The battle for the Formula One World Championship intensified on the streets of Monte Carlo as Max Verstappen took advantage of Leclerc’s misfortune.
Charles Leclerc’s home Grand Prix came to an end before it even started, crashing his car in qualifying after going quickest, and being unable to start as his “Monaco Curse” continued. Max Verstappen didn’t put a foot wrong, took absolute advantage of the situation and now leads the Championship by 4 points with Lewis Hamilton finishing a disappointing 7th. There were plenty of stories and highlights from an entertaining weekend (and a pretty dull race) and we’re here to recap the best of it with 6 things we learnt from the Monaco Grand Prix.
1. SHOTS FIRED; MAX VERSTAPPEN THREAT ISN’T GOING AWAY
In the first big blow dealt to Mercedes and Hamilton, Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen completed an 18-point swing in the Championship with a dominant lights-to-flag win and proved that they had the pace over one lap in qualifying and also through the race on Sunday. Hamilton seemed under the pump all weekend and had a few words for Max ahead of the weekend, to which Max saved his comments for the end with a dig at Lewis saying “actions always speak louder than words. I think that’s a good lesson after this weekend. You have to talk on the track, that’s what I like.”
In the form that they’re in and with Max seemingly in control, Monaco could prove to be a pivotal moment in the battle to dethrone Lewis Hamilton.
2. FORMULA E WINS THE MONACO BATTLE vs F1 IN 2021
Monaco remains the Crown Jewel on the racing calendar and is every racing driver’s dream to stand on the podium at The Principality with Royalty in many forms covering every square inch on a Grand Prix weekend. Qualifying often holds more importance than anything else and the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix was more proof with ONE overtaking maneuver over 78 laps of the race! The procession was hard to watch at times with the pitstops & the one or two moments around it perhaps giving us our only dose of entertainment, prompting even 2005 winner Kimi Raikkonen to label it a “boring race” and claimed that the size of the current F1 cars means drivers could go “as slow as you want” as no one can find a way past.
In stark contrast, the Formula E Monaco E-Prix delivered a racing spectacle on the 8th of May with close to 150 position changes, including 28 overtaking maneuvers between the top six drivers. It was no surprise that the lap-times achieved on the full Monaco circuit were slower than F1 but where they lacked in speed, Formula E more than made up with the on-track entertainment on offer including daring moves at Beau Rivage from Mitch Evans for the lead and a last-lap leap of faith from race winner Antonio Felix Da Costa at the New Nouvelle Chicane. It was a breathtaking race with overtaking and lead changes that are rarely seen in Monaco and was a great advert for the sport & electric racing.
3. THE RISE OF THE YOUNG BRIGADE CONTINUES
2021’s F1 grid isn’t starved of young, exciting talent but their “potential” is now fast converting into results. Every race since 2014 at Monaco had been won by a driver older than 27 but Max at 23 changed that this year and was joined by 21yr old Lando Norris (McLaren) and the “old” Carlos Sainz at 26, making it the second-youngest podium in the history of F1.
Max wanted a win in that department too and took a fun dig at Carlos in the post-race press conference, saying, “Carlos, you’ve ruined it man. You’re too old.”, with Sainz jumping straight back at him, “I knew you were going to say this. I knew it was coming. We were talking about it exactly ten minutes ago.”
The changing of the guard is here!
4. RICCIARDO & ALONSO STILL HAVEN’T FOUND THEIR FOOTING
To build further on #3, two men past the age of 30 but widely expected to be the quicker of their teammates, are 39yr old Fernando Alonso and 31yr old Daniel Ricciardo who’ve both comfortably been outpaced by Esteban Ocon and Lando Norris. The Frenchman at Alpine has beaten the Spanish 2-time Champion in the last four races and leads their qualifying Head-to-Head battle 4-1 as well.
Ricciardo meanwhile has been one of the top-rated drivers on the grid for a while but he’s being outclassed by Lando who’s currently driving that McLaren at another level. We expected Daniel to come back strong on the streets he loves at The Principality where he famously won in 2018, but instead was lapped by his teammate and was still miles away from the 21yr old sensation.
5. SEBASTIAN VETTEL PROVES WHY HE’S AN ASSET TO ASTON MARTIN
While Fernando Alonso’s two-year hiatus from F1 might be hurting him, it seems like the other multiple World Champion on the grid, Sebastian Vettel is finally gaining ground and confidence at new squad, Aston Martin. Out of the 7 teams that had scored points coming into Monaco, Seb was the only driver of 14 yet to open his account in 2021 but did so with a 5th place finish that earned him the Driver of the Day Vote too. It was only his 2nd top-5 finish since the start of 2020 where he finished 3rd in Turkey, but in 11 visits to the Monaco GP, the German now has 11 top 5 finishes!
Vettel was on a 7-race points scoring drought but suddenly vaults ahead of Lance Stroll in the Championship and will need to match his Monaco form with consistency to ensure he keeps adding value in his new senior role at Aston Martin.
6. THE FLEXI-WING WAR IS HEATING UP
The battle between Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes has heated up on track but has started to boil over, off the circuit too. Here’s what the fuss is about. Article 3.8 of the FIA’s technical regulations states: “Any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance must remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car.” Some teams, including Mercedes, McLaren & Aston Martin, have raised issues that a number of teams are exploiting flexible rear wings to get extra straightline speed boost and so new rigidity tests are being introduced by the FIA from the French Grand Prix. That is however AFTER the next race in Azerbaijan where it’s being estimated that Red Bull could have an advantage of six-tenths of a second PER LAP down the two long straights in Baku.
Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff isn’t happy with that outcome and thinks the situation could get ugly if not solved AHEAD of Baku, “Yeah, I think if the limbo wings are on in Baku, with the advantage that we see, it’s going to go to the stewards,” said Wolff, “And if the stewards are not enough, then it’s going to go to the ICA [International Court of Appeal]. So I guess the FIA is going to clarify things before Baku, because if not, it could be very messy.”
The heat is well and truly on in 2021…
[Image Credit: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool]