10 things we learned from the Monaco GP as Verstappen lands F1 title blow

10 things we learned from the Monaco GP as Verstappen lands F1 title blow

 

 

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1. Verstappen shows action speaks louder than words Max Verstappen landed the first major blow in the 2021 title race race in Monaco by enjoying an 18-point swing over chief rival Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton came into the weekend holding a 14-point lead over Verstappen, but a woeful weekend for Hamilton, coupled with a maiden Monaco victory for Verstappen, ensured it was the Red Bull driver who departed the principality with the championship advantage for the first time in his career. Verstappen and Red Bull were on top form to capitalise on a rare off-weekend for Mercedes, with the Dutchman saying after the race that his win was a “good lesson” to “talk on the track” in what appeared to be a dig at Hamilton’s pre-race comments. After five rounds, the title race is hotting up nicely…2. Chinks in Mercedes armour appear When the wheels fall off at Mercedes, they do so spectacularly.  In this case, Mercedes’ victory chances were thwarted by a wheel they couldn’t get off Valtteri Bottas’ car. Bottas’s hopes of taking the fight to Verstappen for the lead were dashed on lap 30 during a bizarre and calamitous pit stop that forced him to retire. M268579.jpg accImages.createImage();Things went little better on the other side of the garage, with Hamilton lacking confidence and grip in his car throughout as he struggled to one of his worst weekends driving for Mercedes. The seven-time world champion was already frustrated after qualifying a lowly seventh, and his mood only got worse in the race when Mercedes’ strategy proved to be the wrong choice, leaving him where he started in P7. An irate Hamilton said afterwards that Mercedes had not been up to its usual standards on what could end up proving to be a very costly weekend in the championship. Like Sakhir 2020, Germany 2019 and Spain 2016, the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix highlighted that the well-oiled Mercedes operation is not 100 percent bulletproof. Related ArticlesaccImages.createImage(); Ferrari impressed by Leclerc’s ‘great gesture’ at Monaco F1 podiumaccImages.createImage(); Crucial for Red Bull to capitalise on Mercedes’ “rare off-day” – Horner3. Hamilton’s frustration boiled over It was a miserable weekend for Hamilton, who like Mercedes, wasn’t operating at his normal exceptional level. It is rare to see Hamilton be critical of his team – especially considering his usual ‘we win and lose together’ mantra – but in Monaco his discontent at how things were unfolding was evident. After his poor qualifying – which was execrated by Mercedes opting against exploring the set-up approach Hamilton wanted – his hopes of salvaging any kind of decent result hinged on strategy. Related ArticlesaccImages.createImage(); Crucial for Red Bull to capitalise on Mercedes’ “rare off-day” – HorneraccImages.createImage(); McLaren delighted with ‘unexpected’ F1 podium at MonacoHamilton was rightly angry to lose out on three potential places he could have gained had things gone well, and several irate exchanges were heard over team radio during the race. 2808436.0064.jpg accImages.createImage();Hamilton’s criticism continued after the race, leading F1 motorsport chief Ross Brawn to suggest that “he’s a bit out of practice in handling these things”.Mercedes and Hamilton will analyse how and why their weekend unravelled and will be determined to bounce back in Baku. 4. Ferrari misses out on ‘one-off’ win Ferrari’s resurgence was one of the biggest stories of the Monaco Grand Prix weekend. Granted, it was largely down to the circuit’s unique layout playing to the characteristics of Ferrari’s 2021 car, but nevertheless it was fantastic to see the team back at the sharp end of the grid. “4Ferrari’s eye-catching practice pace translated into qualifying and enabled Charles Leclerc to produce a stunning lap to take a shock pole position, only for a on his final lap to ruin his chances of victory.2807260.0064.jpg accImages.createImage();An investigation found that a driveshaft hub failure directly linked to his qualifying shunt forced Ferrari to withdraw Leclerc from his home race before it had begun on Sunday. After the race, Leclerc admitted he fears he missed Ferrari’s only chance to fight for a win this season.Leclerc’s acted as a double blow for Ferrari as it also prevented teammate Carlos Sainz from joining him on the front row of the grid. “5Sainz went on to claim his maiden podium for Ferrari and his race pace demonstrated that had Leclerc been able to start the race from pole, he could well have gone on to deliver the Maranello outfit’s first win in F1 since 2019. 