Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen survives a mid-race rain shower to take victory at the most famous street race on the Formula 1 calendar, the Monaco Grand Prix.
The double world champion converted pole position successfully despite having to contend with the wet weather among the final third of the race, extending his stint on the medium tyres to cover off the looming threat of rain.
With a dry start to proceedings, the medium-shod Verstappen covered off any threat of a pass from Fernando Alonso on the hards at the start, and immediately began to cement his lead early on with a strong opening salvo of laps to build a buffer.
Alonso was unable to match his fellow two-time champion’s laptimes in the first phase of the race, as worries over a puncture suggested that the Aston Martin was not handling correctly – although his team informed him that all was well when checking tyre pressures.
The lead reached 11.8 seconds by lap 25, although this had shrunk slightly by the 30th lap, with the gap 10.6 seconds over Alonso. At this moment had begun to close in on traffic as he was angling to lap the backmarkers – including teammate Sergio Perez.
This allowed Alonso to cut into Verstappen’s gap in an attempt to barge his way through the rearguard action, despite Perez doing his best to make his fellow Red Bull driver’s life easier.
The gap shrunk to 5.6 seconds, but then began to grow once more as Alonso was now firmly ensconced in the tailback as Verstappen had largely cleared it.
Radio reports over the severity of rain began to intensify, and Red Bull elected to hold off pitting Verstappen to ensure he was well placed to take advantage of a well-timed pitstop.
As light showers grew into heavier rainfall, particularly in the middle sector, which prompted a number of backmarkers to bolt on the intermediate compound.
Alonso then pitted on the lap 54, but Aston Martin made a decision to use mediums onto the Aston Martin just as the rain continued to fall.
This prompted him to pit again on the following lap, along with Verstappen, to collect the intermediates – but the gap was well over 20 seconds at this point.
Despite Alonso’s best efforts to close the gap over the remaining 20 laps, getting it down to 17.8 seconds at one point as Verstappen could not switch on his intermediate Pirellis as swiftly, the Red Bull driver grew in strength and continued to build his advantage.
Alonso’s arrears continued to increase and he eventually had to concede, finishing almost 28 seconds behind at the chequered flag.
Esteban Ocon converted his third position start into a third Formula 1 podium, despite coming under heavy pressure from Carlos Sainz in the early stages.
Sainz and Ferrari had been attempting to goad Alpine into pitting Ocon early to gain track position, but the team did not bite. On the lap 52, Sainz had his best shot at passing Ocon as the rain had emerged, but went off at the Nouvelle Chicane and had to give way.
Ocon then came under attack from Lewis Hamilton during the rain-hit phase of the race as the Mercedes duo had undercut the Ferraris, but the Alpine driver held firm to keep hold of a podium place.
Hamilton finished fourth ahead of team-mate George Russell, who copped a five-second penalty for rejoining the circuit unsafely at Mirabeau; having slid off, he reversed and went into the path of a hapless Sergio Perez, who made contact with the Mercedes.
Nonetheless, Russell’s advantage over Charles Leclerc ensured he kept fifth, as the home hero overtook team-mate Sainz as they were scrabbling around on medium tyres prior to their pitstop – and a double-stack to swiftly bring the SF-23s onto intermediates hurt Sainz further.
This put the Ferrari driver behind Pierre Gasly, whom he could not pass despite lingering behind his gearbox.
Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri completed the points, the McLaren duo making carbon-copy Turn 1 passes on Yuki Tsunoda on consecutive laps as the AlphaTauri driver struggled with his brakes.
Verstappen opened his championship lead to 39 points over Perez following a miserable race, where he pitted five times having started last, and ultimately finished P16. Not a good day for last year’s winner.
So congratulation to Max Verstappen in winning and becoming the most successful Red Bull driver with 39 race victories, one more than Sebastian Vettel. An impressive achievement in Formula 1.
Monaco Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:48:51.980
2 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +27.921s
3 Esteban Ocon Alpine +36.990s
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +39.062s
5 George Russell Mercedes +56.284s
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +61.890s
7 Pierre Gasly Alpine +62.362s
8 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +63.391s
9 Lando Norris McLaren +1 lap
10 Oscar Piastri McLaren +1 lap
11 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +1 lap
12 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri +1 lap
13 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +1 lap
14 Alex Albon Williams +1 lap
15 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +2 laps
16 Sergio Perez Red Bull +2 laps
17 Nico Hulkenberg Haas +2 laps
18 Logan Sargeant Williams +2 laps
Kevin Magnussen Haas DNF
Lance Stroll Aston Martin DNF