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.
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.
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Such was the pace of Perez, it put Hamilton in danger of being overcut by the second Red Bull, news that didn’t go down well at all with Hamilton over the team radio.
The Mexican was in on lap 36 and fed back out in fourth position, well clear of Vettel, Gasly and crucially for both championships, the sole-surviving Mercedes of Hamilton.
Sainz was starting to close on Verstappen at half-a-second per lap and made up 1.4sec on lap 41 as the race leader encountered lapped traffic.
The Spaniard got the gap down to 3.5sec but that stabilised quickly as Verstappen responded on his fresher hard tyres.
Daniel Ricciardo’s hopes of points were small already and when Kimi Räikkönen pitted on lap 45, the Alfa Romeo rejoined ahead still in P12. He was lapped by his former team-mate on lap 47 and lapped by current team-mate Norris on lap 52.
Verstappen reported a clipping issue in deployment on lap 55, prompting Sainz to apply some more pressure for the lead as the gap fell below 3sec.
Lance Stroll pitted for new tyres on lap 59, swapping out his hard tyres for softs and rejoining in eighth.
Norris reported that his car was not behaving well on the hard tyres and that gave Perez the signal to start to apply the pressure and close the gap. He had it down from 5.8sec to 1.8sec in a matter of laps between 58 and 64.
The McLaren driver asked for radio silence from lap 65 as Perez latched onto his gearbox and into DRS range.
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Hamilton was back into the pits on lap 68 with a big enough gap back to Stroll for scrubbed soft tyres t0 try and salvage something from a miserable afternoon in Monaco. A 1min 12.909sec on lap 71 was good enough for the new race lap record and was over a second quicker than anyone else on track.
Sainz’s attempts to close the gap had no real dent on the leader, with the gap extending to over 9sec in the final five laps.
Verstappen went unchallenged at the front and after Bottas’ demise, faced no real threat for his second win of the season. It meant that he took the championship lead for the first time in his Formula 1 career.
The lone Ferrari finished second to stand on the rostrum for the first time in red and Norris managed to fend off Perez in the final laps to hold onto third.
Vettel’s overcut netted him a fifth-place finish and his best result for Aston Martin so far with Gasly holding onto sixth in his best finish of 2021.
Hamilton’s awful afternoon ended with P7 and the fastest lap of the race and Stroll, Esteban Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi rounded out the points-paying positions.