The Dutchman Max Verstappen (Red Bull), who started from pole position, reinforced his leadership in the Formula 1 World Championship by winning the Monaco Grand Prix this Sunday, the sixth in the championship, which was held in the streets of Monte Carlo; where the Spanish Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) shone again and finished second, achieving his fifth podium of the season.
Verstappen, 25, who is looking for a third title in a row, signed his thirty-ninth victory in F1, the fourth of the season and the second in the principality of the Côte d’Azur, ahead of the Asturian double world champion, 41; which added, with another brilliant performance, his 103rd podium in the premier class. In the most iconic race of the championship, which he started dry and finished on wet pavement; that he had moments in which, because of the rain, chaos was touched; and that the Frenchman Esteban Ocon (Alpine) finished third.
The other Spaniard, Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), finished eighth in an exciting test after which ‘Mad Max’ leads the World Championship with 144 points, 39 more than his teammate, the Mexican Sergio Pérez, who –after crashing in the first round of the qualifying (Q1)– started last and finished sixteenth.
Alonso, with 93 points, confirmed his third place in a championship in which, behind the far superior single-seaters of the Austrian team -with full victories in the first six races-, he has become the great sensation at the start of course. The Asturian double world champion could not capture his long-awaited 33rd victory in the premier class; but he made a qualitative leap and signed, after four third places, his best result of the season; on the track where he won twice: in 2006 -the season that defended the title- and the following year.
The new sports idol from the Netherlands enjoys the best machine – the one designed by the English aerodynamics guru Adrian Newey – but the mechanical superiority does not detract one iota from his talent. After winning in the beautiful principality of the Côte d’Azur, he broke in his favor the tie that united him with the German Sebastian Vettel -who led the previous glorious stage of the team (2010-13)- and, with 39, he is already the driver with the most victories from the entire young but very successful Red Bull history.
Verstappen had led all the time tables of the weekend, except for the first free practice, which Sainz led, before signing his twenty-third pole position in F1 on Saturday; the one that escaped Alonso – who this Sunday returned to join the exhibition of ‘Mad Max’ – for only eight hundredths. The Dutch super-predator, completing a third sector of authentic madness -touching three walls-, had snatched the Asturian star, in the last section of his last lap, the first place on a grid in which both occupied the front row; ahead of Ocon and Carlos, benefited from the penalty of three places on the grid imposed on the Monegasque Charles Leclerc.
Sainz’s teammate, who had finished third in Saturday’s spectacular qualifying, but was penalized for disturbing Lando Norris (McLaren) on the track, started sixth – the position in which he finished – from the third row. Alongside another Englishman, the seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who, with three victories, remains the most victorious among those active on the streets of the Principality; and that, before finishing fourth – and setting the fastest lap – he had started fifth.
In a mythical circuit in which nobody equals the half dozen victories of the legendary Ayrton Senna, who won three World Cups for Brazil before dying in an accident on May 1, 1994, in Imola (Italy). In a region where last week the floods caused a real human tragedy; and, incidentally, the suspension of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. F1 returned to normal this weekend.
The race in Monaco
Checo Pérez started from the last position on the grid. With the medium tire, like his Dutch teammate: the same compound that Hamilton and Ocon used from the start, on a grid in which only the Chinese Guanyu Zhou started with the soft and the two Spaniards did so with the hard.
Alsono did not attack, Verstappen went well; Sainz withstood Hamilton’s initial onslaught, and in the early stages of the test the leading positions were not altered.
Both ‘Checo’ and Zhou, who started from the very back, stopped after the first lap to install the hard compound with which they intended to finish the test.
Sainz dived in search of Ocon before the chicane in the eleventh of the 78 laps and in his attempt damaged part of his front wing, which did not prevent him from continuing on the track, although he was shown the black and white flag (similar to the yellow card, in football terms). Only a couple of laps before Alonso worried about a hypothetical puncture in the front left wheel that, in the end, was not such.
The fight for glory was settled on the shortest track in the World Championship (3,337 meters), in whose narrow streets it is almost impossible to overtake; Therefore, if the storm clouds that approached the Monegasque track did not unload, it was only possible to wait, on paper, for the failures of others; while it was imperative to avoid one’s own mistakes.
But the radios began to speak clearly of rain when ‘Mad Max’, with graining on the front tyres, began lapping cars from the thirtieth lap, including ‘Checo’ himself, whom he passed in the tunnel one lap later.
Hamilton pitted at 32; a lap before Ocon -also to put hard-, for which Alpine made a bad stop that Ferrari did not know how to take advantage of, which installed the medium in Sainz’s car; that he returned to the track, very angry, behind the Frenchman.
It began to drip and excitement increased when Canadian Lance Stroll – Alonso’s new teammate – was the first to install the intermediates, shortly before losing control and being out of the race. With the track becoming dangerous, Sainz launched new attacks at Ocon, who defended himself like a cat on its back.
At 55 Alonso stopped –who put the midfielders, in a clear error by his team– and Ocon –at intermediates–, before Sainz spun and Alonso stopped again, a lap later, to install the intermediate compound. The same one that Verstappen placed; that he suffered a lot to reach the box before changing wheels.
Fortunately for the Asturian star, the ‘double stop’ did not mean losing position; and with 20 laps to go, he held Ocon by five seconds; on a track turned into a real skating rink: when everyone rode with intermediates and some areas were clearly made of extreme rain tires. With chaos about to come true.
It was not like that, and, after a real driving lesson, the three on the podium celebrated, relieved, having saved the furniture in a very dangerous race in its final stretch.
Verstappen confirmed that he is the man to beat and Alonso – who left “very happy with second place”, the best of 2023 – who will continue to lurk, waiting for some new ruling from the red bulls. Ocon signed, at 26, his second podium finish, after the victory two years ago in Hungary, which he achieved thanks to the priceless work of containment on Hamilton carried out by Alonso, then his teammate.
In a reissue of the ‘Alonsomanía’, fashionable at the beginning of the century, the World Cup will resume next weekend with the Spanish Grand Prix, at the Montmeló circuit (Barcelona); which will once again be filled to bursting, awaiting the thirty-third time that the Spanish test will be held at the Circuit de Catalunya.
#Formula #Verstappen #won #Monaco #Grand #Prix #affirms #leadership #Spanish #Alonso #Aston #Martin #Ocon #Alpine #completed #podium