The 2023 Monaco Grand Prix: How It All Went Down

The paddock travelled to Monaco this weekend for the 7th round of the 2023 Formula 1 season. The iconic 3.18km long narrow street circuit is often considered a venue where the racing is dull and boring. However, this weekend proved to be anything but; an exciting qualifying session combined with a dramatic dry/wet race exceeded all expectations fans had for this weekend. Here’s how it all went down:

After setting the fastest time on Saturday, Max Verstappen lined up in pole position, sharing the front row with Fernando Alonso in P2. Charles Leclerc dropped down to P6 after getting a 3-place penalty for impeding Lando Norris in Q3, pushing Esteban Ocon into P3.

The Start

Everyone had a good start when the lights went out. It was when the cars approached the hairpin that the overtaking got underway, with Hulkenberg and Stroll both gaining and losing 4 places respectively. However, Hulkenberg made heavy contact with another car, forcing him into the pits in the first lap to change his front wing. Both Zhou and Perez followed, pitting onto the hard tires in the 1st lap with hopes of the move paying off later in the race. 

As the initial laps went by, there wasn’t much action. The drivers became settled into their positions and any time they could make up to the car ahead was pointless due to the lack of overtaking opportunities. Because of this, drivers resorted to attempting aggressive overtakes, often resulting in contact. Hulkenberg was penalised with a 5s time penalty on lap 5 due to a collision with Sargeant. 

The Race

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Verstappen and Alonso have proved to be title contenders for this season. The difference between their pace and that of the rest of the field was highly evident today, with Verstappen and Alonso building up 13.7s and 11.9s gaps to Ocon in P3 within 10 laps. Ocon, however, was not able to build up such a gap to Sainz behind him. The Spaniard had been chasing down Ocon for multiple laps before attempting an aggressive overtake on him, but instead of getting past the Frenchman, Sainz drove straight into Ocon’s rear right tire and had to continue the race without a left wing endplate. 

The first successful overtake after the first lap came in lap 18 when Magnussen got past Sargeant. The Williams driver lost two more places in the same lap after being overtaken by Stroll and Perez. Sargeant had been struggling to get to grips with the car all weekend and ended up losing one more place to Hulkenberg before finally pitting on lap 21. 

After a few laps, confusion spread in the paddock as drivers and teams were unsure whether to pit in an attempt to undercut drivers ahead of them or to stay out on track due to the possibility of rain. Rain, however, didn’t come as soon as the teams had hoped; drivers continued on their old strategies with Hamilton and Ocon swapping their tires for hard tires to try and make up positions, but both drivers were unsuccessful in doing so; Hamilton’s undercut had failed and Alonso hadn’t gone into the pits as Alpine had anticipated.

A Woeful Weekend for Perez

After starting the race in P20 on a circuit where track position is king, it was clear Perez needed a miracle to even get into the top 10 on race day. Stuck behind Stroll mid-way into the race, Perez was trying everything possible to make it past the Aston Martin. After having multiple incidents in the space of a few laps, Perez was forced into the pits after he damaged his wing by clipping Magnussen’s rear tire while trying to overtake Stroll.

The prayers for rain had finally been answered by lap 53, but it was too late for most teams to make the most of it. Cars initially did not come into the pits, only Stroll and Bottas made the move onto intermediate tires, but as the rain got heavier, it was obvious that the cars were undrivable on slicks. After tiptoeing their way into the tips, most cars switched to the intermediate tires but Alonso surprised everyone by changing onto the medium tire. This gamble, however, amounted to nothing as he had to come into the pits and change his tires to intermediates by the end of his out-lap.

Ferrari’s pit crew, as usual, were under fire today. After gathering a lot of media attention in the last few months for all the wrong reasons, it seems they made even more huge mistakes today. When Sainz came back onto the track behind Ocon after his first pitstop, he shouted at his engineer on the radio for not capitalizing on an opportunity to undercut the Alpine. After it started raining, both Leclerc and Sainz lost out to the Mercedes cars as Ferrari was late in making the call to switch onto intermediate tires.

The rain gradually became even heavier, raising doubts as to whether drivers should pit for wet tires. Sitting in P17, Perez had nothing to lose and was the first to pull the trigger and move onto the wet compound. However, the gamble never paid off as the rain subsided after a while.

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Verstappen Stays On Top

After pulling off two amazing stints on the medium and intermediate tires, Verstappen took the chequered flag in P1 by a long shot, finishing over 25 seconds ahead of Alonso in P2. This marks the Dutchman’s 2nd win in Monaco in 3 years and his 4th win for the year. Ocon also gave Alpine a reason to celebrate by making it to the podium in P3 by managing to stay ahead of Hamilton. The top 10 were as follows: VER ALO OCO HAM RUS LEC GAS SAI NOR PIA.

Now What?

Yet again, Verstappen appears to be the favourite to win the driver’s championship, leading the table by 39 points. However, it is too early in the season to make an accurate prediction. Perez and Alonso aren’t far behind and might be able to snatch the title from Verstappen. Mercedes also introduced major upgrades this weekend, but their performance can’t be considered representative for the rest of the season due to the nature of Monaco’s street circuit.

Who do you think will win this year’s championship? Can Mercedes make a comeback? Be sure to let me know in the comments!

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