Max Verstappen hadn’t finished on the podium in Monaco before but put that right with a dominant victory in Monte Carlo to take the lead of the world championship.
It was a horrible day for Mercedes as it lost out to everyone in the strategy battle; Lewis Hamilton losing places in the pit stops while Valtteri Bottas was forced to retire in a horror show pit stop.
Carlos Sainz signed off his weekend with a great second place and first Ferrari podium while Lando Norris moved back up to third place in the drivers’ standings with another third-place finish.
On the lap to the grid, Ferrari and Leclerc’s worst nightmare materialised as the Monégasque driver reported an issue with his gearbox on the way to the grid. The team had declared his gearbox fine for the race after his qualifying shunt but problems emerged immediately as he took to the track for a reconnaissance lap.
Prince Albert of Monaco consoles Leclerc befopre the start
He was pulled back into the garage as the team frantically tried to fix the issue pre-race, but after a five-minute rush of activity, the team was resigned to its fate and he didn’t re-emerge before the pitlane was closed. With 20 minutes to go until lights out, he was out of the car and consigned to retirement before the lights even went out. Ferrari later confirmed that a driveshaft issue was the culprit.
With the pole-sitter missing, the grid remained as it was with the first slot empty, giving Verstappen a clear view into Sainte Devote and Valtteri Bottas with a clear path to try and take the lead.
The Red Bull was pointed to the right and he immediately covered off the Mercedes heading into Turn One at the start.
Lewis Hamilton was alongside Pierre Gasly at Turn One but couldn’t out-drag the AlphaTauri to take fifth place up the hill.
The two Haas drivers went into combat at the Grand Hotel Hairpin, Mick Schumacher climbing the pavement to take 18th from team-mate Nikita Mazepin.
Bottas held onto the back of the leader as DRS was enabled on lap 3 and, with a fastest lap, started to open up a gap back to Carlos Sainz in third.
The top two traded the fastest lap, while also saving tyres, as they aimed to extend the opening stint of the race as long as possible.
By lap 10, Hamilton was 10.6sec off of leader Verstappen as the top six set comparable times to break away from seventh-placed Sebastian Vettel.
Sergio Perez honed in on the Aston Martin to get to within a second of the four-time champion on lap 14. Two fastest laps brought the gap down to 0.7sec in the closest battle in the opening phase of the race.
Mercedes told Bottas to show his speed on lap 17 with the gap at 2.3sec to Verstappen. He responded with fastest lap to bring that down by 0.3sec.
Lando Norris was setting a competitive pace in P4 but twice ran across the Nouvelle Chicane, receiving a black and white flag warning for his efforts on lap 18.
Verstappen’s pace was too much for the pursuing Mercedes to deal with, opening up the gap to 3sec by lap 22 despite the Finn’s hurry up message. Sainz was the one making progress and catching to get to the 1.5sec range of second place.
Hamilton was told that it was about to kick off in strategy terms on lap 24, with Bottas reporting he felt like he was on wet tyres such was his lack of grip on the softs.
The world champion was now 15sec down on the race leader but the pace in the top eight had stabilised again, depriving the race leader of a gap to pit having moved out of undercut range to Bottas.
Hamilton clawed his way back into DRS range of Gasly as the two made their way through the traffic but not close enough to think about an overtake.
Mercedes was the first team to blink, stopping Hamilton on lap 30 for fresh hard tyres and feeding him back out into eighth place.
Bottas was next in but it was a disastrous stop for the Finn with the front right refusing to come off of the car. It destroyed his race and left him stationary in the pits for well over a minute. It later emerged that a machined axle had put him out of the race.
AlphaTauri responded too on lap 31 and got their man back out in front but only just, with the gap down to 0.4sec. Hamilton’s outlap was slower than Gasly’s in lap on worn softs, but the early stop was about to cost them both.
Vettel took the chance to pit and jumped them both for P5, going side-by-side with Gasly up to Massenet to claim the place.
Sainz was in the pits on lap 33 and rejoined third, ahead of Norris who’d already stopped for McLaren. It left the gap for Verstappen to come in on lap 34 and rejoin second to team-mate Perez who hadn’t stopped yet.