F1 Monaco GP: OLE OLE OLE CHECO!!
The Formula One Monaco Grand Prix concluded on Sunday, 29th of May 2022, with Sergio Perez breaking the winning streak of the young ones of Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. In a wet-dry scenario where anything can happen, Sergio Perez indeed showed us that anything can happen in a Formula One race.
In a Grand Prix assumed to be boring usually, the fans rejoiced with the action and drama that unfolded. Let’s start with qualifying and then move on to the race.
Charles Leclerc went on to take the pole position on his home turf, with a bizarre crash at the end moments of Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz. Qualifying is the only way at Monaco, which defines where you will finish the race unless there is some other dramatic stuff cooking. Charles Leclerc was just perfect during the whole qualifying. But Max had a chance had his teammate not spun before the tunnel. If this qualifying is rated on a scale of boring on one end to exciting on the other, definitely this falls somewhere in the middle, but this time a little bit tilted to the exciting side.
Q1 got underway, with all the drivers putting up their best performance on the narrow circuit with no room for errors. The track temperature dropped initially. Hence, Russell complained about the grip initially. In the end, both Sainz and Perez put the same time. With just two minutes remaining, Tsunoda hit the barrier at the Nouvelle Chicane, red flagging the session. He was safe and managed to get his car back into the pits. Albon, Gasly, Stroll, Latifi and Zhou were eliminated. This time, both the McLarens and Alpine put up a solid performance and got into Q2.
Q2 started in a while. The battle for P1 was, this time between Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez, an unusual battle. But Sergio Perez showed his fans that he should not be counted out for qualifying either. The time difference between Perez and the Ferraris was only 0.033 seconds in the first stint. Eventually, in the end, Leclerc was the fastest in Q2, followed by Perez and Sainz. Sebastian Vettel put up a solid performance in Q2 and got into the third round. Tsunoda, Bottas, Magnussen, Ricciardo and Mick Schumacher were out this time. Neither of the Haas had enough pace to get into Q3.
As Q3 started, the sun started shining on the track. Leclerc followed the light and put a brilliant 1m 11.376 sec, Sainz behind by only 0.225s. Perez was 0.3 seconds slower than Sainz and was ahead of his teammate Max Verstappen. Track temperatures were now dropping, but there was still time. In the end, Sergio Perez lost control of his car and spun. He crashed into the barrier just before the tunnel. Following him was Carlos Sainz, who managed to control his car near the tunnel, but still made contact with Perez. They were blocking the way for other drivers. This was again followed by a red flag. Unfortunately, neither Max Verstappen nor Charles Leclerc was able to put up the fastest lap. The order was set, as the qualifying did not resume. Lando Norris put up a solid performance to get him up to P5, ahead of Russell, but even he went into the barriers in an attempt to slow down for the red flag.
The final order was – Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez, Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, George Russell, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Esteban Ocon, Yuki Tsunoda, Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen, Daniel Ricciardo, Mick Schumacher, Alexander Albon, Pierre Gasly, Lance Stroll, Nicolas Latifi and Zhou Guanyu.
The Monaco GP Race:
The race with the formation lap behind the safety car. With mild showers following the formation lap, Stewards decided to delay the start. It had just rained before even the formation lap. Both Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz added a new gearbox to their cars, followed by a few more parts. It definitely would’ve been a long night for these teams the night before. Sainz changed his gearbox as a precaution following the clash between him and Perez in qualifying. The rain delayed the start initially by 18 minutes in the beginning. Seeing this, the drivers changed immediately to intermediate tyres (which are used in case of mild rains and when the track is relatively wetter). Now, the rain intensifies, and the session gets red-flagged, following which there were another 45 minutes of delay to the race start. FIA orders a rolling start. A rolling start is when the drivers don’t start from the start line and dash to the first corner. They start behind the safety car.
