RACE DEBRIEF

    The Monaco Grand Prix gave us our first Mercedes-less podium of the year, as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen led home Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and McLaren’s Lando Norris. One of those three topped this week’s Aramco F1 Power Rankings after Monte Carlo – but which one? Drum roll please... the judges’ scores are in.

    HOW IT WORKS

    • Our six-judge panel assesses each driver after every Grand Prix and scores them out of 10 according to their performance across the weekend – taking machinery out of the equation

    • Our experts’ scores are then averaged out across the season to create an overall Power Rankings Leaderboard (at the bottom of the page)

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    Lando Norris’ season continues to go from strength to strength, with his Monaco podium – his second of the year – the tangible proof. At a circuit where McLaren expected to struggle, Norris was flawless, qualifying fifth but with a time that was just 0.044s slower than Verstappen’s lap for P2, while he resisted late pressure in the race from Red Bull’s Sergio Perez to come home in third – even lapping team mate, and 2018 Monaco winner, Daniel Ricciardo in a poignant moment of pathos. Our judges were suitably impressed.

    READ MORE: Podium finisher Lando Norris explains why he ordered radio silence in Monaco

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    Max Verstappen’s 12th career win was probably one of his most straightforward, especially after Charles Leclerc had been ruled out of the start. Verstappen looked a touch out of sorts across the weekend, but you couldn’t fault his race day performance, as he squeezed Bottas at the start before a trouble-free Sunday drive to his maiden Monaco victory and second win of the season. That helped Verstappen take the lead of the drivers’ standings for the first time ever, as Red Bull moved to the top of the constructors’ for the first time since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix. Yoiks.

    READ MORE: Verstappen ‘deserves to be championship leader’ after first five races, says Horner

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    It says a lot about how quickly and confidently Carlos Sainz has got up to speed with the Ferrari SF21 that he left Monaco disappointed about not taking both pole position and the victory. Sainz, like team mate Leclerc, revelled in the eye-opening pace of the Ferrari at Monaco. Yet barring a touch with the wall in FP1, Sainz didn’t put a wheel wrong, boosting himself up to a brilliant P2 at the flag for his third career podium, alongside his “muppet friend” and old team mate Norris.

    READ MORE: Sainz says P2 in Monaco a ‘bittersweet feeling’ as he ‘genuinely thought we could win’

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    It did the soul a bit of good to see Sebastian Vettel revelling in driving around Monaco. Vettel was on it from the get-go in the Principality, running in the top 10 across all three practice sessions and qualifying eighth before leading the way for Aston Martin in the race.

    The German perfectly executed a sweet overcut that moved him ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Pierre Gasly, while showing brilliant brinksmanship in his battle with the latter to claim the P5 that he’d hold until the flag. It was his first points as an Aston Martin driver – while, amazingly, Vettel managed to maintain his record of being classified in the top five at every Monaco Grand Prix he’s finished.

    READ MORE: ‘We’ve waited for that’ says Vettel after jumping Hamilton and Gasly to net first points for Aston Martin

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    Pierre Gasly has always been good around Monaco, and so he was in 2021. Qualifying ahead of no less than 100-time polesitter Lewis Hamilton, Gasly then did a perfect job of keeping the Mercedes driver at bay, before coming home for his best finish of the year in P6 – having had to give best to Vettel in their fight or risk ending up “in the harbour”, as he put it.

    READ MORE: ‘I thought we’d both end up in the harbour’ – Gasly relishes ‘hard racing’ with Vettel at Monaco

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    A really excellent weekend from Antonio Giovinazzi, who’s quietly been doing some very good work indeed in Alfa Romeo #99 this season. A great lap by Giovinazzi in the second segment of qualifying was enough to give Alfa their first Q3 appearance of the year, while the Italian was then able to convert that to the team’s first point of the season on race day.

    READ MORE: Giovinazzi says Alfa Romeo's first point of season marks turning point after 'bad luck' of opening races

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    Alpine once again had to look to their 24-year-old charger Esteban Ocon – rather than their two-time world champion Fernando Alonso – to lead the way for them this weekend. 0.077s off making Q3 as Alonso fell out in Q1, Ocon then made the overcut work on Giovinazzi – the driver who’d denied him in qualifying – to take his fourth straight points finish in P9.

    READ MORE: Ocon happy to extend points streak on Monaco weekend where Alpine ‘were not at our best’

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    Despite Mercedes’ pace struggles in Monaco, this was one of Valtteri Bottas’ most assured race performances of the year. Looking for the first time this season comfortably the fastest Mercedes driver – with Mercedes Technical Director James Allison noting post-race that Bottas did a better job of getting his front tyres up to temperature than the off-key Hamilton – Bottas did everything right in the race, only for cruel luck to rule him out of what looked a sure P2 when his right-front wheel jammed on the car in the pit stops.

    READ MORE: Wolff says Mercedes to review design of wheel nut after ‘catastrophic failure’ in Monaco

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    There’s no doubt that qualifying P9 (with the caveat that he wasn’t afforded a final Q3 run due to Leclerc’s session-ending crash) cost Perez Power Rankings points this week. But the Mexican put in a commendable recovery in the race, Red Bull working his strategy to perfection to overcut him from P8 to P4 – while he was ultimately unable to get ahead of Norris for what would have been his first podium as a Red Bull driver. Saturdays need work, but Perez looks to be getting the knack on a Sunday.

    READ MORE: Why there's more to Red Bull's 2021 pace than the regulation changes

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    Ah, Charles. Charles Charles Charles. Leclerc’s home curse continues, alas, with the Monegasque unable to start the race from his first pole position since the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix. Leclerc demonstrated fantastic pace all weekend, recovering well from his gearbox issues in FP1 to head FP2 and carry that form into qualifying.

    But then, with provisional pole his, Leclerc – much like at Baku 2019 – stuffed the car into the wall at the exit of the Swimming Pool, causing the damage that would ultimately rule him out of the race. Collateral damage from seeking perfection at Monaco? Or foolhardily overambitious? You decide…

    READ MORE: Ferrari investigation finds that Leclerc qualifying crash WAS to blame for issue that forced Monaco DNS

    MISSING OUT

    Lance Stroll finds himself on the cusp this week, the Canadian doing a great job of working Aston Martin’s hard-soft strategy – with a 58-lap first stint, no less – to jump from 13th on the grid to P8 at the flag, and boost him team’s Monaco points tally.

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    Stroll just missed out on the top 10

    THE OVERALL STANDINGS

    The biggest mover this week is Hamilton, who failed to feature in the top 10 of Power Rankings for the first time this year thanks to his unhappy run to P7 in Monaco. That was enough to drop him two places from his top spot, as Verstappen takes the lead. Gasly, meanwhile, makes his first appearance on the leaderboard this year, coming in at number eight.

    READ MORE: Hamilton blasts ‘really, really poor performance’ from Mercedes after taking P7 in Monaco

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