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Max Verstappen extends title lead with Monaco win


It wasn't that long ago that Fernando Alonso was one of the sport's 'Marmite' drivers - or is that Vegemite for our friends down under - you either liked him or you didn't, there was nothing in between.

While there was no doubting his courage and skill, even as early as his Minardi days, the Spaniard had a 'certain' reputation for being overtly political in way that would shock Machiavelli, flitting from team to team he gathered more and more baggage, never more so than when partnered with Lewis Hamilton in the Briton's first season.

But now all that seems a lifetime ago, and there are few today who, like Max Verstappen, who wouldn't like to see the Spaniard claim victory.

The last win was at Barcelona in 2013, though not for want of trying.

Disillusioned with F1 he headed off in pursuit of the Triple Crown, and while he won at Le Mans, despite his best efforts victory at Indianapolis proved elusive.

So, here we are, twenty-odd seasons after he made his F1 debut and the two-time champ is third in the standings and starting alongside pole-man Verstappen.

In the previous five races, Alonso has proven himself to be as feisty as ever, and along with the unquestioned speed is the knowledge gained over the course of 360 grands prix.

However, much as Max might want to see a fairy-tale ending to today's race, the Dutchman, like Senna, Schumacher and several others before him, is remorseless, and once the visor comes down and the lights go out, sentimentality goes out of the window.

Too many times over the years we have seen the field come to grief at the opening corner here, and while both Max and Fernando are promising to fight it out from the outset, both are fully aware that any silliness could see their races over before they've begun.

Indeed, while we remember the Monaco maestros like Senna, Schumacher, Hill and Prost, over the years we have seen a number of shock winners, and today could well witness another.

Form pretty much goes out of the window in Monaco, where a strong car and a fearless driver can still lose out to one who opts for the 'softly, softly' approach.

Leclerc's 3-place penalty will make the afternoon that much harder for the local boy, though in all honesty he was facing a tough afternoon anyway, what with the SF23 being such a beast to drive around here.

Interestingly, the 2023 Ferrari, along with the Haas and McLaren, is slower than its 2022 counterpart.

That said, having only seen the chequered flag once in four starts, Leclerc will be happy to just get through the afternoon unscathed.

Ocon will therefore start from third, the Frenchman no doubt hoping to emulate countryman Olivier Panis, one of those 'freak' winners to which we previously referred.

The Alpine driver has good support from his teammate, while the Mercedes pair are in the mix, with Yuki Tsunoda just ahead of the McLaren pair.

Much as Liberty is building the hype around Las Vegas, Monaco still has it, and even though it is ludicrous that F1 cars are still whizzing around these tight, twisty, unforgiving streets - especially these bigger, unwieldly machines - surely yesterday's Q3 'shoot-out' (groan) is what F1's all about.

Though bright and sunny, there is the threat of showers over the course of the afternoon, and as we know from experience the weather can change dramatically and suddenly.

A further twist to that particular little nugget is the fact that Pirelli has its new full wet here, the one that doesn't require tyre blankets.

On a track where overtaking is almost impossible, the fastest strategy involves a single stop as soon as possible. On paper, the drivers should fit the mediums on the grid and change them between the twentieth and twenty-fifth laps for the hards in order to be the fastest. Another possibility is given by starting on the softs and then changing for hards between laps 15 and 20, with the possibility of doing the reverse also.

The pitlane opens and the drivers begin to head out, Sargeant leads the way, followed by Magnussen, Stroll, Zhou and Bottas.

Air temperature is 26 degrees C, while the track temperature is 46 degrees. There is a 20% risk of rain.

As they head off on the formation lap, most are on hards bar Verstappen, Ocon, Hamilton, Tsunoda, Norris, de Vries, Albon, Sargeant, Hulkenberg and Perez who are on mediums and Zhou on softs. As ever, the Aston Martin pair are the only drivers on used rubber.

The grid forms, Alonso signalling his intentions by pointing his car at Verstappen's.

They're away! While Alonso makes a great start, Verstappen has the advantage, so the Spaniard settles for covering off Ocon. Into Ste Devote, Verstappen leads a sliding Alonso and Ocon, while Sainz holds off Hamilton and Leclerc edges ahead of Gasly.

Further around the lap, Stroll nudges Albon at Mirabeau, with Hulkenberg also clouting the Williams. As the Following Alfa slow to a halt, so too does Sargeant, who had previously been hit by the charging Hulkenberg.

"What was that," cries the American. "Head down, head down," he is told. "Everybody saw it!"

At the end of Lap 1, it's: Verstappen, Alonso, Ocon, Sainz, Hamilton, Leclerc, Gasly, Russell, Tsunoda and Norris. Hulkenberg, Perez and Zhou all pit.

After 2 laps a train is building behind Hamilton who is 1s down on Sainz.

Russell has been noted for being in an "incorrect position" at the start.

On hards, and 18th, Perez posts a new fastest lap (16.387).

Hulkenberg is given a 5s penalty for causing a collision.

6.9s down on the car ahead (Stroll), Perez sets a string of fastest lap.

2.4s down on the leader, Alonso has a 6s advantage over third-placed Ocon.

No further investigation of Russell decide the stewards.

Lap 8 sees the two leaders lapping within 0.006s of one another.

Perez is now 0.769s behind Stroll but his progress is halted as he joins the back of a train comprising at least 6 cars.

"We're happy to use the fronts to protect the rears," Alonso is told.

Sainz goes for a move on Ocon in the Chicane but comes to grief, damaging his front wing in the process. Despite the fact that the wing is broken he continues lapping.

"I need to know the damage," says the Spaniard. "I think he moved a bit late," he adds.

"There was no space for both of us," says Ocon.

Despite the damage being obvious to the rest of us, Ferrari leaves the Spaniard out on track.

"Maybe puncture of the front-right," asks Alonso. "All ok," he is assured.


"Did you have some contact," he is asked. "Negative," he replies.

Nonetheless, he has dropped 5.4s behind Verstappen.

In 15th, Sargeant is under pressure from Magnussen, Stroll, Perez and Zhou.

"Some medium runners complaining of graining," Russell is told.

Sainz has been shown the black and white flag for causing a collision.

A great move down the inside at Mirabeau sees Magnussen pass Sargeant for 15th.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Monaco here.


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