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Max of Monaco reigns
It was all hail Max of Monaco in the principality this past weekend, as Max Verstappen romped home to victory in the Monaco Grand Prix.
As Prince Albert II, the Head of House Grimaldi watched on, for one afternoon, even resident royalty was left in the shadows, by the ever-increasingly prominent figure of the flying Dutchman.
In his sixth trip around the streets of Monte Carlo, Verstappen belied his lack of fortune in the principality, with just a fourth-placed finish in 2019 as his best result prior.
Breaking his podium drought in the best fashion in Monaco, his 12th career win however, felt like a true moment of the arrival of Verstappen, a now more mature driver who reigned against all that came before him this weekend.
Aided by a Ferrari gear box issue – more on that in a moment – there is no indication that Verstappen would not have coasted to victory anyway, but the manner of it was emphatic.
In a season that has gripped fans both old and new, the question now is, can Verstappen now put together a run of results – including his first successive victory – during a summer that could now put in him in the box-seat for the title?
A watershed moment for Red Bull?
Aside from the jubilation of Verstappen, the Monaco GP could prove to be a seismic moment for Red Bull also, with Sergio Perez‘s latest impressive drive adding to the Milton Keynes outfit’s wares.
Taking Red Bull’s combined weekend haul to 37 points, not only did the Mexican move into fifth in the standings, but his P4 saw Red Bull move to the top of the Constructors’ Championship.
A feat not achieved by the team in the hybrid-turbo era, it was also Honda’s first time a car with their engine has sat at the top of the F1 table, quite remarkably, since the early nineties.
After back-to-back wins for Mercedes in Iberia, it was absolutely imperative that Red Bull responded. Boy have they done that, and it could just be a sign of things to come.
Hamilton may be a worried man
After four years of dominance in F1, after Monaco, Lewis Hamilton looks a worried man, and just perhaps, he should be.
So much so, that as a be-masked Hamilton conducted post-race duties in Monte Carlo on Sunday, it was not difficult to see through the Briton’s guise, that his hopes of winning an eighth F1 title this season are now under serious threat.
Even before the weekend, there was significant anxiety for Mercedes they would be off the pace in Monaco, but as Valtteri Bottas compounded the German manufacturer’s woes in Round 5 with a retirement, boss Toto Wolff will now share Hamilton’s troubles.
With Baku on the horizon in a fortnight – where Red Bull should again be the dominant force – followed by a summer of races where more favourable conditions could leave them playing catch-up to their rival, they may have to find answers and in a hurry.
Leclerc’s hoodoo continues…
As the sun beat down on Monaco in customary manner this past weekend, for one Charles Leclerc however, it never rains but it pours on his fortunes at his home GP.
Involved in an electric qualifying session on Saturday, the Monagesque put it all on the line for P1 at the end of Q3, clocking the initial fastest time in his first run, before then crashing during his final lap.
With less than a minute to go in the session, the red flag was waved as a result and with multiple cars on-track, the remaining times were rendered meaningless, seeing Leclerc claim top spot on the front row.
Claiming a sensational pole in his home city, it looked as though Leclerc’s run of bad luck in Monaco – with two retirements to date – had come to an abrupt end then. Unfortunately, it was not the case.
In Saturday’s incident, Leclerc’s car sustained significant damage to the gearbox, but it was expected to be able to line-up for the race.
As the grid assembled in the build-up to the race however, the Ferrari ambled around the track to the extreme dismay of Leclerc on the team radio, who was forced back to the pits.
News then quickly filtered through that the number 16 Scuderia would not be starting the race, with a left driveshaft problem mooted – later established to be a crack in its hub.
As testament to Leclerc’s character, the Monte Carlo native was not one to hide away and was in clear sight during the race, but must have been stinging inside after his latest slice of misfortune in Monaco, as he watched a potential home victory snatched away.
…as Sainz Jr. shows credentials…
Leclerc’s continuing tribulations in the principality were however, off-set for Scuderia by the drive of teammate Carlos Sainz Jr, as the Spaniard came home runner-up for the second time in his still short career, after his P2 at Monza last September.
Followed home by his equally impressive former teammate Lando Norris – his own second podium of the campaign – Sainz has perhaps struggled to keep pace with Leclerc in the opening four races of the season.
Yet in Prancing Horse colours, Sainz looks the perfect fit, as Ferrari found unexpected pace in Monaco this past weekend, allowing them to finish in the top two for the fourth occasion running in Monte Carlo.
The Italian team still look some way off their likely number three rivals in Sainz’s former employers McLaren, but after pulling to just two points short of Leclerc in the standing after his DNS, Ferrari look like they have the perfect duo to guide them through uncertain times.
The 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix takes place in Baku over the weekend of June 4-6.
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