The streets of Monte Carlo played host to one of the more entertaining Monaco Grands Prix in recent memory, with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton fending off the attention of a fast-charging Max Verstappen in the closing stages of Sunday’s race to secure victory in the iconic principality.
An inch-perfect pole position that was on par with his very best from recent memory laid the foundations for Hamilton to secure his third win around the famous streets of Monte Carlo, but he was made to work very, very hard for it.
A 67-lap stint on the medium tyre appeared to be the right call at the time but quickly proved to be the wrong choice, much to Hamilton’s disliking. Several times Hamilton expressed his doubts about their durability, prompting Mercedes’ Chief Strategist James Vowles to take the unusual step of issuing a mid-race pep talk - “Lewis it’s James, you can do this!”
The fact is, there are very few drivers who could do what Hamilton did on Sunday. His lap times in the final phase of the race suggest he was clinging on to the edge of adhesion and there’s little doubting that Verstappen would have passed him on any other circuit.
In the end, it was a superb display of defensive driving and a perfectly executed race from a driver looking every inch right now a six-time champion in waiting.
Max Verstappen (4th)
Once again Verstappen was the quicker of the Red Bull pair with a four-tenths of a second gap to Pierre Gasly in qualifying, and the Dutchman was the only driver who genuinely looked a threat to race-winner Hamilton on race day.
Verstappen snatched second place from Valtteri Bottas in the pitstops but was unlucky to receive a five-second time penalty when his team released him into the path of the oncoming Mercedes driver.
Crucially, those five seconds were just enough to drop Verstappen to fourth in the official result but he ran second on the road for much of the race and produced a valiant effort to chase down and pressurise race leader Hamilton.
He waited patiently for his chance to attack and when it came on lap 76 of 78 his bold lunge at the chicane didn’t quite come off, with Verstappen’s front right tyre nudging Hamilton’s left rear.
Both survived to tell the tale but the Dutchman deserves credit for his attempt and it’s easy to imagine the Verstappen of 12 months ago having wiped out either Hamilton or himself in his haste to overtake. A measured performance from a vastly improving driver.
Sainz caught the eye for the third race in a row, this time bringing home a hatful of points for an improving McLaren team that’s quietly moved up to fourth in the constructors’ championship and clear of the midfield group.
This was arguably up there with Sainz’s best ever F1 drives, and potentially ahead of the fourth-place finish he seized in the chaotic rain-affected Singapore Grand Prix of 2017.
Ninth in qualifying was a solid base to work from, but it was his majestic opening lap during which he picked off both Toro Rossos through Massenet that set him up for a big result.
Showing strong pace throughout, Sainz executed McLaren’s clever strategy to finish ahead of a selection of arguably quicker cars to cap what was a fine weekend overall for the Spaniard.
Lance Stroll’s inconsistent season continued in Monaco, and this was arguably one of the more disappointing weekends of his F1 career so far.
The Canadian’s qualifying woes continued with a 10th-straight Q1 exit and his six-tenths of a second deficit to team-mate Sergio Perez did not show his performance in a good light.
It was a race that Racing Point expected to struggle at, but while Perez was able to finish just outside of the points, Stroll’s afternoon was messy and featured contact with Kimi Raikkonen and a penalty for corner cutting on course to 16th place. One to forget.
If Antonio Giovinazzi is to extend his F1 stay beyond this season, he needs to ensure there are no more repeats of the performance he exhibited in Monaco.
During pre-season, the likeable Italian said he’d be treating his first full F1 season as if he were a rookie, but the sad truth is that he looked every inch a rookie during a messy weekend he’ll want to quickly forget.
A three-place penalty for impeding Nico Hulkenberg meant he was forced to start from 18th on the grid, ahead of only the two Williams cars. From there, things got progressively worse as he was passed by George Russell early on and then earned himself a second penalty for pitching Robert Kubica into a spin at La Rascasse.
It wasn’t a great weekend all round for Alfa Romeo, but there appeared more in the car than Giovinazzi was able to exhibit.
Desperate to impress in front of his home crowd, Charles Leclerc could have been forgiven for maybe trying a little too hard to end his wretched run of three DNFs from three previous Monaco races (including F1 and F2 appearances), but in truth, his desperation to recover from the whole Ferrari had put him in only served to highlight his lack of experience at this level.
To be fair to him, Ferrari’s dreadful decision not to send him out when cars ahead were improving their times in Q1 was a classic example of the Scuderia’s innate ability to shoot itself in the foot, and Leclerc was understandably furious at the error.
Starting from 15th, Leclerc’s recovery drive was always going to be tricky, but he appeared to be on a charge in the opening laps after a well-executed pass on Romain Grosjean.
However, just a few laps later, an over-eager attempt to pass Nico Hulkenberg ended in Leclerc touching the wall and slicing his tyre at Rascasse.
In his haste to return to the pits, he then caused significant damage to the car and his race was effectively over from there.
It was hard to find many positives for Leclerc from his first home race as a Ferrari driver, but he did at least receive a surprise public apology from Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri for the team’s part in compromising his weekend.
GPFans is a multi-platform, multi-language brand dedicated to Formula One coverage. We bring you all the ins and outs of the sport, 24/7, everything from up-to-the-minute news and features to the latest viral stories and clips.
We believe that a new generation of exciting, outspoken drivers will make F1 more popular than ever before, and we want to give our users access to as much of their heroes as possible, on and off the track. From Lewis Hamilton to Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo to Sebastian Vettel, we provide in-depth analysis of every every Grand Prix in the season, from Australia to Abu Dhabi.
With Formula One under the new ownership of Liberty Media, how the sport is being covered is evolving, and GPFans will look to be at the heart of this progression into new media, as one of the fastest-growing sites covering the king of motorsports.