Leclerc wins Monaco GP as Verstappen loses ground
Published:
May 27, 2024

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The result has reignited the 2024 championship fight after the opening weekends suggested Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing would cruise to another year of control. With Lando Norris winning in Miami two rounds ago, the sport now boasts a trio of winners from different teams from the last three grands prix. Ferrari sits just 24 points behind the reigning champions, and Leclerc's consistent top-four finishes have him 31 points away from Verstappen with 16 races to close that gap.

Despite the shift in how competitive the season looks, Monaco itself was far from an entertaining race. The top 10 finished in the same order as they started for the first time in Formula 1 history, and many drivers lapped seconds slower than their capabilities without those chasing able to pass. Questions may linger about the circuit's relevance in modern-day motorsport, but there still was something magical about the result that would be impossible to replicate elsewhere.

However, a dramatic half-lap started the show when a three-car shunt on the opening lap triggered a red flag stoppage. Sergio Perez and the two Haas drivers crashed out on the uphill Beau Rivage run after Turn 1 in a debris-filled incident, decimating Perez's car. All three drivers were unhurt, but the sizeable repair bill will impact Red Bull and Haas' budget in the cost cap era.

Leclerc wins Monaco GP as Verstappen loses ground

The stewards deemed the crash a racing incident, with replays showing Perez's rear-right wheel being tapped by Kevin Magnussen's front-left, as the Dane refused to back off the throttle despite the barriers to his right leaving him without room to manoeuvre. Nico Hulkenberg in the sister Haas had nowhere to go when Perez spun into his path, ending his Monaco GP early. The steward's decision is fortunate for Magnussen, who would've faced a race ban had he shouldered the blame for the incident.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz will be thankful for the scale of the crash after suffering a disastrous opening lap. Wheel-to-wheel fighting between Oscar Piastri in P2 and the P3-starting Sainz after Turn 1 saw the Spaniard's front-left Pirelli suffer a puncture. He limped to Casino but pulled to the side of the road, ready to retire from the contact. However, with the red flags flying, Sainz returned to the pit lane. Restart rules meant the Spaniard would resume the race from P3, much to the frustration of everyone behind him who had gained a free position.

There was even more Lap 1 carnage further around the circuit between the two Alpine drivers. Esteban Ocon's F1 future hangs in the balance after he attempted a bold overtake into the Portier left-hander before the tunnel on teammate Pierre Gasly. "What did he do?!" was the furious team radio from Gasly as Ocon left him no room on the corner exit, leading to an inevitable crash. Ocon's car bounced into the air, and the impact upon hitting the ground rendered his car broken and out of the race, much to the anger of Team Principal Bruno Famin.

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Leclerc wins Monaco GP as Verstappen loses ground

Most teams used the halt in proceedings to swap their drivers' tyres while the marshals began the clean-up operation and inspected the barrier's integrity. No rule mandates a pit stop in F1. Instead, all drivers must use two compounds of Pirelli's tyres during a dry race. As such, with everyone free to make tyre changes, all remaining drivers apart from Logan Sargeant swapped compounds. This switch allowed the option of running a zero-stop race and preventing the threat of pit-stop strategies undoing their progress.

The result was a procession once the race resumed. Leclerc drove an unchallenged remaining 76 laps, with Piastri and Sainz in pursuit. Fifty laps of inaction ended as Lance Stroll hit the Nouvelle Chicane barriers, but his wheel damage wasn't enough to cause even a VSC as he returned to the pit lane. Stroll, Sargeant, Valtteri Bottas, and Guanyu Zhou provided a handful of overtakes as they enjoyed the benefits of stopping for fresh Pirelli tyres, but these fights for P14 weren't overly thrilling.

Leclerc didn't need any overtakes to win, though, and the home hero was full of emotion in his celebrations. Even the Prince of Monaco sprayed some podium champagne in the euphoria of this history-making win, and the feel-good factor was evident everywhere in the principality. Formula 1 next heads to Canada after a weekend off, giving Monte Carlo and Leclerc plenty of time to party.

Leclerc wins Monaco GP as Verstappen loses ground
Leclerc wins Monaco GP as Verstappen loses ground