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The Monaco Grand Prix has a reputation for being a bit of a snooze fest. This is unless neither nature comes in and helps out a little bit.
That’s what happened this year, as some rain late in the race led to a frenzy of pit stops, tire gambles and cars in the finding barriers.
However, it was going to take a lot more than a drizzle to keep Red Bull’s Max Verstappen from winning his second Monaco Grand Prix. The Dutchmen led the race from lights to flag, even if at times it looked like Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was in striking distance of a shock victory.
Verstappen drove a perfect race — especially given the greasy conditions he faced in the final 20-odd laps — for his 4th win of the season. He finished nearly 30 seconds ahead of Alonso, who also had a stellar performance (save for one hiccup, which we’ll talk about in a second).
The top 3 from the start were the top 3 at the finish with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon earning his 3rd career podium.
It was a solid race, and there were even some ballsy overtakes further down the field, a rarity at Monaco.
Huge Day For One Red Bull… Not So Much For The Other
While Verstappen was able to add to his championship lead over teammate Sergio Perez, Sunday’s Grand Prix was far from a team-wide success.
Perez started in P20 after a crash in qualifying. However, it looked like the team had come up with a stroke of strategic genius when the Mexican pitted at the end of the opening lap and swapped his medium tires for hards. The plan was for Perez to nurse those hard tires to the end of the race, while others pitted and dropped out of the running order because of crashes or mechanical issues.
That didn’t happen.
Perez ran into a pair of collisions at the Nouvelle Chicane, one of which cost him a front wing. That tanked the initial strategy, which got torpedoed even further when the rain rolled in from over the mountains.
It was a weekend to forget for the man who won the Monaco Grand Prix in 2022.
There’s still a long way to go, but given Verstappen’s form, Perez’s championship bid took a major whack this week.
A Tale Of Two Aston Martins
Like Red Bull, Aston Martin also had two cars with significantly different fortunes.
While Alonso nabbed his 5th podium in six races, his teammate Lance Stroll dealt with a nightmare race.
Beginning with the opening lap, it seemed like the Canadian hit — or was hit — by everything that moved, and several things that don’t.
Stroll eventually retired his car, and while he was out of the points at the time anyway, they were points that the team couldn’t afford to leave on the table. That was because Mercedes had a strong race with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finishing in P4 and P5 respectively; Russell doing so despite a 5-second penalty. That draws Mercedes within one point of Aston Martin for P2 in the constructor standings.
As for Alonso, his one hiccup came when the rain started coming down around lap 50. The team called him in to swap out his hard tires, however, they put him on mediums. Those slick tires weren’t going to cut the mustard, and he had to pit again on the following lap, this time for interest.
That would’ve been a costly mistake, had the two cars behind him — Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc — not waited too long to switch to intermediate tires behind him. Their double stack allowed Alonso to hang on to P2 for the rest of the race.
Big Haul For Alpine At Monaco
Alpine had a decent points haul in Miami, but they had a phenomenal race in Monaco, which — with no more French Grand Prix — is as close to a home race as the team and their drivers, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, will get.
Ocon held on to P3 despite some significant pressure from Lewis Hamilton to snatch the first podium of the season for the Endstone-based team. But while he will steal most of the attention for his performance, it’s worth noting that Pierre Gasly came across the stripe in P7.
That’s a nice points haul for the team, which now sits at 35 points on the season, good for P5 in the constructor standings. While they’re significantly off of Ferrari who sits in P4 with 90 points, it did add to their buffer over McLaren in P6.
Speaking of McLaren, toward the end of the race, McLaren had one of the best cars on track, with both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri eking into the points. McLaren seems to be improving quickly, and they’ve got some massive upgrades on the way, They could be a team to look out for.
All and all it was a really entertaining Monaco Grand Prix and a great start to the best day of the year in motorsports. Formula 1 is back in action next weekend in Spain.
Now, replenish those snacks and beverages — and take a bathroom break if needed — because next up is the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 after that.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle