Max Verstappen took advantage of Charles Leclerc’s gearbox malfunction to lead Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix from start to finish and move into the lead of the FIA Formula One World Championship for the first time ever.
With Leclerc’s Ferrari unable to take its pole position on the starting grid, Dutchman Verstappen held off Valtteri Bottas into the first corner and controlled the race for his first Monaco GP win ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. and McLaren’s Lando Norris in third.
Red Bull Racing Honda teammate Sergio Pérez produced an assured drive to bank fourth place with Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda’s Pierre Gasly fending off Lewis Hamilton for sixth and Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda finishing 16th in his debut at the iconic F1 race.
Verstappen, 23, now leads the driver standings by four points from reigning champion Hamilton after five of the 23 races with the paddock heading to Baku next for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on June 6.
I’m super happy to win the Monaco Grand Prix. It’s such a tricky track and you need a smooth weekend so I’m very pleased with what we have achieved as a Team and of course with Honda. I just had to focus on my own race and make sure I had a clean start. Of course, it all looked under control but to keep your focus for so many laps is the hardest part because it’s easy to relax when you’re in the lead and make a mistake, so you have to keep reminding yourself to leave your thoughts on the road and stay focused.
I think pace-wise, we were always in control because every time someone tried to push me in terms of lap time, we were able to respond and increase the gap. I’ve never been on the podium here and then the first time it’s a win, so it’s a bit of redemption for the other races I’ve had here. Looking ahead to Baku, Mercedes I think are still the ones to beat, they are very quick on the normal tracks.
We are leading the championship and I hope of course to be there at the end of the season because that’s the most important thing so we cannot get carried away. But for now, a massive thank you to everyone in the factory and here at the track, we won the Monaco Grand Prix so let’s enjoy it.
Today is a great day for the Team and I’m very happy for Max, he did a mega job and now we are leading both championships. The Team did a fantastic job on strategy and the communication throughout the race was excellent. We saved the tyres and used them when we needed to which was key and we did two or three qualifying laps to jump the queue of cars to get fourth. I was closing on Lando but he had good tyres left and I never really had a clear chance at him.
I was thinking of the long game and getting the points which are important for the Team. The cars are just so wide these days but it is what it is. We managed to minimise the damage from Saturday and I think once I’m more comfortable with the car in qualifying, we’ll be in serious contention and fighting for victories as I’m happy and pretty much there on Sundays.
Christian Horner – Team Principal
It’s a phenomenal day for the Team. Max was disappointed yesterday that we didn’t get to see him deliver a pole position lap but he dealt with the frustration well and when the opportunity presented itself today he seized it with both hands, driving faultlessly from start to finish to deliver our fifth Monaco victory. Checo also drove an incredibly strong race, the strategy worked well and he had brilliant pace in clean air enabling him to finish fourth.
It’s Honda’s first win here since Senna in 1992, the first time they’ve led the championship since 1991 and we have to credit them for their hard work in helping us get to this point. They’ve done a great job and to have three Honda cars in the top six is a fantastic result. As a Team we have great strength in depth and finishing first or second in the first five races of the season is a phenomenal example of teamwork and our ability to fight. There is a long way to go in this championship but we should always enjoy the wins.
Commiserations to Charles and Ferrari, it was a tough day for them but great to see them back up there in the mix. The championship is very tight at the top and today was an important step for us.