It has taken him 124 grands prix to get there, but Max Verstappen is finally an F1 championship leader.
A masterful victory around Monaco, coupled with the collapse of Mercedes, saw the Red Bull driver take the top spot for the first time, wrestling it from Hamilton’s grasp with proud father Jos watching on.
The last time Hamilton was not at the top of the standings was after the second race of last season, the Styrian Grand Prix, when team-mate Valtteri Bottas was six points ahead. He soon turned that around.
There was a surprise success, meanwhile, for Ferrari that actually should have been no real surprise; a landmark moment for Aston Martin; and a Monaco speed record as F1’s ‘young guns’ hit the podium.
Verstappen leads Red Bull to welcome high
Verstappen now leads Hamilton by four points as he became the 64th driver to take the lead of the world championship and the first non-Mercedes driver to lead the way since Sebastian Vettel in a Ferrari back in 2018.
Verstappen’s 25 points, coupled with the 12 from fourth-placed Sergio Perez, also gave Red Bull a landmark moment as the title challengers moved one point ahead of Mercedes in the constructors' world championship.
It is the first time Red Bull has led either championship since the introduction of the hybrid engine regulations in 2014, which ended the team’s four years of dominance and began the seven-year Mercedes stranglehold.
Verstappen had never previously tasted champagne at Monaco in any position on the podium, and the 80th win for engine supplier Honda put the name back to the top for the first time since Ayrton Senna and McLaren won the 1991 titles.
Hamilton gets the hump with Mercedes mess
Lewis Hamilton did not hold back his anger after his Monaco weekend fell apart when his team went down an apparent set-up rabbit hole that resulted in a rare stack of unwelcome stats for the seven-time champion.
Seventh in qualifying was his first time outside the top-six since Germany 2018 [when was 14th on the grid but ended up winning] and by coming home in the same place, he posted only his second sub-top six finish since the start of 2020.
With that, he lost the lead of the championship for the first time in 19 races, although that is still far short of Michael Schumacher’s 37-race record, set between the 2000 United States Grand Prix and the 2002 Japanese Grand Prix.
Coupled with Valtteri Bottas’ second retirement in four starts [compared to Hamilton’s zero from 54], the team was demoted to second in the championship for the first time since the German Grand Prix in 2018.
Ferrari success was no surprise
Charles Leclerc handed Ferrari its first pole since Mexico 2019 – and more astonishingly its first top-three start this decade – as he became the first Monégasque driver to take pole at home since Louis Chiron in 1936.
It was Ferrari’s 11th Monaco pole, putting it level with McLaren, but on Sunday Leclerc became the first polesitter unable to start due to a mechanical failure since Michael Schumacher for Ferrari at the 1996 French Grand Prix.
Carlos Sainz’s first podium for Ferrari, and his first in Monaco, was a consolation, ensuring the Scuderia continued its record of finishing in the Monaco top two in every race since 2017. So, perhaps that form was not so surprising after all.
Landmark for Aston Martin
Finally, things turned out right for Sebastian Vettel after his move to Aston Martin, with a fifth-place finish the best the team has achieved in its brief F1 history so far.
Lance Stroll scored the team’s first points back in Bahrain, but this marked Vettel’s first time in the top 10 for the team. It is only the third time he has finished in the top five in the past 25 races.
The young guns are flying
Monaco is notoriously slow and processional, but the fact this year’s race was particularly incident-free enabled it to also be especially fast.
Verstappen's 157.833kph average speed was the fastest in Monaco history – although that is about 90kph slower than F1’s fastest ever average race speed, set at 247.586kph by Michael Schumacher at Monza in 2003.
It was also a day for the ‘youngsters’ as the combined age of 70 between Verstappen, Sainz and Lando Norris on the podium was second only to the youngest top three of Verstappen, Pierre Gasly and Sainz in Brazil 2019.
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