5. Norris continues to deliver Lando Norris’ stellar start to the season continued in Monaco as he recorded his second podium finish of the season – and third of his F1 career – by finishing third. McLaren had expected to struggle around the streets of Monte Carlo but a stunning lap from Norris in qualifying put him fifth on the grid. He inherited fourth place due to Leclerc not starting and was promoted onto the podium thanks to Bottas’ DNF. 2808306.0064.jpg accImages.createImage();But Norris had the pace on merit to earn his latest third place finish, having fended off Perez’s Red Bull in the closing stages to seal a spot on the rostrum.It marked the fourth time this season that Norris took a top-four finish and was a result that lifts him up to third place in the championship. “66. A step in the right direction for Perez Sergio Perez has struggled to match the level of teammate Verstappen so far since joining Red Bull, but in the Monaco GP, he enjoyed arguably his best race yet. A lack of single-lap pace in qualifying again let him down on Saturday, but a brilliant Red Bull strategy, combined with a strong drive, allowed Perez to finish P4. “7With the overcut strategy proving powerful, Perez maximised a brief spell running in clean air to great effect by jumping ahead of Vettel, Gasly and Hamilton when he pitted later than his rivals. While a late attack for a maiden Red Bull podium was not enough to beat McLaren’s Norris, a strong fourth place was just reward for a great recovery effort on Sunday. If Perez can get his Saturdays together, he will be right in the mix for the podium places. “82807965.0064.jpg accImages.createImage();7. Much-needed boost for Vettel, Aston MartinSebastian Vettel proved his doubters wrong with a superb performance around the streets of Monte Carlo as he got off the mark for Aston Martin in style. The four-time world champion’s recent slump appeared to continue into 2021 as he struggled to get up to speed at Aston Martin and endured a fairly difficult start to life in green. But Vettel turned a corner in Monaco, with the revitalised German taking advantage of a cunning strategy call by his team to leapfrog his rivals and improve from his P8 starting slot to cross the line in fifth. “9The Monaco GP weekend was Vettel’s best performance of the season to date and he will be hoping it will kickstart a run of improved form. 8. Lapped Ricciardo hits new low Things went from bad to worse for Daniel Ricciardo at the Monaco GP. Regarded as something of a Monte Carlo specialist, the Australian was unable to join teammate Norris in Q3 and knew he was in for a tough race after ending up 12th in qualifying. Stuck behind Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo, Ricciardo was unable to progress as he came home where he started, while his teammate went on to claim an unexpected podium. “102808437.0064.jpg accImages.createImage();Rubbing further salt into Ricciardo’s wounds, he was lapped by Norris in what ended up being a weekend to forget for McLaren’s new signing, whose struggles show little sign of coming to an end. “All weekend was a disaster,” Ricciardo summarised afterwards. “One of those weekends. “I would not have expected it here in Monaco. But we will try to understand it and come back.” 9. Giovinazzi’s luck improves After a run of unfortunate races, Antonio Giovinazzi scored his and Alfa Romeo’s first points of the season in Monaco. The Italian was one of the stars of qualifying as he recorded Alfa’s first Q3 appearance of the year with a lap good enough for 10th on the grid. Giovinazzi went on to convert that into his points top-10 finish of the season on Sunday, finishing just 0.4s behind Alpine’s Esteban Ocon in P10. The 27-year-old had not been rewarded for his efforts until Monaco, having endured a torrid run of luck. 2808187.0064.jpg accImages.createImage();At Imola, an unscheduled pit stop due to a brake issue ruined any hopes of a top-10 finish, while in Barcelona, a bizarre deflated tyre incident in the pits cost him a shot of points. Giovinazzi hopes his first points finish will prove to be a turning point to his season after his tricky start.10. A war over flexi-wings is brewing As well as the intense title fight, F1 2021 has recently been dominated by a flexi-wing controversy and a war of words between the Mercedes and Red Bull camps. That could escalate into full-blown warfare at Baku, with Mercedes indicating that the flexi-wing saga could lead to a protest at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix if teams are allowed to continue running them. Mercedes and McLaren are upset at the timing of a new set of FIA tests that will not be introduced until after Baku, where teams running the so-called “bendy” wings are expected to gain an advantage over those not. Toto Wolff has warned that Mercedes could end up in a “messy” fight against Red Bull in the International Court of Appeal. The situation is set to heat up in Baku, so watch this space…2766433.0064.jpg accImages.createImage(); 

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