The 2021 Monaco Grand Prix was not a classic race in F1, but it marked a potential turning point which could be crucial in the 2021 championship.
As the Monaco track does not invite many overtaking opportunities, many of the overtakes were done through strategy in the pit-lane, some of which turned the race on its head.
Winner – Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen was left frustrated after missing out on pole when Charles Leclerc ended qualifying early with a crash, but the Dutchman was unbeatable on Sunday.
Yes, Leclerc not starting the race made life easier for the Red Bull driver, but he fended off Valtteri Bottas at the start with some great driving and from then on it was plain sailing for the 23-year-old who won the Monaco Grand Prix with a controlling drive.
This race was the perfect opportunity for Verstappen to bounce back after Lewis Hamilton took back-to-back victories in Portugal and Spain. Coming away from the Monaco Grand Prix with the lead of the Drivers’ Standings is exactly what the Dutchman needs to keep confidence high heading into the rest of the season.
Whilst his rivals faltered, Verstappen remained calm and played his cards perfectly to take victory in Monaco.
Loser – Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc’s luck in Monaco isn’t improving, he is yet to finish a race in his home grand prix with DNFs in 2018 and 2019, and a DNS this year.
But whilst the Monegasque’s luck seems cursed around the Monte Carlo streets, I feel he pushes the limits just a bit too much when it matters. The 23-year-old was in the fight for pole on Saturday, but crashed on a flying lap which cost him dearly as his Ferrari suffered an issue before the race due to driveshaft damage caused by the crash.
This isn’t the first time Leclerc has seemingly faltered under pressure. Looking back at the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix when he failed to get out of Q1, the Ferrari driver made some pretty risky moves during the race. Whilst these were spectacular to watch, he ended up damaging his car after clipping the barriers whilst making a move, putting him out of the race.
This one will hurt for Leclerc, as it was clear Ferrari had the pace for potentially a victory, especially as Carlos Sainz had a solid drive to finish second. The Monegasque driver took it in good stead however, celebrating with his team after Sainz’s podium finish, but he will know that his mistake in qualifying cost him the chance for a victory at home.
Winner – Ferrari
Yes, one of Ferrari’s cars failed to start the Monaco Grand Prix, but that can’t dampen the fact the team were solid all weekend long. The Maranello-based squad looked how they did before their woes in 2020, topping sessions and having the pace to be right at the front.
Had it not been for Leclerc’s crash, Ferrari would have most likely had at least one car on the front-row, such was the strength they were showing. In the race it was more of the same, with Carlos Sainz having a perfect race to take second place, his first podium in Ferrari colours.
Questions will remain as to whether the Italian team can keep up this pace, at the moment they look to be on level-pegging with McLaren in the battle for third. The Monaco Grand Prix was a massive step in the right direction for Ferrari, who look like a completely different team compared to 2020.
Loser – Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton’s weekend in Monaco was to be put simply, a disaster. Judging by past experiences such as Germany 2019, when a weekend doesn’t look to be going to plan for the seven-time champion, nothing seems to go right.
Qualifying put a halt to Hamilton’s plans for a win in Monaco finishing seventh and making his job a lot more difficult come Sunday.
The Briton’s woes continued in the race after a strategy call from his team dropped Hamilton from fifth place to seventh as Pierre Gasly, Sebastian Vettel and Sergio Perez all jumped the Mercedes driver in the pit-stop phase.
The 36-year-old held nothing back both on the team radio and after the race, laying the blame on his team and leaving Monaco with a huge dent in his confidence. Hamilton now finds himself on the back-foot in the championship battle as Verstappen now sits at the top, meaning the Stevenage-born racer has a fight on his hands this year if he is to win his eighth title.
Winner – Sebastian Vettel
A fifth-placed finish in the Monaco Grand Prix is exactly what Sebastian Vettel needed to kickstart his 2021 campaign and life with Aston Martin after after a tough beginning to this season.
The German driver had a solid qualifying with an eighth place finish and drove even better through the race to jump both Hamilton in Gasly in the pit-stop phase to take fifth. We can’t forget the overtake Vettel pulled off on Gasly as he left the pits, which viewers missed as the cameras cut to *that* replay.
The four-time champion’s solid drive was enough to give him ‘Driver of the Day’, and will no doubt have given a huge boost of confidence heading into the rest of the season.
Loser – Mercedes
Mercedes will be in no hurry to remember this year’s Monaco Grand Prix, as they lost their lead in the Constructors’ Championship with Hamilton down in seventh and Bottas failing to finish the race.
With Bottas on the front row the German team had a perfect opportunity to halt Red Bull’s charge in Monaco and running in second for the first stint of the race Bottas was in a good position to do just that.
But Mercedes’ wheel-gun had other ideas.
As the Finn pitted, his right-front tyre failed to come off as the wheel-gun stripped the nut and essentially glued the wheel to the car, forcing Bottas to retire from second place.
The combination of Hamilton’s seventh place finish and Bottas’ retirement mean Mercedes leave Monaco without leading either championship, the first time that has happened since 2018.
The German manufacturer needs to bounce back quickly in Baku if they are to end off 2021 on a high note.
Winner – Red Bull
Red Bull’s solid Monaco Grand Prix also handed them the lead of both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships, the cherry on top of a perfect weekend.
The Milton Keynes-based team needed this result after Mercedes looked to have the upper hand leaving Spain, and they got exactly that. Verstappen came home to take a controlling win, whilst his teammate Perez produced an excellent drive to cross the line in fourth.
Heading to Baku, it’s advantage Red Bull. I feel they will capitalize on this with another win.
It’s the first time they have led the championship in years and the team won’t want to let this go. If they continue the form they have shown so far, they could be on for their first title since 2013.
Loser – Daniel Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo just can’t seem to click with his new McLaren car, and the Monaco Grand Prix will be one to forget for the Australian, finishing in 12th and a lap down from his podium-finishing teammate Lando Norris.
2021 has been a shaky start for Ricciardo, who looked comfortable in Bahrain but has since struggled to get to grips with his MCL35M. Spain looked like it was a turning point with a sixth-place finish, but Monaco showed the Honey badger has plenty of work still to do if he’s to get the best out of the McLaren car.
Norris’ performance this year shows the car is exactly where it should be, but Ricciardo can’t quite gel with his new machinery and if he is to begin life with McLaren in good stead, he needs some good, consistent results soon.
We saw the 31-year-old come on very well in his second term with Renault last year, so I think it may take time until we see the real Ricciardo, but I believe he will find his feet in the near future.
What do you think of Adam’s ‘Winners and Losers’ selection? Let us know of your thoughts in the comments!