The Winners and Losers of the Monaco Grand Prix
While one team maintained their stunning winning run, the streets of Monte Carlo were not as kind to others – including the local lad. We pick out the winners and losers of the Monaco Grand Prix…
Winner: Lewis Hamilton
Monaco hasn’t traditionally been a happy hunting ground for Lewis Hamilton, the Briton entering the weeking having triumphed just twice in 12 attempts at the Principality - a poor record by his standards. But this year was different. After the sad passing of his friend and Mercedes colleague Niki Lauda in the preceding week, Hamilton was determined to make this year different.
He dominated Friday practice and delivered when it mattered in qualifying, on the second and final of his runs, pipping team mate Valtteri Bottas with a maximum attack lap. Then come race day, he commanded the race from the front. And when Mercedes made the wrong call on tyres (they admitted so after the race), Hamilton did what he does best – he made it work.
“His driving saved us,” said Mercedes chief Toto Wolff. Hamilton was simply able to make the mediums he was on, compared to the more durable hards his rivals had, last until the end of the race. As a result, he clinched his third Monaco Grand Prix win – a first from pole position – and his fourth in six races this year.
The Briton, who said he was ‘fighting with the spirit of Niki’ also led a race from start to finish for the 17th time in his career, two short of Ayrton Senna’s all-time record. Perhaps more importantly, he extended his championship lead to 17 points, having now finished first or second in every race this season.
It’s been a stunning start and ominously, you feel he hasn’t even really got going yet.
Loser: Charles Leclerc
While Hamilton celebrated, Charles Leclerc was left to rue what might have been. The Ferrari protégé had hoped to fight for top honours on home soil - and his pace in final practice suggested he could. But it all went wrong in qualifying and got worse in the race.
Ferrari misjudged the lap time Leclerc needed to progress into the second part of qualifying on quite possibly the worst circuit they could have done it at, so difficult is it to overtake. Leclerc knew he had to take risks, and risks he took, pulling off a brilliant move on Romain Grosjean at Rascasse - but it didn’t work out when he attempted the same trick against Nico Hulkenberg.
Forced to retire the car for the first time this season, the result leaves him in fifth place in the constructors’ championship, 21 points adrift of Verstappen in fourth and 80 behind leader Hamilton. He’ll be hoping for better fortune in Canada.
Winner: Carlos Sainz
After a lukewarm start to his McLaren career, Carlos Sainz has gone on a run of three successive points finishes, the last of which in Monaco was arguably the best of the trio.
It came on the back of a woeful start to the weekend, when he missed FP1 because of an energy store issue, but evidently the loss of track time didn’t hurt him as he was soon up to speed and qualified an impressive ninth.
He pulled off a sensational launch, surging past the Toro Rosso of Alex Albon up the hill before nailing “one of my best overtakes” around the outside of Daniil Kvyat through Massenet. By choosing not to pit under the Safety Car, he ran as high as fifth, and that earned him track position - although team mate Lando Norris also played his part.
Sixth is his best result since joining McLaren and means he has scored points in each of the five Monaco Grands Prix he has driven in.
Losers: Alfa Romeo
Alfa Romeo are edging towards a tailspin after a strong start to the 2019 campaign. Spearheaded by 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, the Sauber-run team scored points in each of the first four races. But they haven’t come close since and suffered their worst result of the year in Monaco.
Team boss Frederic Vasseur said the damage was done on Saturday when they qualified poorly. Both Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi bemoaned being stuck behind slower cars throughout the race. Giovinazzi got in a pickle with Robert Kubica, tipping the Williams into a spin, while Raikkonen fought a running battle with Lance Stroll's Racing Point.
The lack of points means they have dropped to ninth in the constructors’ championship, with only Williams below them. Plenty of work to do back at Hinwil, then, as neither driver feels happy with the feel of the car right now.
Winners: Toro Rosso
Toro Rosso delivered one of the most – if not the most – impressive team performances of the day in Monaco, with Daniil Kvyat and Alex Albon securing the Italian team’s first double points finish of the season.
Kvyat’s seventh place was his best result in Toro Rosso overalls, having previously clocked up 13 finishes in either ninth or 10th place while Albon scored for the first time since China.
It was the first time Toro Rosso had two cars in the top eight since the 2015 United States Grand Prix, when Verstappen finished fourth and Sainz seventh.
They are now right in the thick of the ultra-competitive midfield battle in seventh in the constructors’ championship, just 14 points shy of McLaren in fourth. Not bad for a junior team, eh?
Loser: Lance Stroll
This was not Lance Stroll’s finest weekend. He was, by his own admission, “just slow” during Friday practice and then failed to make it out of Q1 again – that’s the 10th time in a row he’s failed to progress to Q2.
In the race, he didn’t have much pace and clumsily collided with Raikkonen at the hairpin. He never looked in contention for points and finished a lowly 16th place, three places behind his team mate Sergio Perez.
Winner: Sebastian Vettel
At last, something has gone Sebastian Vettel’s way. He admitted second place wasn’t a fair reflection of Ferrari’s ultimate pace – but there’s no doubt he’ll take it as it at the very least minimises the loss of points to championship leader Lewis Hamilton.
It was an untidy weekend, the German simply not comfortable with the car – largely because of their tyre problems and lack of grip and downforce – and that means he doesn’t have the confidence to push.
He damaged the car in final practice, but recovered well in qualifying, even if he left it late to get a time good enough to progress to Q2 (at the expense of his team mate).
It was the third time in as many years that he has finished in the top two in Monaco and it gave Ferrari their best result of the 2019 campaign. Can he get some momentum now and spice this championship up?
Loser: Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas has provided a stern challenge to Mercedes team mate Hamilton this season, winning two of the first four races and at points heading the world championship.
But he allowed that pressure on team mate Hamilton to ease in Monaco, first missing out on pole after admitting he didn’t get his final qualifying lap right. Then in the race, he was the victim in a clash with Verstappen as he picked up a puncture.
He was fortunate, though, in that he was able to rejoin fourth – a net loss of two places – because of the Safety Car. It could have been a lot worse and those extra points might prove crucial in a tight title battle.
But he will leave Monaco knowing that it could have been so much better. He trails Hamilton by 17 points, while his third-place finish means Mercedes’ run of successive one-twos ends at five.
Winner: George Russell
This was a stunning performance from the Williams rookie. Having started 19th, he found himself in the unusual position of having the pace to compete with cars around him – and he made the most of it.
For most of the race, Williams had the same performance as Racing Point and Alfa Romeo and at some points, Russell was in such a groove, he was told he was lapping at the same pace as the leaders (though admittedly Hamilton’s tyre issues meant the pace of the frontrunners was significantly slower than expected).
Fifteenth might not sound brilliant, but considering the quality of the Williams FW42, this was an extraordinarily good showing from the Briton and helped remind people why Mercedes, who brought him onto their junior programme, rate him so highly.
Loser: Max Verstappen
Not for the first time, Max Verstappen created headlines in a Grand Prix but ultimately didn’t get the reward his performance warranted following the five-second time penalty for Red Bull's unsafe release.
He saw an opportunity and snatched it when he came out side by side with Bottas in the pits and then set about chasing Hamilton. With his rival struggling with tyre wear, Verstappen piled the pressure on and it was a matter of when not if he would have a stab down the inside at the chicane.
He couldn’t find a way by, nor open up enough of a gap to Vettel and Bottas behind, which means he was dropped two places to fourth when his time penalty was applied.
It means he has still never led a lap or finished on the podium in Monaco – but fourth is his best result in the Principality. The result also dropped him one place to fourth in the drivers’ championship - cruel in the circumstances.