Max Verstappen moved into the 2021 Formula 1 world championship lead with a commanding first Monaco Grand Prix victory on a day when title rival Lewis Hamilton could only finish a frustrated seventh.
Verstappen’s Red Bull was promoted onto an effective pole position before the start when a driveshaft problem emerged on Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari while on the way to the grid.
Leclerc had crashed at the end of qualifying on Saturday, but Ferrari was convinced the damage to the car had been adequately repaired and it wouldn’t need to make any component changes that would have prompted penalties.
The only other threat to Verstappen’s victory was Valtteri Bottas’s Mercedes, which made a better start but had no space to take the lead into Sainte Devote as Verstappen quickly moved across to protect the inside.
Bottas stuck with Verstappen initially before falling 5s behind as the pitstops approached, and then had to retire from the race in bizarre circumstances because the wheelnut on the right-front wheel had “machined onto the axle” according to the team. The tyre could not be removed at all and Bottas’s Monaco GP was over.
Drama in the pit lane!
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 23, 2021
That continued a disastrous pitstop sequence for Mercedes. After only qualifying seventh, Hamilton gained a place from Leclerc’s absence and ran sixth behind Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri at first.
Hamilton was the first car to make a scheduled pitstop, but rather than undercutting rivals around him he found himself being jumped by those running longer.
Gasly stayed ahead of the Mercedes by pitting next time around, then Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin leapfrogged them both by running another lap longer and squeezing in front of Gasly in a wheel-to-wheel moment into Massenet.
The whole group was also jumped by Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, whose early eighth place became fourth thanks to staying out six laps longer than Hamilton.
The remaining Ferrari of Carlos Sainz Jr moved up to second after Bottas’s retirement, and did get to within 3s of Verstappen at times through traffic before falling away as the Red Bull driver took a vital victory and Sainz claimed his first Ferrari podium and the team’s first of 2021.
Lando Norris made another podium appearance as he moved up to third for McLaren – on a day when his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was a lapped 12th – and successfully resisted late pressure from Perez.
Vettel kickstarted his Aston Martin season with fifth ahead of Gasly. Hamilton dropped off the back of them late on with an extra pitstop to successfully chase fastest lap. He is now four points behind Verstappen.
Running right through to lap 59 on a set of hard tyres before pitting earned Lance Stroll eighth in the second Aston Martin. The strategy jumped him ahead of remaining points scorers Esteban Ocon (Alpine) and Antonio Giovinazzi – the latter scoring Alfa Romeo’s first point of 2021 just ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso.
|Pos||Name||Car||Laps||Laps Led||Total Time||Fastest Lap||Pitstops||Pts|
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-Honda||78||78||1h38m56.82s||1m14.649s||1||25|
|2||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Ferrari||78||0||+8.968s||1m14.621s||1||18|
|4||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull-Honda||78||0||+20.49s||1m14.552s||1||12|
|5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin-Mercedes||78||0||+52.591s||1m15.316s||1||10|
|8||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||77||0||+1 lap||1m14.674s||1||4|
|9||Esteban Ocon||Alpine-Renault||77||0||+1 lap||1m15.316s||1||2|
|10||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||77||0||+1 lap||1m15.331s||1||1|
|11||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||77||0||+1 lap||1m14.971s||1||0|
|12||Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren-Mercedes||77||0||+1 lap||1m14.578s||1||0|
|13||Fernando Alonso||Alpine-Renault||77||0||+1 lap||1m15.026s||1||0|
|14||George Russell||Williams-Mercedes||77||0||+1 lap||1m15.539s||1||0|
|15||Nicholas Latifi||Williams-Mercedes||77||0||+1 lap||1m15.573s||1||0|
|16||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri-Honda||77||0||+1 lap||1m14.037s||1||0|
|17||Nikita Mazepin||Haas-Ferrari||75||0||+3 laps||1m16.866s||1||0|
|18||Mick Schumacher||Haas-Ferrari||75||0||+3 laps||1m16.425s||1||0|