Though the most dramatic moment of the Monaco Grand Prix came half an hour before the start, it was ultimately not a race devoid of action – and one that heralded a rare change at the top of both of Formula 1’s championship tables.
Below, our writers select their winners and losers from F1’s return to the principality.
“Not too bad a Sunday” was the understatement of the weekend from Max Verstappen, whose victory in Monaco was lauded as a “masterclass” by team boss Christian Horner.
It certainly ticked every necessary box, even if a large part of the hard work was done for him when poleman Charles Leclerc failed to make the start.
It ended a slightly underwhelming Monaco record and etched his name into the history books at this famous event.
But most importantly the result thrust him to the top of the world championship standings for the first time this season and in his career.
Game on in the title race. Advantage Verstappen. – Scott Mitchell
Carlos Sainz Jr
As disappointed as Sainz was with the timing of Saturday’s red flag, the maths on him taking pole without Leclerc’s crash doesn’t quite check out. So this is very much a first Ferrari podium gained rather than a first win lost.
Valtteri Bottas’s pitstop drama was a welcome gift, but the result was warranted by Sainz’s great weekend. The Spaniard continues to be easily the best-adapting driver of those who moved teams for 2021, and though he was joined on the podium by his former McLaren team-mate Lando Norris, any suggestions of him regretting his move – which did crop up at Ferrari’s lowest points back in 2020 – can now be firmly put to bed. – Valentin Khorounzhiy
Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin
The Sebastian Vettel/Aston Martin alliance finally burst into life with a brilliant result in Monaco that is very much out of line with their season so far.
A maiden points finish in green looked on the cards after Vettel nailed a top-10 starting position for the second race in a row.
But the problems for Leclerc/Bottas, a longer first stint than Lewis Hamilton and Pierre Gasly, and a gutsy pit exit from Vettel to fend off the AlphaTauri up towards Beau Rivage and Massenet, combined to give Vettel a surprise fifth place.
That was capped by smart strategy work and an excellent long first stint from Lance Stroll ensuring Aston Martin could celebrate a double points finish.
It’s a result that earned almost triple the points Aston Martin had scored over the first four races combined, and launched the team to fifth in the championship. – SM
From one of the best laps of Lando Norris’s career comes one of his best results.
Misfortune for Leclerc and Bottas opened the door and once he snuck in, Norris made sure it slammed shut behind him.
There was a brief scare early on when he ended up on his final warning for going wide at the Turn 10 chicane but he never erred again.
Sergio Perez got dangerously close near the end as Norris grappled with a car handling “awfully” during the long stint on hard tyres.
Norris managed the peak of that pressure without any mistakes and held on for a deserved second podium of the season that, amazingly, puts him back up to third in the standings ahead of Bottas. – SM
Qualifying only ninth and finishing behind a Ferrari and a McLaren reads on paper like another example of Red Bull’s second car underperforming.
But actually Monaco ended up being the first time Perez could do what he’d been signed for on race day and strike a blow for Red Bull in the title battle.
Yes, he only had the opportunity to do so because Hamilton was having such a bad weekend, and if Bottas hadn’t retired then Mercedes would still have been ahead in the constructors’.
Notwithstanding that, in the laps that mattered around the pit sequence, Perez did everything Red Bull could’ve hoped for from him with some ultra-rapid pace that gained him three places – one, crucially, at Hamilton’s expense.
Red Bull really needs Perez to be qualifying up with Verstappen and beating Mercedes on its good days too. He’s not there yet. Maybe he won’t ever get there. But today he was a crucial part of the swing that put Red Bull into the lead of both championships. – Matt Beer
It feels wrong to include Charles Leclerc in this column and there is rightly a great deal of sympathy for the Ferrari driver around Monaco right now.
But, barring any unexpected explanation to the contrary, this was ultimately a problem of Leclerc’s making.
His crash in qualifying did carry the risk of damage that would impact his race. But while Ferrari insisted it carried out in-depth checks and was taking no gamble on starting from pole with the same gearbox, Leclerc’s left-side driveshaft ultimately let the side down.
Not even taking the start added insult to injury. But maybe it would’ve been even crueller had he run at the front early on only to retire. – SM
And just like that, all of the marginal triumphs from earlier in the campaign are for naught. Mercedes will say it will have expected to be further back after five races during the pre-season, but this was still very badly-timed, and it will sting.
Yes, Monaco is very peculiar in terms of extracting pace, but it’s also the one weekend that really doesn’t forgive subpar execution.
At Imola, Lewis Hamilton went from the barrier to second – here, the errors were much less egregious but much costlier. – VK
Two points for Alpine in Monaco courtesy of Esteban Ocon, but also two places lost in the constructors’ championship as AlphaTauri and Aston Martin both vaulted ahead.
It was even more galling because after the improving trend through Portugal and Spain, Monaco seemed like a race where Alpine might be able to make something special happen.
Instead it was the midfield’s big underperformer as its usual rivals thrived. Fernando Alonso didn’t come back to F1 to be exiting in Q1 and finishing 13th.
Ocon did a solid job to get ninth having not reached Q3 – jumping Antonio Giovinazzi by running long, but jumped by Stroll running longer still. But this project’s ambitions are much bigger than holding off two Alfa Romeos to get a couple of points. – MB
This entry could simply read: was lapped by his team-mate. But that horrible 12th place for Daniel Ricciardo on a day when Norris took another podium was just a fitting statistic to cap a week of outpaced bafflement.
Monaco is anomalous enough that Ricciardo may swiftly be back in the breakthrough form he showed at Barcelona when F1 gets to Baku in a fortnight.
The depth of confused despair he reached as the gap to Norris refused to come down through the Monaco sessions was quite telling, though.
It hinted at both increasing damage to Ricciardo’s confidence and the possibility that his driving style might just not work for this McLaren. – MB