A Detailed Look at the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix

The historic streets of Monaco had incredible highs and tragic lows for the F1 grid. Emily Cary takes you through the chaotic weekend.

Written by Emily Cary

May 25, 2021

After two years, Formula 1 finally returned to the streets of Monaco. A good race here always comes down to qualifying and race strategy because of how difficult overtaking is. This race was essential in the ever-changing title battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. 

Practice 1 and 2 were pretty standard with some surprises. Mercedes seemed to be struggling with the tyres and weren’t able to set the best lap times. Sergio Perez of Red Bull went quickest in FP1 but could not match that pace in the second session of the day. Surprisingly, both Ferrari drivers showed strong pace proving that they can return to form after their disastrous season. Carlos Sainz seemed to be more comfortable in the car than Charles Leclerc this weekend who only did four laps in FP1 because of a gearbox issue. Leclerc and Sainz finished P1 and P2 in the second practice, which was the first time since Hungary 2020 that Ferrari topped the time charts. McLaren’s two drivers had vastly different results in practice. Lando Norris was up with Mercedes and Red Bull in both practices, while Daniel Ricciardo struggled towards the back of the midfield.

Another pair of teammates who had different results in practice was Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda of AlphaTauri. Gasly looked more comfortable, running with Red Bull in both practice sessions, while Tsunoda was stuck in the back of the pack and even crashed in FP2. Alpine and Aston Martin both looked relatively consistent with the possibility of getting into the points. Alfa Romeo was able to get into the top 10 in both sessions, giving the team hope for points on Sunday. The hope of Q3 for Williams faded as George Russell, and Nicholas Latifi didn’t quite match the Alfa Romeo’s. The Haas rookies struggled to begin with, and unfortunately, Schumacher went into the barrier in FP2.

Because of the surprise rain, Practice 3 was a tricky session for all the drivers as they had to gauge what tyres to use on the drying track. In the end, they all went with the dry tyres; it did take a while for them to come out on track, but once they did, the session got off to a great start. Ferrari continued with their excellent form, showing they would be fighting with Verstappen and Norris for pole later in the day. Both Hamilton and Bottas were struggling with the rear of the car but weren’t totally out of the fight for pole. The session was paused twice with crashes. The first red flag situation was when Latifi went into the barrier at the swimming pool. The second red flag, which finished the session, was when Schumacher lost the rear at Casino Square. Both Williams and Haas had a race against the clock to fix the cars before qualifying. 

Williams was able to get Latifi’s car ready for qualifying. Still, unfortunately, Schumacher couldn’t participate because of the damage from his crash in FP3, resulting in an automatic starting position of P20. Q1 was quite chaotic as the typical Monaco traffic issues meant it was difficult for people to set good laps. The drivers that were knocked out were: Tsunoda (16), Alonso (17), Latifi (18), and Mazepin (19). Interestingly, Russell was calling the shots in the garage for when he would go out in Q2 to set his lap. He waited until he had the best chance of being clear from traffic, but it wasn’t enough to make it into Q3. The drivers that were eliminated in Q2 were: Ocon (11), Ricciardo (12), Stroll (13), Raikkonen (14), and Russell (15). A big surprise was Giovanazzi getting out of Q2 and qualifying P10.

Q3 was an intense battle for pole between Verstappen, Leclerc, and Sainz. Leclerc set a great lap that put him on provisional pole, but while setting a second lap, he crashed at the swimming pool, bringing out a red flag that ended the session. Leclerc was able to keep his pole, but it was unclear if the damage to his car from the crash would prevent him from starting the race on pole. This was the first pole Leclerc and Ferrari secured since Mexico 2019 and the first pole for Leclerc at his home race since F2 in 2017. Verstappen, whose second lap was cut short by the crash, would start the race second with Bottas in third. Crucially, the current championship leader, Lewis Hamilton, only qualified P7. 

Unfortunately, Leclerc’s car failed on a warm-up lap, and he never made it to the grid for his home race. It was revealed later in the day that the failure was in the left driveshaft, which was not checked by the team after his crash as it was not part of their standard check procedure.

Sunday was off to a good start for pole-sitter Leclerc, as Ferrari confirmed that the gearbox didn’t sustain any damage in his crash, so he could start the race P1. Unfortunately, Leclerc’s car failed on a warm-up lap, and he never made it to the grid for his home race. It was revealed later in the day that the failure was in the left driveshaft, which was not checked by the team after his crash as it was not part of their standard check procedure. This just extended Leclerc’s terrible Monaco luck as he hasn’t even finished a race in Monaco in his F1 career. With Leclerc out, Verstappen was on pole and got off to a great start in the first lap. The first lap didn’t have much action other than Schumacher overtaking his teammate in the hairpin. Surprisingly, Mazepin, Norris, Schumacher, and Tsunoda received black and white flags for track limits at turn 10.

Valtteri Bottas’ botched pitstop photo via @ValtteriBottas on Twitter

Cars started getting lapped around lap 25, and by the end of the race, only eight cars hadn’t been lapped. Hamilton struggled for a lot of the race, and the team pulled him into the pits on lap 30 to see if he could get an advantage, but he was over-cut by Gasly and Vettel, and his lousy weekend continued. Mercedes’ day went from bad to worse as Bottas had to retire from yet another failed pitstop when the wheel nut wouldn’t come off one of his tyres. The wheel has yet to come off as they need to wait until they get back to the factory. This weekend did not help Mercedes in their tight battle for the championship with Red Bull.

Most of the race was pretty dull without much on-track action, except for the overtake no one saw of Vettel getting the jump on Gasly coming out of the pits. Hamilton made a second pitstop on lap 68 to go for the fastest lap point, and he beat his own fastest lap record in Monaco. After running confidently in P3 for much of the race, Norris started having trouble with his tyres as Perez was gaining on him in the last few laps, but he was able to hold onto his lead and secure a podium. Verstappen won in Monaco for the first time, with Sainz and Norris coming in second and third. 

Max Verstappen after winning the Monaco GP photo via @F1 on Twitter

It was a tough weekend for Leclerc, given that it’s his home Grand Prix. Ferrari could’ve found the problem much earlier, giving him a chance to do well at home finally, but hopefully, it will be a lesson for the team. He still showed that he is a team player by celebrating with them when Sainz got his first podium with the Italian team. 

Final Thoughts from the Author:

The race had some great moments that brought you to the edge of your seat, but Monaco really is a track that is more exciting for qualifying rather than the actual race. The drivers in new teams seemed to show better pace this weekend, but Ricciardo is still struggling. Hopefully, he and McLaren will learn and make changes over the next few races. Verstappen takes the lead of the drivers’ championship by only 4 points, and Red Bull is now the leading constructor with only 1 point separating them and Mercedes.

Bring on the streets of Baku. 


I am Emily Cary, I am 18 years old, and I am from the United Kingdom. I have a strong passion for Formula 1. My favorite drivers are George Russell, Alex Albon, Charles Leclerc, and Max Verstappen. I am in my final year of Six Form before going to university to study PE with teacher training. I like to spend time with my friends, family and playing sports like dance and cricket. My passion for Formula 1 comes from the thrill and the excitement of watching the drivers drive and fight for their position on the track, also seeing the competitiveness and the drive that the drives have. Also, seeing the drivers doing the best they can to succeed and prove themself within the sport. This is the first article that I am writing about Formula 1, and hopefully, it will not be the last. 

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