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Graham Read
Formula 1 Correspondent
6:32 PM 29th May 2022
sports

Pérez On Top After Chaotic Monaco GP

Just five days after the chequered flag had flown at the end of last Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix F1 drivers and their cars were back doing what they do best, albeit this time around the very different iconic streets of Monaco. The Principality’s usual Thursday opening practice sessions had been moved back a day to Friday to assist with the relocation from Barcelona and come this afternoon’s race it was Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez who occupied the top step on the podium after a chaotic 79th Monaco Grand Prix.

Sergio Pérez relaxes amongst the Monaco boats before taking a hard earned victory
Sergio Pérez relaxes amongst the Monaco boats before taking a hard earned victory
The Monaco circuit, which first hosted a Grand Prix way back in 1929, has long held the moniker of being the jewel in Formula 1’s crown due to all the traditional glitz and glamour surrounding the event and also because of the sheer driving challenge which going very quickly around the track represents, with the slightest mistake likely to have serious repercussions. However, with F1 cars now being so wide the race has understandably come under increasing criticism for being too processional as overtaking is almost impossible without another driver making a mistake and slower cars can easily hold up normally quicker ones. There has been an average of just two ontrack overtakes per race since 2018 and a really strong qualifying result and great race strategy have both become increasingly vital to success. Multiple pitstops are usually not preferred simply because it is so difficult to regain places sacrificed even if rejoining the race with a far faster car.
Power and as much of it as possible is always vital in Formula 1, but Monaco is the least power sensitive circuit which F1 races on and the crucial factor in the Principality is very much how near the front of the grid you manage to qualify.

On the plus side, I can personally vouch for the atmosphere in Monaco on race day still being very special and for now at least unlike anywhere else. The Principality has also always been a popular place to reward sponsors and for high level networking, with new deals often sealed over the weekend. However, decent accommodation is limited and extremely expensive, with new rivals like Miami and Las Vegas definitely posing a threat to Monaco retaining its current role. Add in the fact that F1 has historically earned far less from Monaco in terms of hosting rights compared to most circuits and particularly the likes of Saudi Arabia (which is happy to pay around US$50m per race) and Monaco’s position is becoming increasingly questionable. Its current F1 contract expired after today’s Grand Prix and a new one with revised financials may well be negotiated, but it is not inconceivable that in the future Monaco may not host a Grand Prix every year and, hard though it is to even contemplate, it might end up being dropped altogether with so many rival venues jostling for a place on the calendar. If retained, it may well have to be more flexible re the financials, the date of the Grand Prix and also the fact that Monaco is the only F1 round which provides its own TV coverage, a factor which has sometimes led to the coverage not being of the same quality as elsewhere. The French Grand Prix, held these days at Paul Ricard, also faces its own challenge as its contract expires after this July’s race and funding is being sought to help a new one be agreed. On top of this, the contract for Belgium’s iconic Spa Francorchamps circuit also ends after this August’s race there and, with ongoing access and exit issues, its renewal is not a given.

In other news since Spain, the Red Bull team principal Christian Horner warned last Tuesday that, unless the current budget cap of US$140m is increased, there is a risk some teams may need to miss races later this season. It still sounds like an awful lot of money (and most teams actually spend noticeably more when you add in the excluded amounts re areas such as driver and senior management salaries), but going racing in F1 is an expensive business despite steps to drive the cost down and Inflation, combined with grossly increased freight costs, are hitting teams hard. On the driver front, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo has certainly been left in no doubt by the McLaren CEO Zak Brown that he very much needs to up his game to make sure he retains his seat with the Woking based outfit for the third year of his current contract in 2023, with break mechanisms in place for both the driver and the team if needed. Elsewhere the recently retired F1 legend Kimi Räikkönen has announced that he is set to return to racing in a NASCAR Cup Series event at Watkins Glen in the USA this August. “Once a racing driver, always a racing driver” is a phrase which applies so often to so many.

Carlos Sainz drove well to finish second for Ferrari
Carlos Sainz drove well to finish second for Ferrari
In the build-up to the Monaco event Sir Lewis Hamilton had continued his standoff with the FIA governing body by still refusing to comply with the longstanding regulation requiring him to remove his jewellery, including his nose stud, when on track for safety reasons. He had been given a dispensation three weeks ago in Miami to have it removed by Friday’s opening practice session in Monaco, but the FIA relented at the last minute and has allowed him to keep it in place until the British Grand Prix at the beginning of July.
You never want to suddenly see a racing car suddenly split in two, but this was just what happened to Schumacher on lap 27 when he lost control at the Swimming Pool..
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Home favourite Charles Leclerc had set the fastest time in the first practice session in his Ferrari ahead of Sergio Pérez, with a further Ferrari and Red Bull pedalled by Carlos Sainz and Drivers’ Championship leader Max Verstappen the best of the rest. After a stronger showing in Spain last weekend Mercedes’ porpoising problems returned and George Russell was only eighth quickest, with Hamilton down in twelfth, whilst Mick Schumacher caused a red flag stoppage after his Haas had ground to a halt at the pitlane entry. In Friday’s second practice period there were further red flags after Ricciardo crashed heavily at Turn 13, damaging both his car and his confidence at a time when he so needs to impress, but that man Leclerc again led the way, closely followed by his Ferrari team-mate and the pair of Red Bulls. Russell improved to sixth, whereas Hamilton was still only twelfth fastest. Come yesterday afternoon’s final practice session Pérez topped the timesheets ahead of Leclerc, Sainz and Verstappen.
2022 Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix

