Verstappen Flexes in Monte Carlo
The 2023 Monaco Grand Prix was highly anticipated, especially after the cancellation of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix due to severe flooding. The world’s most famous street course had racing fans eager to see what drama could unfold on the infamous track, and you cannot help asking how many red flags would be waving during the race. In any case, Max Verstappen entered the Monaco Grand Prix, a heavy favorite leading the championship over his teammate Perez. Mercedes made some significant changes to their side pods, and Ferrari was hoping that their Monegasque Driver Charles Leclerc would finally have some good luck in his home race. One thing is certain the Monaco Grand Prix has not lost the strong nostalgic feel making it one of F1’s premiere races despite heavy criticism about the lack of passing at the circuit. At the moment, the Monaco Grand Prix is here to stay, and let us look at how the weekend unfolded.
On Sunday, on the streets of Monte Carlo, Qualifying began, and there was immediately a slew of red flags slowing down the sessions. Perez had a nightmare day spinning and crashing his Red Bull ending his day and landing him in last place on the grid on race day. Perez would have a monstrous task to overtake the entire field, but perhaps the mighty Red Bull could help through. The real dram was at the front of the pack, with Verstappen, Alonso, and Leclerc staking turns, claiming pole position until the very last seconds of Q3. Leclerc struck first, hitting the fastest lap of the day, sending a roar through the crowd, only to have Alonso take it away from him with a more impressive lap. Leclerc, unfortunately, could not keep his P3 starting position for the race as he was penalized by the FIA for obstructing Lando Norris and his McLaren during his fast lap. Leclerc would now have to start in P6, bumping up Alpine’s Esteban Ocon into P3.
Alonso, who had not sat on Pole since 2012, watched Verstappen perform an incredible final lap stealing the Spaniard’s hopes by 052 seconds. It was Verstappen’s first pole position in Monaco and the third of the season. Verstappen completely controlled Monaco because whoever claimed pole position was by far the favorite. Still, with Alonso and his Aston Martin behind him at the start, things may turn out differently on Sunday.
An overcast sky filled with clouds welcomed the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix, and the biggest question of the day was if Alonso could pull off a bold move into turn one to take over the lead of the race from Verstappen. If not? Would pit strategies ultimately decide who will win the race? Monaco, despite lacking many overtaking possibilities, there is always uncertainty about how the race will unfold once the chequered flag is waved after 78 laps.
The grid was set, the red light lit up, and the Monaco Grand Prix crowd roared as Verstappen held off Alonso. The top ten on the grid remained the same, and in the bottom ten, Lane Stroll fell back four spots from 14th. Perez and his Red Bull pitted immediately, opting for Hard Tires and setting up the rest of his race for a one-stopper. Could Perez make it to the podium, getting his lone pit stop out of the way?
After ten laps, the race order was P1 Verstappen, P2 Alonso, P3 Ocon, P4 Sainz, P5 Hamilton, P6 Leclerc, P7 Gasly, P8 Russel, P9 Tsunoda, P10 Norris. Not much action after the start as the field of drivers began settling in, and a long train of F1 cars developed.
On Lap 11, Sainz touched the rear of Ocon, causing the front wing of the Ferrari of Sainz to be damaged. Despite losing the left flap of his wing, Sainz refused to pit and went on with his race, maintaining decent lap speeds.
Some overtaking began, with Magnussen making an impressive move on Williams’ Logan Sargeant without using DRS. By Lap 20, Verstappen still led the race comfortably with an eight-second gap ahead of Alonso.
The race was relatively calm until Lap 50, when the rain started to fall on some parts of the circuit. The drivers had to cope with changing conditions and slippery surfaces, and sometimes slowing to a crawl. Some drivers made mistakes and hit the barriers, which led to the entire field opting for intermediate rain tires. The rain helped create a heightened sense of tension, but once drivers settled into and understood the conditions on the track, control was regained on the perilous track.
The rest of the race was uneventful, as Verstappen controlled his pace and crossed the finish line first, scoring his third win of the season and extending his lead in the championship. Alonso was second, scoring his fifth podium of the season for Aston Martin, and Ocon was third, giving Alpine their first podium of a hard-fought season. Russel crossed the finish line in 4th, followed by his teammate Hamilton in fifth, marking a solid day for Mercedes. Ferrari’s frustrations continue with Leclerc in 6th and Sainz in 8th place. Alpine added more points to their race tally, with Pierre Gasly finishing in 7th. McLaren was proud to round off the top ten with Norris in the 99th and Oscar Piastri in the tenth.
SPAIN HERE WE COME
Verstappen proved once again that he is the man to beat this season, while Alonso showed that he still has what it takes to compete at the highest level. The next race will be the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, where Verstappen can continue dominating his fellow drivers. Alonso may have something to say about, hoping to give his home country support a win to cheer about.
|1||MAX VERSTAPPEN||NETHERLANDS||RED BULL||1:15.650|
|2||FERNANDO ALONSO||SPAIN||ASTON MARTIN|
|8||CARLOS SAINZ JR||SPAIN||FERRARI|
|11||VALTERRI BOTTAS||FINLAND||ALFA ROMEO|
|12||NICK DE VRIES||NETHERLANDS||ALPHA TAURI|
|13||ZHOU GUANYU||CHINA||ALFA ROMEO|
|15||YUKI TSUNODA||JAPAN||ALPHA TAURI|
|16||SERGIO PEREZ||MEXICO||RED BULL|
|RETIRED||KEVIN MAGNUSSEN-LAP 70||DENMARK||HAAS|
|RETIRED||LANCE STROLL-LAP 53||CANADA||ASTON MARTIN|