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Verstappen wins in Monaco to take title lead

NEWS STORY
23/05/2021

While it hasn't exactly been tears and tantrums so far this weekend, we have seen a lot of unhappy drivers... and a few unhappy team bosses.

Daniel Ricciardo is "confused" and "frustrated", Carlos Sainz is "disappointed" and "frustrated", while Lewis prefers to vent his "disappointment" and "frustration" in private, the 'we win together, we lose together' mantra suddenly appearing just a little hollow.

Lord High Executioner, Helmut Marko appears spoiled for choice, with Sergio Perez and Yuki Tsunoda both in the Austrian's firing line. After all, he can hardly drop the Mexican in favour of the Japanese can he? We wonder if he still has Brendon Hartley on speed dial.

Admittedly, it has been a fairly dramatic weekend thus far with every likelihood of further drama over the next couple of hours.

Suffice to say, we could see a lot more unhappiness, not to mention "frustration", "disappointment" and "confusion" before the day is out.

Indeed, if past events are anything to go by, we could be witnessing a few tears, maybe evens some tantrums, shortly after the lights go green, for if ever the old adage about 'to finish first, first you've got to finish', applied, this is the place.

Year after year they are reminded, yet year after year drivers insist on believing that on the notoriously punishing streets of the Principality, the race can be won at the first corner, the infamous Ste Devote, or the equally notorious Mirabeau or the Nouveau Chicane. But do they listen?

It seems only right that the home of the legendary Casino features a race that is pretty much a lottery, and one which is almost pointless to predict, for the very nature of the track, not to mention the 'enthusiasm' of the drivers makes pre-race analysis almost pointless.

Suffice to say, we have a Ferrari on pole alongside one of the main world championship contenders, both drivers known for their - let's call it, no-nonsense approach to racing, their elbows-out grim determination.

They are ahead of two drivers for whom "disappointed" and "frustrated" could be middle names, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz, both of whom have points to prove.

Then comes young pup Lando Norris and an equally determined Pierre Gasly, both of whom will not only have an eye on the drivers ahead but a certain seven-time champion looming large in their mirrors.

Throw in the fact that said seven-time champion starts alongside a four-time champ who has made a number of needless errors in recent years and you can see where the "tears and tantrums" theme is coming from.

With Haas claiming that Mick Schumacher's crash cost the team around $500k, the American team would be well advised to place a large swear-box beside Guenther Steiner on the pit-wall, for today could prove very expensive and the Italian's expletives at a dollar a time could still go some way to off-setting the cost.

Though there is no rain predicted, it is likely to be cool and overcast. Furthermore, as we know from experience, conditions can change dramatically very, very quickly.

Pirelli expects the afternoon to be reasonably straightforward strategically, as a one-stop race with quite a wide pit stop window and a number of different possibilities.

The two main variables governing the strategy are safety cars - a common occurrence here - and the weather.

The leading ten will all start on the soft tyre, and that choice is likely to be mirrored by most of the runners but either the medium or the hard can be used for the second stint.

There's also a chance that some drivers further down the grid might try the opposite strategy: running the harder tyre first, before moving onto the soft at the end.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers head out. However, as Leclerc leaves his garage his car subsequently grinds to a halt. "No, no, no, the gearbox guy" he cries. Despite his gearbox being given the all-clear earlier following yesterday's crash there is clearly a problem.

The clock ticks down and as the youngster sits in the Ferrari which has been pushed back into the garage, it looks as though he's going to run out of time and will have to start from the pitlane.

Indeed, Ferrari confirms that there is an issue and that the Monegasque will have to start from the pitlane.

Consequently, Verstappen starts from 'pole', ahead of Bottas and Sainz, with the Finn handed a clear line of attack.

18 minutes before the start, Ferrari announces that Leclerc will not start the race, his car suffering "an issue with the left driveshaft which is impossible to fix in time for the start". Bitter disappointment for the youngster.

As he walks disconsolately back through the paddock, he is consoled by everyone he passes.

Air temperature is 21 degrees C, while the track temperature is 42 degrees. There is 0% chance of rain. Indeed, it is bright and sunny.

In a late twist, Toto Wolff admits that strategically Mercedes had prepared a 'B option' in case Leclerc didn't make the start or was handed a penalty.

Other than the leading ten, Ocon, Mazepin and Schumacher start on softs. Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Russell, Alonso and Latifi are on mediums, while Stroll and Tsunoda are on hards.

The field heads off on the warm-up lap, all getting away cleanly.

The grid forms.

They're away! Bottas appears to have the better start, but the grid layout and the sheer proximity of the first corner plays to Verstappen's advantage.

No incidents at Ste Devote, indeed no incidents at Mirabeau, Portier, or the Nouveau Chicane or Rascasse... finally they're learning.

At the end of lap 1, it's: Verstappen, Bottas, Sainz, Norris, Gasly, Hamilton, Vettel, Perez, Giovinazzi and Ocon. Alonso is up to 14th, while Stroll, Raikkonen, Latifi and Schumacher have already made up places.

The camera cuts to Leclerc's garage where his mechanics watch the action on a TV monitor.

Lap 3 sees Verstappen post a 17.298 as he builds a 1.06s lead.

After 4 laps, Sainz has dropped 2.7s behind Bottas and into the clutches of Norris.

Hamilton warns that it's "hard to follow", a situation that the Briton - and his colleagues - would be best to accept considering the nature of the track.

As Mazepin has his time deleted, Sainz is given a 'gee-up'.

As is so often the case here, the initial threats out of the way, the race settles down and becomes somewhat processional.

Lap 11 sees Verstappen posts a 16.265 as Norris and Gasly trade fastest sector. Bottas has now slipped 1.8s behind, but 2.1s ahead of Sainz.

Lap 12s sees Perez posts a new fastest lap (15.949) as he seeks to close the 0.8s gap to Vettel.

At which point Mazepin is shown the black and white flag for his continued transgressions at Turn 10.

Vettel is told to "push on" if he wants to clear Raikkonen at the pit stops. His former Ferrari teammate is currently 12th.

"Show us how much more pace you've got," Bottas is told. The Finn is currently 2s down on Verstappen.

Bottas responds with a 15.706 but remains 2s off the pace.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Monaco, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by transplanted Brit, 24/05/2021 19:50

"This has to be one of the most boring races (processions) I have ever witnessed. If it was not for the misfortunes of Leclerc and Bottas it would have been an absolute snoozefest."

Rating: Positive (1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by Rock Doc, 23/05/2021 20:34

"Good to see 3 of the next gen racers on the podium. I have a feeling we be seeing a lot of them in coming years. "

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3. Posted by RomeoPapaKilo, 23/05/2021 20:09

"Good and fair write up!"

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