mercedes, having taken five consecutive one-two finishes to start the 2019 season. It is a record-breaking start to the season that has left Ferrari looking on in exasperation in the wake of their rivals, and wondering just what they have to do to kerb the astonishing Silver Arrows.

And so the 2019 season takes us to the streets of onte Carlo for the Monaco Grand Prix – a race that should suit Ferrari, right?

Monaco Grand Prix 2018 – Sebastian Vettel

In a word: no. Perhaps the last couple of years would have seen Monaco favour the Prancing horses, but Mercedes’ pace in slow corners has far bettered Ferrari’s so far in 2019. Given that Monaco is packed full of those, it promises to be another good weekend for Mercedes.

However, as we know by now, Monaco has a habit of throwing the car performance book out the window. The proximity of the barriers to the circuit increases the necessity of raw pace, bravery and the most effulgent consistency. Cue drivers like Max Verstappen in the Red Bull, and this will be an extremely stern and uncompromising test of Valtteri Bottas’ title credentials as he approaches the weekend seven points adrift of Lewis Hamilton at the top of the championship.

Let’s not forget Monaco’s very own Charles Leclerc either. The young Ferrari driver grew up in and around the streets of Monaco, and if there was ever a time for Ferrari to turn their fortunes around, and for Leclerc to get his first win in F1, it is this weekend.

All in all, despite the lack of overtaking opportunity and the at times processional races at Monaco, there could still be a fight between three teams for the win. The aforementioned Max Verstappen will know that this is the first real opportunity for Red Bull to grab a win. as Daniel Ricciardo did last year. The Dutchman will have to keep it out of the barriers this time though.

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Looking further back, Haas’ one-lap pace will certainly come into its own on a circuit where it is notoriously difficult to overtake, while their seemingly improved race-pace in Spain will give them confidence. But, let’s hope for their sake that they’ve found an answer as to why they had such a disaster here last year, ending up at the back of the field.

Meanwhile, Antonio Giovinazzi looks to finally score his first points of the season, while Williams, who have just signed W Series’s Jamie Chadwick as their development driver, look to somehow avoid necessitating the use of any more scarce spare parts as they traverse barriers that eat debris for breakfast. They may even finish somewhere above 19th – this is Monaco after all.

It’s the race they all want to win, but for our championship protagonists – particularly Ferrari – it’s the one they need to win.

 

[Featured image – Ferrari Media]