2023 Monaco Grand Prix Roundup
After the washout that caused the cancellation of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix that was supposed to be going ahead last weekend, the Monaco Grand Prix was also a doubt with the torrential rain that Southern Europe was experiencing recently. However, in the lead up to race weekend things thankfully brightened up a bit and the race was given the go ahead. A relief for one of the oldest and most revered races on the Formula 1 calendar.
The Monaco Grand Prix has received criticism of late due to the difficulty to overtake, more an issue due to the size of Formula 1 cars these days and the tight street circuit not providing enough room for the wider and longer cars. However, that doesn’t detract from the glitz and glamour and the spectacle that the race weekend provides each year in the principality.
After missing out on racing last weekend they certainly made up for it during qualification. Street specialist Perez’s luck ran out after hitting the wall early on in Q1 and meant that he would be starting from the back of the grid. Not the circuit you want to be racing at from the back by any means.
By the time it got to Q3 there were a number of drivers who were lighting up the timing sheets and not necessarily the ones you would be expecting. Fernando Alonso was looking exceptionally strong, a driver who hasn’t been on pole since 2012, yet rekindling his youth at every race this season so far.
With just 3 minutes to go of Q3, Esteban Ocon set a blinding lap to go provisional pole position, not something expected of Alpine, by us or them. With the final seconds counting down, local driver Leclerc beat Ocon’s time before that man Alonso again taking top spot. Can he really take his first pole position in over a decade?
No. That man Max Verstappen, who as usual has something to say about it, performs an exceptional final sector to deny Alonso by less than one tenth of a second. Exceptional driving and a fantastic pole lap despite not a particularly good first two sectors and the fact he brushed the wall on the final straight.
So Verstappen and Alonso take the front row, ahead of Leclerc (later dropped 3 places due to impeding Norris during qualifying) and Ocon, Sainz, Hamilton, Gasly and Russell complete the top 8 places, with Tsunoda and Norris just inside the top 10. However, as is the way in Monaco, the driver starting on pole has only one two of the last seven races, with the driver starting in second place actually managing to win three of those.
Verstappen’s somewhat inconsistent race starts did not reappear in Monaco, with a clean getaway enough to keep him ahead of Alonso’s Aston Martin, who was also sporting a harder tyre compound. Commotion and locking up under braking, as well as clipping each other sending bodywork parts flying, in the pack behind seemed to be a trend for the first half of the race. One of the side effects to close street racing and a tight narrow circuit, and also subsequently difficult to avoid like Hamilton and Leclerc found out, though thankfully no punctures this time.
The race had become a bit of a precession, something that has hampered previous Monaco Grand Prix’s. Yet for a change on the South coast of France it would be the weather that would throw in some excitement in the closing stages.
Between laps 30-40 the one-stop strategy runners had completed their necessary tyre changes, just Verstappen, Alonso and Russell were staying out for longer stints, and most could be forgiven for thinking that was that in terms of drama.
The middle sector of the lap saw the rain starting to fall and the red and yellow flags waving as the cars decided to battle on the changeable conditions for as long as they could. By Lap 54, Fernando Alonso dived into the pits, presumably for a set of intermediates to predict the worsening conditions, but no, medium tyres would replace the worn hards just as the weather decided that was a bad decision.
The rain intensified some more, and the circuit became a wash with slipping and siding cars at almost every corner. Most using the runoff areas to save their blushes however some, like Lance Stroll, using the crash barriers as bumpers to make his way round the famous hairpin before losing his front wing in the process.
A flurry of pit lane activity meant that all but Magnussen decided to switch to Intermediates, which after a brush with the barriers at La Rascasse decided to go full wet tyres after that. Amongst all the mayhem of tyre swapping, Russell was given a 5-second penalty for an unsafe return to the track after backing out and then banging wheels with Perez whilst getting back underway.
The panic and slipping and sliding made way once the conditions stabilised and Verstappen was clear to resume his dominance over the rest of the field. Despite his own scare with brushing the wheel in all the mayhem, he managed to extend his lead to 30 seconds by the chequered flag. Another impressive performance from the reigning World Champion.
Alonso proving to be Mr Consistency yet again with a second place finish in his Aston Martin, with a similarly impressive Ocon finishing in third, a fantastic result for Alpine. Then came the two Mercedes of Hamilton and Russell, a solid performance in troubling conditions and some promise for their heavily upgraded car.
Leclerc ended up in sixth in another somewhat jinxed race for the Monaco national in his home race. One of these days he will have a trouble free home race and not feel like he is cursed around the famous circuit. Gasly split the Ferrari’s in seventh, with Sainz ended up in eighth position. Norris in his McLaren and teammate Piastri completing the top 10, a rare double points finish for them this time around.
Verstappen extends his lead at the top of the driver’s championship to 39 points over fellow Red Bull driver Perez, who could only manage 16th by the end of the race. Alonso now just 12 points behind the Mexican in third, ahead of Hamilton and Russell, then the Ferrari’s of Sainz and Leclerc.
In the Constructor’s Championship, Red Bull remain at the head of the pack with more than double the tally of the chasing Aston Martin team. Mercedes are now just a point behind them in third and must be happy with that after their troublesome start to the season. Ferrari sit fourth, with a large gap to the rest of the field headed up by Alpine, McLaren and the single figures scores of Haas, Alfa Romeo, AlphaTauri and Williams.
Next up on what would have been the third race weekend in a row, now just the second, is the Spanish Grand Prix at the historic Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on June 4th.
Find out more about the race and the calendar for the 2023 season here: F1 – The Official Home of Formula 1