Formula 1 returned to Monaco for the first time since 2019, the Monaco GP is probably one of the most ridiculous races on the calendar, in recent times it did not give us a race to talk about, 2021 was no different.
Although on the other hand there was a lot to talk about. Let us break it down.
Free Practice threw up the first big surprise, Ferrari were topping the time sheets on merit. Both Leclerc and Sainz were supremely confident and fast in the SF21. This turn of pace was even more incredible for Charles Leclerc as he lost the majority of the first practice session due to a gearbox issue.
Mick Schumacher had a bit of a horrible time during the practice sessions, tapping the wall in FP2 and puncturing a tire, then in FP3, the rookie lost it in a bigger way ending the session.
During FP3 Latifi in the Williams, took a sore one exiting the swimming pool, this caused some substantial damage to the front of the Williams car.
Other notable issues could be seen from the Mercedes pair, who were both struggling with the car and the tires. With some doing well, others were struggling. Alonso spent most of the weekend at the rear of the field, the Alpine driver could only manage 17th for the race. The result even worse for the Spaniard, his teammate, Esteban Ocon managed 11th. Danial Ricciardo was hoping to build on a solid Spanish GP; however, this was not to be as the Australian driver could only muster 12th place on the grid. With Lando Norris up in 5th, it left Daniel with a lot of questions.
Further up the grid, some impressive performances for Gasly in the Alpha Tauri and Sebastian Vettel in 8th. Lando Norris continued to put on a solid performance, qualifying in 5th for McLaren.
The shootout for pole, looked to between the Redbull cars and Ferrari, Hamilton was not on pace for the weekend, he would qualify 7th on the grid. Leclerc was sitting on pole as we headed to the last run at the end of qualifying. The Ferrari driver was on a final run in front Sainz, Perez, Bottas and Verstappen. Unfortunately for the field Leclerc lost it heading into the swimming pool section, he would clip the barrier on the inside, breaking the suspension, this contact sent the Ferrari over the curb and into the barrier, the SF21 was totalled.
Red Flags ended the session and the hopes of the drivers behind Leclerc in getting pole. The Monaco Grand Prix will have a Ferrari on pole, or will it?
Ferrari announced that the SF21 had been rebuilt and the gearbox checked, the decision was not to replace the gearbox and that all checks carried out had not picked up any issues. It was a slight surprise that the car had survived such an impact, however we would have a Ferrari pole at Monaco after all.
As time ticked down to the star to the race, the cars made there way to the grid, however one car did not make it to their starting slot, it was the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, who could be heard shouting NO in the radio, Gearbox was the call, he pulled into the pits, at first for a possible pit lane start, however minutes after that it was confirmed that the pole man would be Did Not Start (DNS).
How could Ferrari let this happen? Although gearbox was initially mentioned, it was later revealed to be the driveshaft, more intriguing it was the left had side driveshaft that had failed, with most of the impact in the quali crash on the right side, it could be forgiven that this was missed.
The race was largely a non-event, modern day Formula 1 cars are just too big for the track, with only 2 on track passes (there could have been more, but the director was looking elsewhere) majority of the changes in position were confined to pit lane strategy, this was highlighted in the finishing position of Redbull’s Sergio Perez who started in 9th but finished in 4th, without completing any on-track passes.
The only real piece of excitement was limited to a pit stop issue for Valtteri Bottas, who was in the rare position of being the lead Mercedes, with Hamilton struggling down in 7th, he pulled into the pits to find that the right front wheel nut had machined itself on to the axel. Something that I cannot remember seeing in all my time watching Formula 1, the Finnish driver was out of the race, interestingly it took 43 hours 15 minutes in total to get the wheel off the car. Marking this pit stop as the longest in Formula 1 history.
The race ended, with Verstappen clearly out front and Sainz in second and Lando Norris in third. For a short time, it looked as though Perez in fourth was going to challenge Norris for the final podium, however this came to nothing, with the young McLaren driver taking his second podium of the year.
Monaco is a quandary for Formula 1, it is completely ridiculous race that should not exist, however it does, sometimes it can through up the odd surprise, Oliver Panis winning in 1996, with only 3 cars making it to the end for example, often it is a procession with not much going on.
The 2021 race was the latter, with a failed wheel nut the only talking point, however the result of the race has changed the landscape of the Championship as Max Verstappen heads to Baku in the lead of the championship and Redbull taking the top spot in the Constructors Title Race.
Nothing can be taken from Monaco in terms of the rest of the season and the overall form of the teams, it has served as a “wildcard” coming in to mix it up. Adding some extra spice to an already spicy season.
Baku will be interesting, let us hope so as it is the French Grand Prix after that…….