And then Mercedes had to admit to Hamilton that he was about to lose another position, as Sergio Perez – who had been bottled up behind Vettel – pumped in some sensationally quick times before pitting and leapfrogging all three into fourth place.
“We lost a lot of points today for a really, really poor performance from the team, and definitely a little bit surprised by it,” Hamilton said. “But these things are sent to try us.”
Perez did close up on Norris in the only real battle of interest in the closing laps but predictably there was no overtaking possible, and the top three remained unchanged. It might not have been thrilling racing, but try bursting the bubble of the podium finishers who all made their first visit to the Monaco podium…
“It’s so special around here to win and also for me the first time on the podium here,” Verstappen said. “An amazing race. It’s a lot of laps around here and you really have to keep your focus. It’s really cool.”
“It’s always the dream to be on the podium here,” Norris added. “It’s extra special, I didn’t think it was going to happen but a bit of luck, I want to say some good driving and a good car all weekend. We’ve had a strong weekend so thanks to the boys and girls – this one is for them.
“It’s special here. I will cherish it.”
At the end of it all, Vettel’s fifth saw him voted Driver of the Day on what was a productive afternoon for Aston Martin, with a brave decision to start on the hard tyres and run long with Lance Stroll paying off as he gained five spots to finish eighth behind Hamilton. Stroll did have a scare after touching the yellow line at the pit exit – leading to an investigation – but he was cleared of wrongdoing by the stewards and retained his four points ahead of Esteban Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi.
Hamilton at least picked up an extra point for the fastest lap after a late second pit stop for soft tyres, but it was a tough day for Mercedes as Verstappen took the lead in the drivers’ championship and Red Bull now tops the constructors’ standings.
“We had 29 points to Red Bull and we’re one behind now, so that isn’t the prettiest of pictures and Lewis is behind too by four points,” Toto Wolff said. “But it’s clear the thing is going to go until the very end and I hope that these seven points are going to make the difference, so let’s just learn, move on and conquer again.
“Overall a weekend to forget. Well, actually, not forget, because tomorrow we’re going to put the finger in where it hurts most and we’re going to try to learn.”
Monaco doesn’t always deliver an enthralling race, but it might have just provided a pivotal one in the context of this season.