Sunday, July 21, 2024

Martin Brundle analyses early Monaco Grand Prix chaos, crashes and Charles Leclerc perfection -Dlight News

Charles Leclerc had never been on the podium at his home race in Monaco in either F2 or F 1. To noisy celebration around the track and in the harbour, he became the first Monegasque to win his home race in 93 years, and the first to win an official world championship race around the principality.

It was a fairytale ending to what was largely and sadly a non-event of a race. At the best of times this layout needs an awkwardly timed safety car or red flag, or rain. Better still, all three.

The worst-case scenario is a first-lap red flag on a day when two of the three tyre compounds can be massaged into completing the entire 78-lap race distance, thereby making best use of the regulations which permit a tyre change during the red flag stoppage, and so enabling everyone to also tick the box for using two different tyre compounds during a dry race. And that’s exactly what happened.

This created a scenario where Ferrari, with Leclerc out front and Carlos Sainz in third, basically measured their pace to George Russell in fifth place, a driver they would never again see in their mirrors after a few laps, to avoid a pit stop window opportunity opening up for the McLaren of Lando Norris in fourth.

So, on the second standing start after the red flag, the top ten finished in exactly the same order for the first time in F1 history.

Chaos on opening lap

The first start saw three separate incidents before half a lap had been completed. The fast starting Sainz had an altogether reasonable run up the inside of Oscar Piastri into the first corner. Rubbing is racing as they say, but the McLaren’s viscous aero turning vanes, found on the side of all the cars, instantly tore the sidewall of Sainz’s Ferrari tyre and he skidded to a halt in Casino Square apparently out of the race, or at least massively compromised if he could have limped back to the pits.

Only a red flag could save him, and the foundations for this miracle were already happening behind him. The two Haas cars had started on the back of the grid after a technical infringement on their rear wings. I spoke to some Haas mechanics pre-race, and they were hoping their cars would start on the grid rather than penalised into pit lane starts as they wanted to experience the Monaco grid. I said to them the only advantage of the pitlane start is that you can avoid first-lap incidents, which turned out to be prophetic.

There was a slow-moving traffic jam into turn one and Magnussen cleverly coasted in to make a place or two on the inside. Sergio Perez, starting from P16 after a poor qualifying, appeared almost stationary to avoid cars around him. This put Magnussen partly alongside him on the exit of Sainte Devote.

The climb up the hill to Casino Square involves a long, narrow, sweeping double chicane formed by two high barriers. Magnussen’s front axle was marginally ahead of Perez’s rear axle and he felt he deserved racing space, what little there is.

Nico Hulkenberg in the other Haas was in relatively close company on the other side of the Red Bull. Far and away your best chance to overtake in Monaco is on the first lap, and I do feel for Magnussen in this respect. He’s a hard racer and wanted past the Red Bull, but you have to play the percentages, especially when you’re at the back and driving for the smallest team in F1. By keeping his foot in, there was a very high chance of contact in the next few hundred metres, and that played out.

The accident literally reduced the Red Bull to a survival cell and scrap, and tagged Hulkenberg too, meaning both Haas cars were out on the spot. The final ignominy was those two cars making contact head on to ensure pretty much everything was trashed.

Nobody could have predicted that absolute outcome, and the stewards on investigation decided that nobody was predominantly to blame. Perez could have afforded more space and been more aware, and Magnussen should have realised he would need to lift off the throttle sooner than later.

But rather like Magnussen’s accident in Miami with Williams’ Logan Sargeant, hard racing simply caused a huge amount of damage for lowly race positions, which throws away any chance of being around when the prizes are awarded at the end of the race.

Ocon damages his future with Gasly collision

The opening lap provided several good reminders of how fiercely competitive and desperate the battle is in the second half of the grid.

Further round in Portier corner just before the tunnel, literally just before the red flag was unfurled, Esteban Ocon lunged up the inside of his Alpine team-mate Pierre Gasly and they made heavy contact. Ocon would be eliminated from any further proceedings with too much damage, but Gasly would finish in tenth place to score a point for the team.

Ocon is a fine and fast racing driver, but history clearly demonstrates that he has an irrational red mist when it comes to racing, particularly against his team-mates.

He has been heavily criticised before by Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso for his intra-team aggression and contact, and now Gasly too. It will cost Esteban heavily as no front running team would entertain that kind of mentality, or even perhaps any team.

A driver represents hundreds of hard working and professional people, and hundreds of millions of pounds of investment and sponsorship when driving for an F1 team. You simply can’t keep attacking your one team-mate with abandon.

Teams happy to stay in position

The grid line up for the second standing start was sorted out with reference to where they all were as they crossed the safety car line reference point at the end of the pit lane, minus those who couldn’t restart or failed to make it back to the pits under their own steam.

This was 16 cars, all of whom would be classified as finishers 77 rather heavy-going laps later. The second start was much cleaner and they settled into going slow enough to make it to the finish without a further tyre stop under green flag racing speeds.

Lewis Hamilton said it was one of the worst races he’s driven in, and Max Verstappen’s pillow talk was painful when he said he wished he had one for a sleep during the race.

Now the great irony here is that those two drivers didn’t care one bit while we all had to observe them relentlessly winning races and championships by a country mile, but they were right, it was lacklustre to say the least.

George Russell did a great job in a generally more competitive Mercedes to finish fifth and hold off Verstappen who, like Hamilton, had the luxury of a ‘free’ pit stop for fresh tyres due to the gap behind them. Russell managed his tyres and raced very well, albeit only aiming a fifth.

There were brief windows when McLaren could have pitted a car to try to destabilise Ferrari’s comfort bubble in first and third, but Verstappen failing to pass Russell simply demonstrated that track position was more powerful than fresh tyres, not for the first time here.

Maybe the McLaren of old, when they were used to winning plentiful races and championships, would have tried that, but second and fourth suited them just fine at this time and anything else would have been a gamble, possibly even reckless.

Alex Albon did a fine job for Williams in ninth, and Yuki Tsunoda continued his fine season with eighth place for RB.

Aston Martin failed to score a point after Lance Stroll touched the barriers and collected a left rear puncture, when a fresh set of tyres left him initially looking very fast and well placed.

Game on in the championship

Circling back to the top four, it was Leclerc’s first victory in 39 races believe it or not, and he also broke a string of failing to win from his previous 12 pole positions. But he put in a perfect performance from the first lap of practice until the last lap of the race.

Piastri equalled his best ever performance in second place, another driver who had a stellar weekend and who in reality appeared to be the only driver who might have denied Leclerc pole position and victory.

Sainz recovered well from his lucky stroke in being allowed back into the race and starting from P3 again, to collect his third podium in Monaco and maintain his run of not fishing outside of the top 5 this season.

Ferrari and McLaren are on a fine run, both teams and driver pairings looking very cohesive, focused, and well structured. This means that Red Bull are very much looking in their rear mirrors in both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships and it appears to be game-on with so many races to come.

I personally have no doubt that the internal events at Red Bull have detracted from their recent performances, and they’ll be desperately keen to resume normal service in Montreal next time out.

Formula 1 leaves Europe for the final time before the summer break as the championship moves on to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix. Watch every session at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve from June 7-9 live on Sky Sports F1, with Sunday’s race at 7pm. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – No contract, cancel anytime

Related Articles

- Advertisement -

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -