Verstappen and Red Bull relishing life at the top

Max Verstappen

For the first time in his career, Max Verstappen heads the F1 Drivers’ Championship standings. The flying Dutchman was untouchable at the Monaco Grand Prix, keeping his cool around the iconic Monte Carlo street circuit, while many of the leading competitors endured a weekend to forget.

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Charles Leclerc had everything lined up for a potential home victory, having secured pole position in his Ferrari. However, the Monégasque also managed to crash his car at the Swimming Pool section in Q3, leading to a race against the clock for his team to make repairs ahead of the race. In the end, a driveshaft problem on the formation lap ended Leclerc’s race before it had even begun.

After that unfortunate turn of events for Leclerc and Ferrari, it was Verstappen in the Red Bull and Valtteri Bottas in the Mercedes who lined up on the front row of the grid. Verstappen made the better start at the green lights, edging beyond Bottas to assert his control over the entire race, only briefly relinquishing his lead for a change of tyres.

While the latest F1 betting for the Drivers’ Championship continues to favour Lewis Hamilton, who is valued at 8/13 to retain his title, the British driver had anything but a fun ride around Monte Carlo. The seven-time F1 champion was far from impressed by his own performance, along with that of his team, as Mercedes dropped valuable points.

The strategy to get both drivers into the pits early was an absolute disaster for Mercedes, after just 29 laps of the race. Hamilton was the first to get a fresh set of tyres, although that didn’t improve his fortunes, as he concluded the race down in the seventh position. If that wasn’t bad enough, Bottas was forced to suffer even worse luck.

The Finnish driver didn’t even get to complete the race, due to a stubborn wheel nut that refused to budge during his pit stop. Rotten luck for Bottas, who had been in the frame to fight for a podium finish in Monte Carlo. Both drivers were less than impressed, insisting the team will need to perform better ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Having lost Leclerc at the start of the race, Ferrari still had something to smile about in the end. Carlos Sainz Jr. produced a strong race to finish second, grabbing only the third podium of his career to date. Although clearly delighted with an excellent personal outcome, the Spaniard acknowledged it had been a mixed weekend for Ferrari, following Leclerc’s earlier misfortune.

Lando Norris completed a “dream” weekend at the Monaco Grand Prix for McLaren, claiming the third spot on the podium to keep himself third in the Drivers’ Championship, albeit some way behind both Verstappen and Hamilton. Meanwhile, there was cause to celebrate for Sebastian Vettel, who grabbed his first points of the season for Aston Martin, fifth at the chequered flag.

The fourth position for Sergio Pérez completed a great weekend for Red Bull, who now top the Constructors’ Championship. Although still early in the 2021 F1 season, they and Verstappen set down a marker in Monte Carlo, laying down the gauntlet that suggests Mercedes and Hamilton have genuine challengers this year.

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