Red Eye Reviews: 2021 Monaco Grand Prix26 May
It might not have been a vintage Monaco Grand Prix for the ages, but the latest round of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship had more than its fair share of talking points.
As Max Verstappen claimed a first victory in Monte-Carlo to elevate himself above Sir Lewis Hamilton at the championship summit, we reflect on all the major stories from another intriguing weekend.
Heartbreak on home soil for Charles Leclerc
The streets of Monte-Carlo have seldom been generous to home hero Charles Leclerc, who enjoyed his first experience of the sport from one of the many balconies that line the circuit as a child.
His luck seemed to have turned on Saturday, however, with Ferrari’s pace in the low-speed corners putting the Monegasque racer in the frame for pole position against the Prancing Horse’s recent run of form.
In the final minutes of the session, however, Leclerc clipped the inside apex heading through the chicane at Turn 15, which sent him on a collision course with the barriers. The end result was a red flag, and the end of qualifying, with Leclerc’s position atop the timesheets safe from the threat of Red Bull and Mercedes behind.
We’ll never know whether Verstappen or Bottas behind would have improved their times, but Verstappen claimed his aborted effort was ‘the lap’. What it did leave Ferrari with, though, is question marks over the condition of the gearbox.
Although the initial outlook was optimistic, it became clear shortly before the start that all was not well with Leclerc’s SF21. Charles reported gearbox problems on his sighting lap to the grid – the team had elected not to change the component and risk a grid penalty – and a left-hand driveshaft hub failure forced him to park up and end his Sunday before it properly began.
Verstappen leads the championship… for the first time!
With a clear road ahead going into Sainte-Devote, Verstappen’s afternoon became a much simpler proposition with the demise of Leclerc.
The Dutch racer duly covered off a fast-starting Bottas in typically firm fashion when the lights went out, and from there controlled the race from the front.
His first victory – and podium finish – in the Principality helped him overhaul Hamilton at the top of the standings, albeit by a single point, to kick the early championship battle between the pair up another notch.
Remarkably, given the 23-year-old has spent all but his rookie season in the sport fighting at the sharp end of the grid, it also marked the first time Verstappen has led the World Championship.
Whether he and Red Bull can now extend that advantage and put further pressure on Hamilton and Mercedes to respond is now the burning question heading to Baku next week.
One-off liveries bring podiums!
McLaren’s striking return to Gulf’s retro motorsport livery proved a hit with fans when it was revealed shortly before the Monaco Grand Prix weekend.
The iconic brand’s blue and orange scheme certainly lit up Monte-Carlo, with a similarly dazzling performance to match from the team’s rising star Lando Norris, who recently agreed a multi-year contract extension with the Woking-based outfit.
In truth, it proved to be a ‘weekend of two halves’ for McLaren, with Norris putting in a composed drive to the final spot on the podium, albeit lapping team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, a former winner in the Principality, in the process – with a little wave!
Despite the obvious bedding-in period at a new team, Ricciardo has almost half the points of his less-experienced team-mate after four rounds, with a best finish of sixth compared to Norris’ brace of third-place finishes.
Could the friendly team-mate atmosphere at McLaren give way to a rivalry if the state of play remains the same? Will we see more teams adopting these one-off liveries in the future? Time will tell…
Williams marks another milestone
One of Formula 1’s most famous teams marked another milestone in Monaco as Williams celebrated 750 races in the sport.
Although recent history makes for tough reading for the British team, they remain one of the sport’s most successful teams, with a combined sixteen Drivers and Constructors titles, over 100 race victories and more than 300 podium finishes since their debut in 1977.
George Russell marked the occasion with another Q2 appearance for the Grove team, before he and team-mate Nicholas Latifi both made forward progress in the race to bring the cars home in P14 and P15.
Can Mercedes take the heat?
It proved to be one of the toughest races in recent memory for the reigning champions, with both Hamilton and Bottas seeming to struggle for outright pace from the get-go in practice.
That trend continued into qualifying, with Hamilton only able to put the #44 seventh-fastest, albeit with Bottas ahead unlucky to not have a shot at pole position before the red flags curtailed his final flying effort.
A botched pit stop took the Finn out of contention in the race, whilst Hamilton – thrice a winner in Monaco previously – could only retain seventh in the race.
A difficult weekend, and one that cost the Brackley outfit the lead in both championships, but if recent history has taught us anything, it’s never to write off Mercedes.
Monaco Grand Prix Hospitality 2022
With limited space at this year's race due to Coronavirus restrictions, Red Eye are excited to be offering a full range of hospitality packages for the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix. We will have our unrivalled yacht hospitality, alongside balcony packages at the Shangri La and Fairmont. Please see the website for further details, or enquire with one of the team today to book that once in a lifetime trip.
From one street circuit… to another!
Although both races take place on street circuits, the next round of the championship in Baku, Azerbaijan couldn’t be more different from Monaco.
Both offer drivers very little margin for error, but a good combination of long, high-speed straights, heavy braking zones for overtaking and tighter, more technical sections always provides a thrilling spectacle. We’ll see you there!