The fifth race of the 2021 Formula One season is covered here by our F1 correspondent Nick van der Meulen in his report F1 Review Monaco 2021.
The Monaco F1 Grand Prix is generally the most glamorous round of the F1 calendar, with the richest and most famous glimpsed at the principality. F1 teams also tend to rise to the occasion, with a number of teams having produced special liveries for this race in the past. McLaren took the liberty of adorning their machines in the legendary Gulf colours – a scheme that looks so good this fan feels it should be kept for the remainder of the season. Sadly, the fifth round of the 2021 F1 World Championship was hardly a scintillating one, with the most exciting occurrences happening before the race even began.
Ferrari looked very strong at the twisty street circuit, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz topping the timesheets on Thursday (Monaco is different, in that it has its first day of free practice sessions on Thursday, a free day on Friday and qualifying on Saturday). This was followed by Leclerc posting a scintillating time in qualifying on Saturday, before the Monegasque brushed the barrier heading into one of the many chicanes, breaking the front steering arm and pitching him heavily into a barrier on the outside of the corner.
This brought out the red flag, however, Leclerc kept his pole position. The team checked his gearbox twice for damage and gave Leclerc’s mount the all clear. Inexplicably, just before the race was due to begin the team announced there was “an issue” with the left driveshaft, which couldn’t be repaired in time for the race! The Monegasque could not defend his pole position at his home Grand Prix. At such a prestigious race, this monumental blunder surely cannot go unnoticed. Sainz performed well on race day, however, and tried valiantly to keep race winner Max Verstappen honest, but had to be content with a fine second place finish.
Red Bull Racing-Honda will be very satisfied with the way the race progressed, as Verstappen cut across the bow of Valtteri Bottas at the start to take a lead he would not relinquish. He smashed in fastest laps in quick succession to stamp his authority on the rest of the field. The Dutchman’s victory ensures that he takes the lead in the world championship standings. Teammate Sergio Perez looked out of sorts at the beginning of the race, circulating in eighth place, before he came into his own and began posting fastest laps mid-race. His performance saw him pass three cars through the pit stop sequence and emerge in fourth position, which he kept until the fall of the chequered flag.
A weekend to forget
Mercedes had a disastrous weekend, by their lofty standards. Bottas qualified third fastest at a circuit where qualifying is vital, while Hamilton could only manage seventh on the grid. Bottas slotted behind Verstappen at the start and looked solid in second place, but suffered a front left tyre nut being jammed on the hub during his pit stop – an issue that could not be addressed, leading to the only real retirement from the race. Reigning world champion Hamilton could not overcome the issues he had with his mount on race day and had to settle for seventh place and a consolation point for fastest lap.
Lando Norris had a good weekend for McLaren-Mercedes, taking his special-liveried mount to finish a fine third, days after signing an extension to his McLaren contract. Once again, he trounced his more fancied teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, the “Honey Badger” circulating in the mid-field throughout the race.
Aston Martin-Mercedes will breathe a sigh of relief as their new signing, Sebastian Vettel, put in his finest performance for over a season, finishing fifth and claiming the “Driver of the Day” accolade. Lance Stroll also put in a solid performance to finish eighth.
Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri-Honda) drove solidly, without mistakes, to keep Hamilton behind him and finish an excellent sixth; Esteban Ocon (Alpine-Renault) finished ninth and trounced his more illustrious teammate Fernando Alonso in the process; Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) took the final points in tenth place.
The sixth round of the world championship takes place at Baku, Azerbaijan, on 4 to 6 June 2021 – another tight, twisty makeshift circuit.