Euro 2020 Special

Monaco Grand Prix: Verstappen Victorious After Unlucky Leclerc Ruled Out

Monaco Grand Prix 2021

Max Verstappen came away with his maiden victory in the Monaco Grand Prix, which made its triumphant return after being cancelled last year amid the Covid pandemic.

The Red Bull driver qualified second behind pole-sitter Charles Leclerc, but the Ferrari driver suffered more bad luck on his home Grand Prix as he was forced to retire before the start of the race.

Pole position usually means victory in Monaco, and Verstappen completely capitalised on Leclerc’s absence to claim his first career win at the famous track.

And with reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton finishing a mere seventh after his disastrous qualifying run, Verstappen is now the new world championship leader.

Highlights of the game

Ferrari came into the weekend in decent shape to pick up their first win of the season, and they were looking good to get it as Charles Leclerc made massive Monaco Grand Prix 2021 news by clinching pole position for the race’s much-awaited return.

Verstappen finished second while world champion Lewis Hamilton – who won the last race in Monaco in 2019 – was a distant seventh following a dismal showing in qualifying.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc is disappointed after missing out on the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix due to gearbox damage
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in talks with Prince Albert II of Monaco ahead of the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix

However, the Ferrari driver crashed his car on his last lap in qualifying, which put his race status into serious question. Ferrari initially thought that Leclerc’s gearbox escaped damage and he would be clear to start, but the Monegasque suffered yet more heartbreak on his home Grand Prix as he had to bow out due to gearbox failure.

Verstappen’s Monaco Grand Prix 2021 odds of winning the race suddenly went up with Leclerc’s retirement, although the Dutchman almost had a disastrous start after he suffered a wheel-spin. But the Red Bull was able to recover and hold onto his spot amid pressure from Valtteri Bottas.

Verstappen and Bottas would go on to battle at the top for the first few laps of the race, with Hamilton unable to gain much ground.

The two Mercedes drivers then started struggling for pace with their degrading tyres a quarter of the way in. Hamilton was the first to enter the pits on lap 30 with Bottas coming in a lap later. However, disaster struck Bottas as his rear left tyre wouldn’t come off, which meant that the Finnish driver’s race was finished.

With Leclerc and Bottas out and Hamilton seemingly out of contention, Verstappen’s road to victory was suddenly wide open. A podium finish was also wide open for Ferrari’s other driver, Carlos Sainz, who was now up in second.

Sainz had started to cut into Verstappen’s lead halfway through the race, but the Dutchman simply built it back up and did not seem to be under too much distress. However, the same could not be said of Hamilton, who was having all sorts of trouble getting past Pierre Gasly for sixth place.

With less than 10 laps to go, Verstappen was more than seven seconds clear of Sainz and victory looked all but secure. And so it proved as the Red Bull driver took the chequered flag for the first time in Monaco, as well as another first: the lead in the world championship.

Key statistics

Verstappen’s win in Monaco was the 12th in his career and the second of the season. He is now up to 105 points to top the drivers’ championship standings over Lewis Hamilton, who is at 101 points.

It’s the first time Verstappen has even finished on the podium in the Principality; he went second in 2019 but slid down to fourth due to a penalty.

Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz continued Ferrari’s recent success in Monaco amid Leclerc’s absence as he gave the Prancing Horse its fourth straight top-two finish at the race. Sainz has scored in all six starts at the Monaco GP, but this was his first podium finish.

As for teammate Leclerc, he became the first pole-sitter not to start due to mechanical failure since Michael Schumacher did so with Ferrari in the 1996 French GP.

Mercedes also had a miserable weekend in Monaco. Lewis Hamilton finished outside the top six for only the second time since the start of 2020. Meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas – who also did not finish the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – now has two retirements in his last four starts.

What’s next?

F1 will be back in a fortnight for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku. Like Monaco, Azerbaijan was scrapped from last year’s schedule due to the pandemic and will make its return this year.

SBOTOP odds will surely back Mercedes to bounce back from their Monaco horror show in Baku. The Silver Arrows have won each of the last two races at the track; Hamilton won in 2018 and Bottas was victorious in 2019.