Sergio Perez bounced back from Red Bull team orders that denied him a chance to race for victory in Spain a week ago to pick up his first Formula One victory of the season in a rain-hit Monaco Grand Prix.
Perez earned his third career victory after a questionable strategy call by Ferrari cost Charles Leclerc a win on his home circuit despite starting from pole.
Although Leclerc finished the race for the first time in four attempts, his fourth place allowed reigning world champion Max Verstappen to extend his lead in the points standings. Carlos Sainz finished second for Ferrari and Verstappen was third for Red Bull.
Red Bull and Ferrari have claimed all seven races this season, but the win on the slick city streets of Monaco went to Verstappen's teammate just one week after Perez was ordered to hand over the lead to during the Spanish Grand Prix.
The team promised Perez he would be allowed to race for wins and held their word in Monaco.
“You dream of winning this, and after your home race, there is no place more special to win,” Perez said after waving the Mexican flag.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner patted Perez on the back as he walked alongside the driver following the race.
“Checo was sensational,” Horner said. “It’s very tough in conditions like that but we got the calls right.”
Horner joined Perez on the podium and the driver struggled to hold back tears as he puffed his cheeks and wiped his eyes while the Mexican anthem played.
“It’s a massive day for myself and my country. I am very happy."
Verstappen celebrated with Perez, whom he considers the best teammate of his career. “Amazing result for Checo,” he said. “Very pleased for him.”
Leclerc led from pole and screamed in rage when told to pit for a second tyre change on lap 22 — at the same time as teammate Sainz. His engineer realised the mistake and yelled “stay out!” but it was too late and Leclerc returned to the track in fourth.
"What are you doing?” Leclerc shouted. After the race, he lectured Ferrari again. “No words, no words. We cannot do that,” he radioed.
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto accepted the team made the wrong call for Leclerc.
“I know he’s not happy. It’s normal that he’s not happy because we only made mistakes. If you’re first and end up fourth it’s obvious something didn’t work,” Binotto said. “We should have stayed out. We’ll look at why we made that decision.”
Leclerc also claimed pole a year ago but never got to compete because he crashed at the end of qualifying, and the car’s gearbox failed moments before the start. In 2018 and 2019, Leclerc retired from the race with crash damage.
The race was delayed by 70 minutes for heavy rain and began from a rolling start behind a safety car. It was then red-flagged on lap 30 after Mick Schumacher’s heavy crash sliced his Haas car in two. He escaped unharmed.
“I’m fine, very, very upset not to finish the race," Schumacher said. “I don’t know why the car split in two."
George Russell finished fifth for Mercedes ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and the Alpine of Fernando Alonso. Seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton was eighth for Mercedes — extending his winless run with the Silver Arrows to eight races — while Valtteri Bottas was ninth for Alfa Romeo and Sebastian Vettel 10th for Aston Martin.
“Crazy afternoon. I thought the rain would make it more exciting but we struggled still on our cars,” Hamilton said. “Probably one of the worst (starts to the season).”