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Perez Makes F1 History, Leclerc Misses Podium: Three Takeaways From the Monaco Grand Prix

Heavy rain and red flags put a timer on the Monaco Grand Prix, throwing the greatest day in racing for a loop.

Just a week ago, Sergio Pérez was denied the victory in Barcelona after team orders had him give the lead to teammate Max Verstappen. But now, Pérez has taken the win.

Pérez made Monaco Grand Prix history as he became the first Mexican driver to win the jewel of Formula One. And, he is the most successful Mexican driver in F1’s history after winning his third race.  

“It’s a dream come true,” Pérez said. “It’s a massive day for myself and my country.” 

Behind him, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz stayed hot on Pérez’s tail but finished in second, and Verstappen rounded out the podium in third after a chaotic, rain-delayed race. Hometown star Charles Leclerc came in fourth after a pit miscommunication ruined his day, saying after the race: “I’m used to going home disappointed.“ George Russell continued his hot streak, marking his seventh consecutive top-five finish. 

Not only is he the only driver to finish in the top five of every race this season, the rising Mercedes star is now the only driver to also score points every race this campaign. And these points have been sizable for him—Russell sits fourth in the driver standings, just one point ahead of Sainz. 

After the race, Verstappen and Pérez were summoned to see the FIA stewards after Ferrari filed protests for both Red Bull drivers crossing the pit exit line. FIA rejected both of Ferrari’s protests.

Charles Leclerc 16 with the Ferrari, Carlos Sainz 55 with the Ferrari, Sergio Perez 11 with the Oracle Red Bull Racing RB18 Honda and Max Verstappen 1 with the Oracle Red Bull Racing RB18 Honda during the formation lap of the F1 Monaco GP

Here’s three takeaways from the Monaco Grand Prix, where a timer determined the race instead of the number of laps. 

What happened with Leclerc? 

To put it bluntly, Ferrari dropped the ball on strategy in Monaco. 

The team had a locked-out front row after Leclerc took pole on Saturday and with Sainz in second, and they looked like the favorite to win. Leclerc had a comfortable lead to start the race in the mixed conditions, finding a groove as he flew through the streets he walked as a kid. By lap 13, he held a five-second gap over Sainz, who was still ahead of the two Red Bull drivers. 

When Dry lines started to emerge on the track, drivers started switching to intermediate tires. Hamilton came in at lap 16; Pérez followed suit a lap later, and Ferrari made the call to bring in Leclerc at lap 19. As he exited the pits, the Monégasque star found himself behind the Red Bull car. 

Sainz remained out with Ferrari hoping to keep the Spaniard on the track long enough for slicks. He came in on lap 21, and that’s when a crucial mistake was made. Ferrari also called in Leclerc to pit, only to tell him to stay out once it was too late. 

Leclerc’s engineer said, “Box now, box now, box now, box now....”

As the Monaco native turned into the pit entry, the message turned to an urgent “Stay out, stay out, stay out.” But, it was too late. F1 censored Leclerc’s radio message, which was, “Why, why, what are you [censored] doing!?”

They put dry tires on Leclerc, but for obvious reasons, the 24-year-old was furious about the team double-stacking him behind Sainz, and in the process, losing critical time he was never able to recover. 

Despite the mix-up, he did break his Monaco jinx, recording his first finish. 

“Sometimes mistakes can happen, but there’s been too many mistakes today,” Leclerc said after the race to Sky Sports. “… I love my team, and I’m sure we’ll come back stronger. But it hurts a lot.”

Disaster strikes for Haas F1.

The American-owned team had a strong start to the season, surpassing the points totals of its last two seasons combined. Haas F1 rests at eighth in the constructor standings as Kevin Magnussen finished in the top 10 in three of the seven races while Mick Schumacher has stayed competitive in the midfield. 

That is, until Monaco. 

Both drivers were out of the race early on but for different reasons. Magnussen retired first “due to a system water pressure loss,” according to the team, and Schumacher faced a scary wreck that split his car in two, again. 

Five laps after Magnussen retired, Schumacher lost control of his car in the Swimming Pool section, colliding with the barrier at the exit of the chicane. His car split in two as the rear suspension and rear wing detached, sliding across the track. The 23-year-old walked away unharmed. 

What was odd, though, was how race stewards went through all three options available in the event of a wreck, opting for a virtual safety car first before an actual one was sent out. Eventually, the red flag was thrown again, suspending the race as marshals fixed the barrier.   

This is the second time this season Schumacher’s car has split in two, the other crash happening during the second round of qualifying in Saudi Arabia. He was “flown by helicopter to hospital for further precautionary check-ups,” but he confirmed later that day that he was O.K.

The status of Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren

One of the stories floating throughout the Monaco weekend was McLaren CEO Zak Brown’s comments about how the team’s Australian driver had been performing since Ricciardo joined in 2021. 

“Lando definitely has an edge,” Brown told Sky Sports’s Any Driven Monday. “We would obviously like to see Daniel much closer to Lando and have a good inter-team battle.

“Daniel is just not comfortable yet with the car, we’re trying everything we can. Again it was a disappointing weekend. Short of [Ricciardo's win at] Monza and a few races, it’s generally not kind of met his or our expectations, as far as what we were expecting. And I think all you can do is keep working hard as a team, keep communications going, keep pushing and hope that whatever is not kind of clicking at the moment clicks shortly.”

Ricciardo said Friday during the driver’s press conference that Brown’s comments are true.

“Well, it’s not false. It’s pretty true. It’s something that… well, firstly, comments like that I don’t take personally. My skin is tanned, beautiful, and also thick,” the Australian said. “… No one’s going to be harder on me than myself. I know that I don’t want to be racing around in 10th, 12th places. I still believe I can be at the front, and belong at the front. So, it’s been a little bit more, certainly testing at times, in terms of obviously trying to get up and maximize myself in this car. But yeah, we’re working together hard at it. And the team wants it, I want it and we’re just working through it.”

On the same day, McLaren’s IndyCar team announced the extension with Pato O’Ward, who has been eyeing a Formula One seat. The extension is through 2025 but also includes F1 testing. This arguably puts pressure on Ricciardo, who has been underperforming and is under contract through the end of 2023. 

Brown told Reuters Saturday: “We’ve got both our drivers under contract so nothing imminent but we’re starting a testing program bringing a couple of drivers in and Pato is definitely going to be one of those.”

He continued, “I don’t want to get into the contract, but there are mechanisms which we’re committed to each other and then there are mechanisms which were not. I spoke to Daniel about it. We’re not getting the results we hoped for, but we’re both going to continue to push.

“I think he showed at Monza he can win races. We also need to continue to develop our race car. It is not capable of winning races but we’d like to see him further up the grid.”

Ricciardo has only tallied one points finish in seven races this season, finishing 13th compared to teammate Lando Norris’s sixth place. The younger driver is rapidly narrowing the points gap in the driver’s standings with just two points between him and seven-time world champion Hamilton. 

Bonus Takeaway: Social media admins steal the show. 

As rain halted one of the jewels on Formula One’s schedule for more than an hour, the teams’ social media admins found ways to keep fans engaged on Twitter. Whether it was tweeting at one another, cracking jokes about the whether or playing games, it’s safe to say the mood was lightened as dark clouds rolled in. 

Special mention: Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas. 

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