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Monaco: Even in his passing, Niki inspires

Courtesy of F1.com

Masterful drive from Hamilton

Now I know a few who argued that because it is impossible to overtake in Monaco, Hamilton was able to keep Verstappen at bay. As true as that sounds, do not neglect the facts which are:

  1. Hamilton was on Medium tyres, while Verstappen was on Hard that can last longer
  2. Hamilton had to defend his position for 63 laps, without making a single mistake on badly aging tyres

Please do not dismiss this amazing drive from Hamilton. Even on lap 76, at the seafront chicane,  when Verstappen thought he had a chance and went for it, Hamilton’s cool and skillfulness is what kept him on the racing line and force Verstappen to lose more valuable time.

All in all, I do not see value in arguing that this was potentially the best drive for Hamilton.Niki Lauda would have been proud with his performance.

Red Bull and Verstappen what did you do?

The safety car was called in after Leclerc suffered a puncture on lap 9, and debris from the tire made it unsafe. The top four: Hamilton,Bottas, Verstappen and Vettel, dived into the pits.

Honestly, I think Red Bull were phenomenal in finishing the pit stop in that short time. The team released him when Bottas was about to pass.I am of the opinion that Verstappen was wrong with his excessive dive into Bottas and forcing him into the wall.

Was it an unsafe or a safe release? Was Verstappen’s dive that made it unsafe? I think this will be debated throughout the season. But I agree with the steward’s decision that it was an unsafe release and believe that the penalty should have been 10 seconds.

If Red Bull waited for Mercedes, then they would have been forced to wait for Ferrari and end up 4th. Ironically, they ended up with 4th due to the 5-second penalty, nonetheless.

Ferrari did it right, for a change

I am surprised to be honest. Ferrari finally played it smart, but I think because it was handed to them on a golden platter.

Leclerc was as expected on a mission, and he pulled off a few exciting moves. On Lap 2 he overtook Norris at the hairpin, and on lap 7 he skillfully overtook Grosjean at Rascasse. Sadly, on lap 9, making the same move on Hulkenberg at Rascasse, he misjudged the space and hit his right rear tyre.That resulted in a puncture and with the tyre disintegrating and debris flying around, a safety car was called in. While he was nursing his car back to the pits, his car floor got badly damaged that he was forced to retire on lap 18. Ferrari gave him the right tyres and strategy, sadly his accident did not help.

On the other hand, while Vettel was not competitive throughout the weekend, and made plenty of mistakes. He was a passenger and beneficiary of the misfortunes of others.

Just like the top four, he pitted during the safety car and took on hard tyres (which was the right choice). He benefited from the scuffle of Verstappen and Bottas and slotted into 3rd. He did not get into the fight with the top 2, and with the second pit stop for Bottas, he never was under threat from the Fin driver. One look at his tyres and it is easy to see he was just cruising to 3rd, which ended up 2nd due to the time penalty.

Smart move from Ferrari, but I still believe they have major issues to fix.

The battle for best of the rest

To those who finished in the points:

Gasly’s drive from 8th to 5th, his best result of the season, will definitely sit well with Red Bull’s ChristianHorner. Those precious points are good to start closing the gap to Ferrari. A few more races like these, and with the misfortunes of Ferrari, and Red Bull can see themselves in 2nd place.

McLaren’s Sainz had a terrible start of the season, but has been steadily improving, in Azerbaijan he finished 8th, Spain 7th and Monaco 6th. The same cannot be said about Lando Norris, and I put that down due to his inexperience. McLaren are still far away from competition; however, they have the young drivers that will take them there. It is hopefully a matter of time, but how much time?

Big day for Torro Rosso with both drivers finishing in the points for a change. I hope this is a start for consistency in results. I cannot put my finger on it yet, but they are not a team that is ready yet to challenge, despite the investment that has been made thus far.

Daniel Riccardo must be regretting his decision to move toRenault by now. A miserable start and no ability to the challenge the Red Bulls.I am yet to be convinced that Renault knows the full extent of the problems they face. Cyril must be under tremendous pressure to turn things around and fix the car, as clearly it is the issue. 

Finally, I am very disappointed for Haas. I really thought that this year they can continue with their last year success. It is good to see that they still finish in the points, but they are not yet in the same level as last year. I hope they can turn things around.

After thoughts

As expected in Monaco, the pole sitter usually wins the race. There was definitely some excitement with the Hamilton Verstappen tussle, but for the majority of the race, it was a standard affair. I was hoping that Leclerc will continue his drive and mimic the success that Schumacher had in2006, started at the back of the grid and finished 5th. Alas, that misjudgment cost him the race.

We are off to Montreal next. A lovely city that I had the pleasure to attend the race there. Should be exciting.

Till then, drive safe.

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