The race now starts at 1605 hrs local time, behind the safety car and from the pit lane. All the teams start on the slowest tyres available – the Wet tyres. The team strategy was initially of only one-stop as they predicted only mild rains, which wouldn’t affect their strategy. But now it changes. It’s more flexible now as per the conditions on the track. Post the start, Nicolas Latifi gently slides into the barriers at the hairpin. Stroll also loses control due to the wet track and follows Latifi. Stroll gets a puncture on his right rear tyre, and in the pits for a tyre change, so does Latifi. After the change, the two drivers almost collide in the pit lane but miss by a small margin. It would’ve been a penalty for both had something happened.
The race now starts after two laps behind the safety car, and all the drivers are on the dash mode, looking for opportunities to overtake. It’s very difficult to overtake in Monaco, given the circuit width and the challenging corners. Leclerc leads the GP, putting faster lap times in every new lap on the wet track. It’s incredible how he controls the car beautifully, even in such conditions. Indeed, the Captain-Cool of Formula One. The teams now convey to the drivers that there won’t be any rain for the next 20-30 minutes. That’s more than enough time for a wet track to establish a racing line and get the cars to change to slick tyres. At the back, Gasly is having the time of his life, attacking Ricciardo on lap 12 consistently at all corners. It is at lap 14 when Gasly overtakes Daniel Ricciardo at the swimming pool Chicane and gets into P12.
Eventually, we see the racing lines getting dry. The drivers and teams hence decide to switch to either intermediate tyres or slick tyres. Sainz takes a call to switch to Hard tyres. On lap 17, Perez pits for Inters (Intermediate Tyres). He’s the first of the top 4 of RedBulls and Ferraris to pit. He comes out at P4, behind Norris. At the same time, we see a close train of Bottas, Magnussen and Gasly for P10. Sainz is told to pit on lap 18, but he stays out. In this midst, we also see Ocon battling with Hamilton on lap 18. They eventually make contact on Turn 1 on lap 18. Ocon gets a 5-second penalty for causing this collision later on in the race. Sainz is now P2, with Max following him closely behind. Charles Leclerc, the race leader, now pits on lap 19, and so does Max Verstappen. They exit with Mick Schumacher separating them. Sainz now leads the race on wet tyres, with Perez following him on faster Inters.
Most of the backmarkers now change to Hard tyres on account of the drier racing line. The battle between Ocon and Hamilton continues, with Hamilton now behind Ocon and constantly trying to attack him at any available opportunity. On lap 22, with a flash of the camera suddenly turning to the pits, we see a double stacking of Ferraris coming in for Hard compound tyres. Sainz gets a change, but Leclerc doesn’t. Initially, Leclerc’s engineer tells him to pit. When he does, his engineer asks him to stay out. Leclerc, already in the pits, is now furious with his engineer. Going into the pits wastes a lot of time for the drivers. On the very next lap, Perez pits for Hard compound tyres, and so does Max. With this pit, Perez manages to undercut Sainz. He emerges in P1, with Sainz following him from behind. The top 4 now change to Perez-Sainz-Max-Leclerc, in that order. The battle for P1 now gets interesting, with all the four looking to exploit any opportunity in the form of a gap at any corner or straight to overtake. Perez now catches up to the backmarkers, Mick Schumacher just ahead of him. Mick is shown the blue flag to let the leaders pass by; both Perez and Sainz get ahead. On lap 24, Sainz makes one mistake. Just on Perez’s rear on the main straight, Sainz attacks, but he goes onto the wet line on the track and slips. But, maybe inspired by Courtois of Real Madrid, of which Sainz is a fan, he saves himself from oversteer and gets back on the track. Seeing this opportunity, Perez extends his lead.
On lap 27, Mick Schumacher enters the swimming pool chicane but loses control of the car and spins and crashes into the barrier of that turn. His car splits in half. By god’s grace, he comes out of them safely. His teammate Kevin Magnussen also retires his car moments earlier due to a reliability issue. Virtual Safety Car (VSC) is deployed now for 3 laps to clear the debris and repair the barrier. On lap 20, the session is red flagged for barrier repair. The steward, meanwhile, notices Max and Perez during their pit exit for a tyre change. They cross the pit exit line after their stops, which is not allowed as per FIA’s rules. Before the red flag, the teams pit for a tyre change. Hamilton changes his front wing as a result of a collision with Ocon earlier in the race. Both the RedBulls change for Medium Compound tyres while the Ferraris go for the Hard Compound tyres.
