Feature F1 Unlocked
HINCH'S HEROES: Who makes Hinch's list after a thrilling weekend of action in Monaco?
This season, former IndyCar star James Hinchcliffe is taking stock after every Grand Prix and picking his heroes from the weekend, exclusively for F1.com. Here are his choices from the 80th running of the Monaco Grand Prix...
This past weekend Formula 1 visited Monaco for the annual test of the drivers' precision and daring as they thread the needle through the streets of the principality. Though the race is rarely a nail biter, the challenging circuit and some unpredictable conditions made this year’s edition extra entertaining for the fans – and extra difficult for the drivers.
Nyck de Vries, AlphaTauri – p12
De Vries came into 2023 with very high expectations after that stellar debut for Williams in Monza last season. The start to his rookie campaign has not been full of high points, but the feeling was that the start to the European leg of the season would bring some results as he returned to circuits with which he was more familiar.
Monaco was a good example of him starting to find his way, despite the AlphaTauri not being the most sorted package. He did well to start 12th, only missing out on a Q3 berth by half a tenth. From there, the race was a big challenge for the Dutchman.
Before the rain hit he was under immense pressure as his medium tyres grained aggressively, and a train of hard-shod cars lined up behind him.
Taking the mediums over 10 laps past the recommended window, he drove defensively and mistake free to survive until the rain came. Once the intermediates were on it was a race against himself to survive the treacherous conditions. Keeping his composure in the toughest of conditions, with his best finish of the season to date on the line, was a great show of his potential.
Esteban Ocon, Alpine – P3
It’s probably no surprise to see Ocon on this list after an incredible weekend from start to finish.
Monaco qualifying is probably the toughest challenge of the year for drivers. While F1 races on plenty of street tracks, the margin for error here is much smaller than at Singapore or Baku. And the passing opportunities are even rarer, meaning the pressure – and the consequences – of qualifying at Monaco are as high stakes as it gets.
Ocon’s fourth on pace (bumped up to third on the grid after Charles Leclerc’s penalty) was mighty impressive considering he’d been an eighth to tenth place car in practice. That takes a level of precision and commitment that is so difficult to master.
Qualifying does dictate a lot here, but after the team called the timing to inters perfectly, Ocon did his part in keeping the car out of the barriers, and the quicker Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton at bay to secure a much deserved podium.
Oscar Piastri, McLaren – P10
Piastri’s weekend was a similar story to Ocon’s. Despite a decent amount of experience at the track, he languished worryingly behind teammate Lando Norris throughout practice.
In final practice he was 19th while Norris was fifth – not a great confidence boost going into qualifying. But true to the form of the champion driver we’ve seen in his junior career, he delivered when it mattered in the toughest session of the season.
Missing Q3 by a few hundredths, he lined up one position behind his teammate. He had one of the more straightforward races, starting on the hards and running until the inters were the tyre to have, and was rewarded with a point.
While I am sure that his side of the garage wishes they could have stayed in front of Norris after his too-early first stop, it’s still a result to be proud of.
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo – P11
Top 10 pace in a few practice sessions gave Bottas hope for a strong weekend, but a 15th place in qualifying definitely made that a taller order.
In the race, he was the first in line behind the tyre-tortured Nyck de Vries for much of the first half. As a 20+ second gap formed in front of them, it would’ve been so easy to try and pull off a desperate pass attempt and lose a wing – or worse – as we saw a few others do.
He kept his risks to a minimum and called the stop perfectly to be the first car to switch to inters, vaulting him ahead of many he was racing before the rain. Just shy of the points will sting, but up four spots is still a good effort around here.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing – P1
I'm not sure what more can be said about Verstappen this season – and we’re only six races in!
He won the race in typical Max fashion, but I want to focus on qualifying. There were a few stand out qualifying performances this weekend, but Verstappen’s final sector on his final lap in Q3 was stunning.
The nature of this circuit was always going to take a big chunk out of the admittedly hefty advantage the Red Bull has, making the massive amount of time he found at the end of the lap awe inspiring.
The slow-mo replays of him through the Turn 15-16 chicane, or the exits of Turn 17-18-19, showed him using literally every centimetre of available road. I winced at the screen three times in about 10 seconds thinking he’d binned it.
The spatial awareness he showed was on another level. Aryton Senna may still hold the lap of the Gods at Monaco, but Max put in a good case for sector of the Gods.