A surprisingly competitive and interesting Monaco Grand Prix has ended with Lewis Hamilton taking yet another 2019 victory on positively creamed front tires ahead of a hard charging Max Verstappen. Even with a last minute chuck down the inside going into the Nouvelle Chicane, Max couldn’t make anything stick on Hamilton.
Polesitter Hamilton got away from the start cleanly ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas. An early race full course yellow pulled the Mercedes boys in for tires and a gamble on strategy. For 67 laps, Hamilton stayed out on a set of medium compound tires that are, at best, meant to go 50 laps. I will say that in spite of his whining about the tires for about the final 35 laps of the race, Hamilton managed to keep the car under him and keep Verstappen behind. It was impressive driving.
During that pit stop, Verstappen got a great stop and attempted to leapfrog Bottas in the lane. The team released him and he got out ahead of Bottas, but it was too tight for the stewards’ liking, grabbing a 5 second penalty for unsafe release.
Despite crossing the finish line in second, he was awarded fourth after the penalty was assessed, promoting Sebastian Vettel to second and Bottas to third, marking the first time this season Mercedes hasn’t grabbed a 1-2 finish.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was forced to start 16th following a completely mad qualifying strategy by his team. Within the first few laps, he’d already begun working his way through the field. By making a flyer down the inside at Rascasse, he made a low percent move stick.
The following lap he gave it a go again and banged his right side wheel against the barrier, netting a puncture. Having already passed pit-in, he had to make a full lap on a flat tire, and it delaminated, shredding the car to pieces. This ultimately led to the race’s lone full course caution, and his retirement from the Grand Prix.
Where Monaco is usually a processional parade, this Grand Prix served to be actually interesting, due in large part because Ferrari truly fucked the duck on Leclerc’s qualifying strategy Saturday. It was the FCY that ultimately caused the confusion at the front.
And, as long as I’m armchair quarterbacking, I’ll say that Verstappen’s unsafe release penalty is a bit bullshit at a place like Monaco. First of all, it would be nearly impossible to see what is coming down the pit lane, and second of all, the pit lane is so narrow, that there is no acceleration lane. He is out of his box and immediately into the side of the Mercedes with nowhere to go. What’s the team supposed to do? They can’t just leave him sitting in the box waiting for the whole field to stream past before releasing him. It’s a damn shame he got penalized for that, because his fight was the best part of the race.
Of the six races we’ve seen thus far this season, Monaco has been my personal favorite. I just wish it had rained, we might have seen an even better result.
MVP of the race was Max Verstappen, with a nod to 2018 Monaco winner Daniel Riccardo for scoring 9th to take his second points paying finish of the season thus far. It’s also worth noting that all four Honda-powered cars finished in the points at this race.