Formula 1 2021 Monaco Grand Prix was held in the streets of Monte Carlo, Monaco. It was the fifth round of the 2021 Formula 1 season and the 78th running of the Monaco Grand Prix. The race wasn’t held last year due to the pandemic, but this year it was the first race of the season with a decent number of spectators present throughout the race weekend. Monaco is often referred to as the Jewel in the Crown, and winning the Monaco GP is a dream of every F1 driver.
It is the shortest race of the year in terms of the distance covered and also the slowest with an average speed of 100 mph. Drivers often say the track is difficult for overtaking, but it’s more realistic to say that this circuit is impossible to overtake. Charles Leclerc grabbed the top spot on Saturday by qualifying on pole position. Max Verstappen won his first-ever Monaco Grand Prix ahead of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, both taking their maiden podiums at Monaco too.
Pre-Race Preparations Wednesday
Monaco is the only race of the season in which there is no racing done on Friday, following a very old tradition around the streets of Monte Carlo. The practice session on Thursday and Friday acts as a rest day or party day for a few (before the pandemic that is). Weather conditions were predicted to be bright and sunny for the weekend. Qualifying is an absolute king in Monaco, and drivers are more likely to finish in the place they started.
Pirelli brought the three softest compounds for the race in Monaco. The teams ran their car with maximum downforce with the combination of slow to very slow speed corners. All these factors conspired to put very little energy into the tyres. For this race, C3 (white) is the hard tyre, C4 (yellow) is medium, and C5 (red) is the soft.
Lando Norris sent a text message to his former teammate Sainz, now at Ferrari, telling him that he will have a car capable of winning in Monaco. At the end of both practice sessions, it became clear that Lando was right. Ferrari finished the second practice in the top 2 positions, with Charles Leclerc setting the fastest time. Things were obviously going in their favour because even when Leclerc missed the first practice session with a gearbox issue, he still managed to finish on top.
Red Bull was the second-fastest team behind the Scuderia, while Mercedes struggled badly to generate heat into their tyres. McLaren looked 4th quickest on a track where they expected to struggle as the car was not suited to the slow-speed nature of the race track. Alpha Tauri, Alpha Romeo, and Aston Martin all contended to score minor points on Sunday.
Max Verstappen turned the tables on Ferrari, but both the red cars were very close, and Carlos Sainz was in P2 less than half a tenth behind. Charles Leclerc was in third place after he could not complete a clean lap around the municipality. Valterri Bottas led Mercedes into qualifying after finishing the Saturday session in P4 ahead of Red Bull of Sergio Perez. Lando Norris was 6th for McLaren ahead of struggling Lewis Hamilton, Raikkonen 8th, Gasly 9th, and Vettel was 10th.
Mick Schumacher failed to take part in his first-ever qualifying in Monaco due to a heavy crash in FP3 which resulted in damage that the team could not repair for qualifying. Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso was the biggest loser of the session after he failed to progress into Q2. Mazepin, Latifi and Yuki Tsunoda were the other three drivers knocked out at the end of Q1.
Leclerc finished the second qualifying session at the top after every driver decided to use soft tyres to progress into Q3 and start the race on the same set of tyres. Former Monaco pole sitter and race winner Daniel Ricciardo failed to reach Q3 and qualified in P12, and was nearly a second slower than his teammate. Stroll, Ocon, Kimi and Russell joined Ricciardo at the end of Q2.
Charles Leclerc grabbed provisional pole positions when he delivered a lap during the first two runs in the Q3. Max slotted in behind him, and Bottas clocked the third-fastest time. All the drivers went out for their final runs, Leclerc crashed into the right-hand side barrier, coming out of the swimming pool chicane. The red flag was deployed, and those behind him, including Verstappen and Bottas, were denied a chance to grab P1. Sainz finished 4th ahead of Norris, Gasly, Hamilton, Vettel, Perez and Giovinazzi.
Sunday Race: Verstappen & Red Bull Now Lead the Formula 1 Championship Standings
There was a lot of talk in the paddock that Charles Leclerc might have to change his gearbox after he crashed heavily at the end of the qualifying session. The Ferrari team dismissed these ideas and stated that there was no need for a gearbox change; thus, Leclerc was to start at the pole position.
However, coming out of the tunnel on the way to the grid, he radioed his team that the gearbox was gone. He returned to the pits and, after investigation, it was found that the left driveshaft was damaged. Leclerc did not start the race, and his bad luck in his home race continued. The race director did not allow drivers to move up, so Max started from P2, the de facto pole position.
Max Verstappen made a good start and covered the fast-starting Bottas. This was probably the most action-less race of the season. The order stayed the same until the first round of pitstops. Lewis was the first driver to pit in lap 29 and switched to hard tyres. He had hoped to make an undercut on Gasly in 6th place. Gasly pitted the next lap and came out ahead of Lewis in 5th place.
Bottas also pitted on lap 30, but the right front wheel gun mechanic made a mistake to put him out of the race. The mechanic machined the outer surface of the nut, and hence there were no splines left for the gun to hold onto. Vettel jumped the pair of Gasly and Lewis at the end of his late pitstop.
The order at the end of the pitstops was Max leading from Sainz and Norris. Perez was up to 4th ahead of Vettel, Gasly, Lewis, Stroll, Ocon and Giovinazzi.
Max won the race ahead of Sainz and Norris, the three making it the second youngest podium in the history of F1. This was the first podium of the season for Ferrari and Sainz. It was also the first podium for Norris at Monaco, the second of the 2021 season. Verstappen is now leading the drivers, and Red Bull is leading the constructor's championship.
Let’s Watch Out Next for the F1 2021 Azerbaijan GP
The sixth round of the 2021 F1 season will now take place around the streets of Baku. It is a street circuit but overtaking is possible with the very long home straight.