The race restarts on lap 33. Lap 33, because it is now not a race of laps but of time. Almost 2 hours and 30 Minutes pass by the time the race restarts on lap 33. As per FIA’s rules, the race should be finished within 3 Hours. Hence, it is now a marathon for all the drivers for 30 minutes to hang on to their positions.
It’s still the Perez-Sainz-Max-Leclerc in the top 4. Hamilton was stuck at P8, Ahead of Ocon but behind Alonso. Alonso was leading a train of cars all the way up to P18 until the end of the race. Perez soon caught up to the backmarkers, with Sainz, Max and Leclerc closely following him. With only 10 minutes remaining, it was pretty evident that Perez was losing grip. Sainz was within 1 second of Perez to attack him with DRS. The same was the case with Leclerc, gaining on Max. It was mainly at the hairpin, tunnel and the Nouvelle chicane where Sainz was just millimetres away from Perez. He tried his best to get ahead of Perez. He just couldn’t due to the narrowness of the track. Perez, meanwhile, kept his head cool despite struggling for a grip. With time up now, there was just one more lap left. One more lap worth the struggle for Perez to go for the win. He kept his head calm and, at the end of Turn 19, saw the Chequered Flag.
Sergio Perez won the Monaco Grand Prix by over a second to Sainz, who was P2. Max Verstappen was the last on the Podium, achieving P3. Charles Leclerc was P4. Sergio Perez was the driver of the day as well.
At the very start, immediately after the formation lap behind the safety car, it wasn’t necessary to red-flag the session. May races have taken here in the past in wet conditions, especially in the 80s and 90s. Even then, without the current technology, teams and drivers were able to start and finish without any problems. F1 fans are just overjoyed whenever it rains because rains bring with them an unexpected turnaround in the race, which can go either way for any team out there.
Strategy was the key here for all the teams. That’s the only way to maintain track position or gain one over other teams if played right. When Perez pitted, he came out behind Norris, who pitted immediately in the next lap. Norris pitting was a blessing in disguise for Perez. Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen pitted 2 laps later. This gave Perez enough time to warm up his inters and get ahead on both Max and Charles. Sainz says he won’t pit twice – once for Intern and the next time for Slicks. Perhaps he was thinking straight. But for Charles, he trusted the team to do the right thing. It was the second pit-stop of Ferrari, which took away Leclerc’s win or even Sainz’s for that matter. When Sainz came out on his Hard Compound tyres, he came out just behind Nicolas Latifi, who was a lap behind. Life, despite being shown the blue flag, couldn’t let Sainz through until the tunnel. He lost quite a lot of time during this stint. By this time, Sergio Perez had more than enough time to hit the pedal to the metal on his inters for another stop onto hard. Even RedBulls double-stacked this stop but planned it perfectly. This time, Perez undercut Sainz and came out in front of him.
A double-stack pit stop is usually risky if the team is not prepared, and Ferrari was definitely not composed for Leclerc’s pit stop. He literally had to come in and go out without changing his tyres. At that moment, Sainz changed his tyres, but Perez had the pace. His overcut worked over the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz. That even cost Leclerc his win. Perhaps Ferrari was highly focused on Max Verstappen rather than their own race, which could’ve been one of the reasons for the loss of their composure and eventually succumbing to RedBull’s pressure.
Now, it looks like even Sergio Perez is in the World Driver’s Championship title fight. After Monaco, he is only a few points behind the Championship leader Max Verstappen and only 6 points behind Charles Leclerc. Sergio Perez’s win was a long time coming for the Mexican. It was just what he needed, post the Barcelona debacle, to boost his confidence.
George Russell of Mercedes has managed to consecutively finish ahead of Hamilton 6 times this year. That’s a crazy stat, considering how well Russell is performing. Only Nico Rosberg has managed to do it, finishing ahead of Lewis Hamilton for 7 straight races. Can Russell match Rosberg’s record? Or even better, can Russell manage to beat Rosberg’s record? Only time will tell. Stay Tuned with The Sportsway for more updates.