F1: Monaco – Sergio Perez Wins Monaco Grand Prix in Lengthy Wet-Dry Race
The Mexican excels in the streets of Monaco after Red Bull take advantage of Ferrari’s strategy error.
Sergio Perez has taken his third career victory, successfully holding off a charging Carlos Sainz after Red Bull’s late tyre choice nearly backfired. He becomes the most successful Mexican F1 driver, surpassing Pedro Rodriguez. He is also the first Mexican to win in Monaco, and the first North American since Gilles Villeneuve in 1981.
The raceday began with rain, which saw the start time initially delayed by ten minutes twice. As the rain softened, the drivers were made to do a formation lap under behind the safety car. After completing one lap, the rain fell even harder and the race directors red flagged the session, leading to a near-one hour wait before the officials declared the conditions to be safe enough.
The race finally began at 16:05 local time, in a rolling start behind the safety car on full wet tyres. The safety car ended on the third lap, and Leclerc sped away in the lead with Sainz, Perez and Verstappen behind him, as the four of them gradually pulled away from the rest of the field together.
Pierre Gasly, who started at the back, made an early switch to intermediates with nothing to lose. His initial pace was not a lot different compared to the wet runners, but they began struggling as the track dried up overtime, while Gasly started to make his way past multiple drivers struggling for grip. His pace – which became as much as 2 seconds per lap quicker – triggered the other teams to switch to intermediates as well.
The front runners finally made the switch, with Perez pitting first on Lap 17 while Verstappen and Leclerc followed two laps later. Sainz, however, opted to stay out and skip straight into slick tyres. Coming in on Lap 21, Ferrari called for a double stack, but changed their minds and asked Leclerc to stay out. However, it was too late as he had already entered the pitlane when he was told to stay out. A furious Leclerc rejoined in 4th, while Sainz emerged in front of Verstappen, who also switched to hard tyres in a well-executed double stack by Red Bull, as Perez maintained the lead.
On the 26th lap, Mick Schumacher crashed after losing control in the Swimming Pool chicane, hitting the Tecpro barriers heavily as the rear end of his Haas dismounted from the chassis, and the German managed to walk away unscathed. The safety car was deployed, but the barriers were too damaged to repair in a short period of time, leading to a red flag being brought out on Lap 30.
Most of the drivers took advantage of the red flag to switch to fresh tyres, notably Red Bull who fitted fresh mediums on both cars. Ferrari, however, opted to keep their current hard tyres in hopes to outlast the Red Bulls in tyre wear.
The race resumed in another rolling start on Lap 33, and the race directors soon switched the lap counter to a timer to stay within the 2-hour limit. The front runners kept intervals of up to 2 seconds of one another, while George Russell in 5th impressively kept up with the top four for a while. Towards the end of the race, the Red Bulls began facing serious tyre wear, especially Perez who had a big lock-up earlier during the restart. This bunched up the top four again as Sainz caught up from his 2.5s gap to the lead. Despite Perez’s tyre troubles, Sainz was still unable to find his way past the Mexican as he struggled to get close enough to attempt an overtake.
As the race timer expired on the 65th lap and the drivers took their final lap, Perez crossed the line to take his first victory of the season, 1.154s over Sainz, who beat Verstappen by 0.337s. A 4th place finish was a sad end to Leclerc’s race after leading the first stages from pole, but it was a sigh of relief as he finally broke the curse of never finishing his home grand prix, a record that goes all the way back to his F2 days.
Russell continues his impressive Top 5 streak, while Lando Norris took a 6th place finish along with the fastest lap, another monumental result for the young McLaren driver as he suffered with tonsilitis in this past week. Finishing 7th was Fernando Alonso, who impressively held Lewis Hamilton behind while conserving his tyres, allowing him to push for fastest laps towards the final stages of the race. Esteban Ocon originally finished 9th behind Hamilton, but was awarded a 5-second time penalty for causing a collision with the 7-time world champion earlier in the race. The penalty demoted him three places down, promoting Valtteri Bottas to 9th as Sebastian Vettel inherited the final point.
Pierre Gasly took 11th as his final result with Ocon being demoted behind him at 12th. Daniel Ricciardo’s mysterious struggles continue as he was unable to make much ground following his Q2 elimination, finishing 13th ahead of Lance Stroll.
Nicholas Latifi was the first driver to finish a lap down, and successfully held off Zhou Guanyu for 15th. The Chinese driver had a hair-raising moment earlier at the Nouvelle Chicane, losing control while attempting to pass Yuki Tsunoda, but managed an incredible save and avoided any collisions. Tsunoda finished 17th and last after running off in the first corner in the late stages, before pitting for new tyres and running off in the same corner again later on.
It is another weekend to forget for Haas as both cars failed to finish the race, with Kevin Magnussen retiring first with water pressure issues, several laps before Schumacher’s crash. Alexander Albon was the last retiree of the day, pulling his Williams into the pits with mechanical issues.
Despite finishing third, Verstappen still extended his title lead as he finished ahead of Leclerc. He sits atop the table with 125 points, nine points ahead of the Ferrari driver. Sergio Perez’s stunning victory meanwhile brought his points tally to 110, just trailing Leclerc by six points, and ultimately announcing himself as a title contender with his strong performances throughout the year.
Featured Image – Red Bull Racing, Erik Junius