2021 Monaco Grand Prix Blog
Come on, be honest, how many people thought that a Ferrari would be on pole for the Monaco Grand Prix?
As it turned out, Qualifying threw up quite a few surprises. Why did Lewis Hamilton struggle so much? Sebastian Vettel seems to have got to grips with his new car, securing a much improved eighth place on the grid. But Sergio Perez (starting 9th on the grid) and Daniel Ricciardo (12th) have not. Most importantly of all though – what was Charles Leclerc doing when he ploughed his car into the barriers at the exit of the Swimming Pool chicane?
Conspiracy theorists have been saying this was a deliberate ploy from Ferrari to bring about an early end to Qualifying and guarantee them pole. It wasn’t. Leclerc left the circuit a worried man on Saturday night. Would his car need a new gear box? The Monegasque must have been delighted when the team announced that it wouldn’t, but that joy was short lived, with the Ferrari completing just half a lap on its way to the grid before problems started. “No no no – the gearbox guys,” Leclerc said over team radio, before retreating back into his garage. A few minutes later Ferrari issued the news that all Scuderia fans were dreading: “Charles will not start the race due to an issue with the left driveshaft which is impossible to fix in time.”
This was a hammer blow for Ferrari and changed the complexion of the race entirely. Red Bull were rubbing their hands together, with the door now wide open for Max Verstappen. The race itself, it must be said, was uneventful. Verstappen is the consummate professional these days and he simply wasn’t going to let a chance like this go to waste, claiming one of the more straightforward victories of his career.
We know Monaco is a track which favours the Red Bull but it was surprising how far off the pace Mercedes were. Hamilton called his team’s performance over the weekend: “really, really poor,” and they found themselves in an unfamiliar territory when they called Hamilton in to pit first of anyone on Lap 29, in an attempt to undercut Pierre Gasly in P5. The move ended in disaster with Gasly able to maintain his lead on Hamilton after pitting one lap later and then both Sebastian Vettel and Sergio Perez being able to overcut Hamilton, leaving the world champion down in seventh place.
Worse was still to come for the Silver Arrows when Valtteri Bottas pitted on Lap 31. Driving well in P2 and with a possible shot at victory, those dreams unravelled as his mechanics were unable to remove his front right tyre. It transpired that a wheel nut had ‘machined onto the axle’ making it impossible to remove, and that was it, race over. Is Valtteri Bottas the unluckiest man in F1? We think so.
With so many of the big guns falling by the wayside, this was a gilt-edged chance for the smaller teams to score some serious points. Step forward Lando Norris (P3), Sebastian Vettel (P5) and Pierre Gasly (P6). All these guys drove excellent races and the result will have meant a lot, none more so than to Lando, who said afterwards: “Awesome. Monaco podium! It’s pretty incredible, I never thought it could happen coming into this weekend at all, so I’m super, super happy.”
What this result has also done is throw the Drivers’ Championship wide open. Verstappen now heads the standings, and with Austria and Hungary on the horizon, tracks which should play to Red Bull’s strength, will we see him increase his lead? Next up is the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in two weeks’ time, another street circuit, but this one is high speed and a chance for Mercedes to bounce back from a disappointing result in Monaco.