For some, the Monaco Grand Prix is a boring affair due to its limited over taking areas but as this weekends event suggests, there is still life in this gorgeous raceway yet.
While it was a difficult weekend for all, with the passing of the great Niki Lauda, it will be one that sophomore Charles Leclerc will be eager to forget. Ferrari’s woes continued with grip issues not quite resolved and questionable strategies and silly mistakes still occurring. A gaff in the first leg of qualifying saw Ferrari keep Leclerc’s prancing pony in the paddocks, thinking they’d already qualified for the next segment only to be bounced out and thus pinning the youngest a sixteenth position on the starting grid of his home grand prix – one notoriously difficult to earn passings on.
To his credit, young Leclerc seemed fired up and prepared to make a fight out it by taking high risks. His first attempt resulted in a beautiful passing, over taking Lando Norris in his McLaren, but his second attempt saw his clip the barrier and earn a puncture. The shredded tire whipped the cars fiberglass body to ribbons on its limp back to the pits and ultimately would cause the cars retirement from the race.
It was a weekend where nothing would go right for the young man.
Ferrari were not the only team to make mistakes though, as both Red Bull and Mercedes made equally baffling errors on race day.
Hamilton had kept his lead from poll with team mate and nearest Championship challenger, Valtteri Bottas, in hot pursuit. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was a comfortable third with the Ferrari of Sebastien Vettel running fourth. Until the deployment of the safety car following Leclerc’s incident anyway. While under the safety car, Vettel, Bottas and Verstappen all boxed but the mechanics at Red Bull released Verstappen into the oncoming Bottas and very nearly causing a three-car shunt on pit lane.
There was enough of a coming together between Bottas and Verstappen to cause concern at Mercedes, who brought Bottas back into the pits for fresh rubber on the following lap. It was thought he may have had a puncture from the bump. Bottas was now running third behind Verstappen, who was later penalized five seconds for his teams error but that wasn’t going to prevent the young Dutchmen from hunting Hamilton.
With practically everybody opting for the hard compound tire, Hamilton was put onto mediums and was soon a sitting duck as his rubber rapidly began to disintegrate below him, drastically reducing his grip. Valiantly Hamilton fought his car and did everything possible to stay ahead of Verstappen. Somehow he did. After the race he would say he channeled his friend Niki Lauda but the driving mastery Hamilton displayed to keep a fired up Verstappen behind him was something special. Maybe on par with Senna and Mansell in 1996. Even with an overzealous Red Bull bashing him briefly off circuit, Hamilton held out, clinging to victory.
Verstappen however, would be bumped off of the podium from second down to fourth place. Bottas would take a bitter third while Vettel would earn second place on a very quite but clean drive.
Hamilton will take his championship lead into Montreal, where he has enjoyed much success. Last years Canadian grand prix winner, Sebastien Vettel, will be hoping for a repeat of last years victory; Ferrari’s first of this season.