Monaco delivers drama but Max Verstappen avoids slip-up

The top three might have started where they finished, but this was one of the best Monaco grands prix we’ve seen in years.

F1 cars have swollen in size in the last two seasons, which threatened to make the race devoid of any overtakes, yet this did not stop the 20 drivers from trying. There were scuffed tyres and busted endplates aplenty. And that was before the rain arrived 50 laps in.

It started as a light sprinkling from the hairpin through to the tunnel entrance. The drivers tiptoed around this section, knowing it was too dry elsewhere to switch to intermediate tyres.

Second-placed Fernando Alonso doubled down and pitted on lap 54 for another set of dries – hards for mediums – hoping the rain would not get any worse.

It was his best and probably only shot at leapfrogging leader Max Verstappen. However, soon the drops were falling across the entire circuit and the whole field pitted for inters – including Alonso.

The Aston Martin driver lost a lot of time, having to box twice, but had built up a sufficient buffer over Esteban Ocon and still held on to the runner-up spot.

It was a brilliant result for Ocon, the first Frenchman to stand on Monaco’s podium since Olivier Panis took a surprise win in 1996.

Alpine were under pressure to get a good result and a haul of 21 points more than doubles their account, moving them ahead of McLaren in the constructors’ championship.

Lewis Hamilton was fourth with team-mate George Russell just behind, having earned a five-second penalty for causing a collision with Sergio Perez.

Second was Alonso’s best result in what is proving a sensational year for him but he never lost hope he might go one better and become the first man in more than six months to beat Red Bull.

Alonso and Verstappen’s team-mates, on the other hand, had a grim weekend. Perez dropped it in Q1 qualifying by taking way too much speed into turn one, meaning he started last – a death sentence here – and gave his mechanics a late night with no gaming tables or champagne pyramids in sight.

He finished the race two laps down in 16th. The Mexican, who won Monaco last year, is still second in the title chase, but he is 39 points behind Verstappen now. The Dutchman is running away with it. ‘Checo’ acknowledged how costly Monaco had been for him. ‘It is unacceptable. I cannot afford another zero in the championship.’

What was surprising was that, despite being 28 seconds in the lead, Verstappen kept pushing until the chequered flag, scraping the barrier at Portier. It was massively risky but he has so much confidence in his car and himself that he can creep over the limit and survive.

It was the same level of commitment he showed in qualifying, crushing the dreams of the Aston Martin crew by pulling out of a hat an absolutely balls-out third sector and ripping pole position from Alonso’s grasp.

The perilous streets of the Principality were the best chance the competition had for stabbing their Christian Horner voodoo dolls and willing the Milton Keynes team to drop the ball. It didn’t work.

Lance Stroll the weak link for ambitious Aston Martin

Fernando Alonso is now just 12 points behind Sergio Perez and has so far been mistake-free, unlike Lance Stroll whose green AMR23 looked pretty beaten up when the Canadian retired 25 laps from the end.

He had started 14th and got in several scraps, which earned him a black-and-white flag at one stage.

Aston Martin are second in the standings, a point ahead of Mercedes, and it’s all thanks to Stroll’s veteran team-mate. The team, about to open a new £200million factory, have signed a works deal with Honda from 2026 and have huge ambitions.

Can owner Lawrence Stroll achieve his targets – to win the team’s title and add to his vast wealth – with his son in the second car?

Right now, junior looks the weakest component in a strong bid for glory.

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