Red Bull's Max Verstappen wins Monaco Grand Prix to take championship lead
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc forced to pull out of the race with gearbox problem
Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen won the picturesque Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday to lead the world championship for the first time this season.
Verstappen capitalised on Ferrari pole-sitter Charles Leclerc's last-minute withdrawal from the race. The Monegasque driver's chances of winning his home race ended when he was forced to pull out due to a gearbox problem.
Ferrari's Carlos Sainz finished second with Lando Norris of McLaren completing the podium.
Verstappen darted in front of Valtteri Bottas and led from start to finish for his second win of the season and 12th of his career. The Red Bull driver took a four-point lead over seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in the standings.
“That was a master class and you’re leading the championship. Well done, mate,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner radioed to Verstappen as he crossed the finish line.
It is the first time since the German Grand Prix in 2018 that Mercedes have not led the championship. Hamilton finished seventh on an uncharacteristically bad day for the usually reliable Mercedes team.
Bottas retired from the race after a right-front wheel stub axle was stripped during his pit stop and Mercedes could not remove the tire.
Red Bull's Verstappen displaced Lewis Hamilton in the drivers' standings after the Mercedes driver finished in seventh position.
“It is so special to win here. Of course, I’m very proud,” Verstappen said. “But I’m thinking ahead to the rest of the season.”
He was then greeted by tennis star Serena Williams, who waved the chequered flag and was an honorary guest at the event.
“It’s so special around here to win. It’s my first time on the podium here,” said Verstappen, whose father Jos secured two podiums in 106 F1 races and was seven-time champion Michael Schumacher’s teammate at Benetton. “I remember when I was very little, you always want to win this one.”
Verstappen finished 8.9 seconds ahead of Sainz in Ferrari. Norris scored his third career podium the same week he signed a contract extension with McLaren.
“I don’t know what to say, it’s a dream to be on the podium here,” 21-year-old British driver Norris. “I didn’t think it was going to happen. I’ll cherish it.”
Sergio Perez was fourth for Red Bull, which moved back on top of the constructors championship ahead of Mercedes.
Mercedes have won the last seven drivers’ and constructors’ championships, but yesterday marked the first time in five races this season that Hamilton and Verstappen did not finish 1-2.
Hamilton, who was facing an uphill task, took aim at Mercedes after he became the first of the leading pack to stop for tyres on Lap 29 of 78.
He emerged from the pits in eighth, and then saw both the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s Perez rejoin ahead of him after they changed for rubber several laps later. “I don’t understand, guys,” said Hamilton on the radio. “I saved the tyres to go longer and we stopped before everyone.”
Hamilton’s race engineer Peter Bonnington then had to deliver the grim news that Perez was also ahead of him on the track.
“We have lost the position to Perez, too,” Bonnington said. “Sorry about that.”
Leclerc’s chances of winning his home race from pole position ended when he pulled off track with a gearbox problem. He crashed with 18 seconds remaining in Saturday qualifying and risked a five-place grid penalty if Ferrari changed his gearbox.
The team initially said Leclerc was good to go and the gearbox was fine, but about 20 minutes before the race Leclerc drove to the garage. Two years ago, Leclerc retired early in Monaco in his first season at Ferrari.
The race director decided not to move Verstappen up from second to pole and left that space blank, giving Bottas more room to overtake on the inside. He never got the chance as Verstappen pounced at the start.
Updated: May 23, 2021 08:32 PM