1 Sergio Pérez (Red Bull) 1hr56m30.265s
2 Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +1.154s
3 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +1.491s
4 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +2.922s
5 George Russell (Mercedes) +11.968s
6 Lando Norris (McLaren) +12.231s
7 Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +46.358s
8 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +50.388s
9 Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) +52.525s
10 Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +53.536s
11 Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +54.289s
12 Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +55.644s
13 Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +57.635s
14 Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +1m0.802s
15 Nicholas Latifi (Williams) Lapped
16 Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo) Lapped
17 Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) Lapped
18 Alex Albon (Williams) Retired
19 Mick Schumacher (Haas) Retired
20 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) Retired

Power and as much of it as possible is always vital in Formula 1, but Monaco is the least power sensitive circuit which F1 races on and the crucial factor in the Principality is very much how near the front of the grid you manage to qualify. This really focussed minds as the qualifying hour began at four o’clock local time yesterday afternoon and all the drivers sought to push everything to the absolute limit, kissing the barriers on occasions but trying to ensure they didn’t overdo it and crash. The first part of the qualifying hour featured a late red flag interruption after AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda had made contact with the Nouvelle Chicane barriers and there was more bad news for Ricciardo when he was eliminated in Q2. Further red flags slightly curtailed the top ten shootout after Pérez had lost the rear of his Red Bull at Portier, reminiscent of Ayrton Senna throwing away a surefire victory back in 1988 with a different driving error at the very same spot. With Pérez’s damaged car partially blocking the track Sainz arrived on the scene and hit the Red Bull, frustratingly stopping other drivers, including Verstappen, from having a final attempt at improving their provisional grid position. However, this left Leclerc as a very popular home polesitter, with the horns on many of the boats in the harbour being sounded in celebration. Despite Pérez and Sainz’s accidents, which led to subsequent precautionary gearbox changes for both, the Spaniard was second fastest, with the Mexican and Verstappen set to occupy the second row on the grid for today’s race and, although still recovering from tonsillitis, McLaren’s Lando Norris put in a superb effort to post the fifth fastest time and share the third row with Russell.

Mercedes’ George Russell continued his streak of finishing in the top five in every race so far this season
Mercedes’ George Russell continued his streak of finishing in the top five in every race so far this season
I’ve been fortunate enough to experience many sunny Grand Prix days in Monaco and also one very wet one a few years ago, something which sprung to mind as the race start neared under leaden skies and with a few rain drops falling. The pre-race atmosphere was simply electric, with Ferrari’s front row lockout obviously putting them in the pound seats and leaving the pair of Red Bulls right behind them to ponder how and when they might find a way past. The rain really began to increase as the start neared, forcing the teams to consider whether to switch their opening tyre strategy from slicks to intermediates or even full wets, but real confusion followed as Race Control seemed to take a very cautious approach, with the formation lap eventually starting at 15.16 local time with every car on extreme weather tyres behind the Safety Car. As the rain intensified, a decision was then taken to put out the red flags and send the cars to park in the pitlane pending an improvement in the conditions.
After a brief Virtual Safety Car period and then a full Safety Car Intervention the race was redflagged to enable the barriers to be repaired without risk to the personnel involved.

Ontrack action resumed at 16.05 with the Safety Car leading the field back onto the circuit still shod with full wet weather rubber and it was deemed to be the actual beginning of the race. At the end of the second circulation the Safety Car headed back down the pitlane and after a rolling start Leclerc led from Sainz, Pérez and Verstappen. As the track started to dry decisions were being made throughout the pitlane about whether to switch to intermediate tyres or risk going straight to slicks and Pérez was the first of the frontrunners to pit, playing safe with intermediates. Leclerc and Verstappen soon did likewise, whereas Sainz opted for the hard specification of slicks and this led to a clearly unhappy Leclerc having to pit again right behind his team-mate to also change to the hard slicks. For the young Monégasque driver a clear lead had suddenly become fourth place. After Red Bull had pitted Pérez and Verstappen for a second time to also switch to hard specification tyres the likeable Mexican led from Sainz, Verstappen and Leclerc, with Russell fifth ahead of Norris.

You never want to suddenly see a racing car suddenly split in two, but this was just what happened to Schumacher on lap 27 when he lost control at the Swimming Pool and the following major impact with the Tecpro safety barriers resulted in the gearbox and rear axle becoming fully detached from the rest of the car. Fortunately those barriers very much did their job and the young German driver was able to walk away, shaken but thankfully uninjured. After a brief Virtual Safety Car period and then a full Safety Car Intervention the race was redflagged to enable the barriers to be repaired without risk to the personnel involved.

Monégasque Charles Leclerc took a brilliant pole in yesterday’s sun, but today was a different story
Monégasque Charles Leclerc took a brilliant pole in yesterday’s sun, but today was a different story
The Grand Prix resumed at 17.15 local time behind the Safety Car to allow lapped cars to be cleared and then a further rolling start enabled racing to recommence. Red Bull opted to run both cars on medium tyres, whereas Ferrari went for more conservative hards, with forty minutes remaining to the chequered flag which was due at the two hour mark.

With the threat of further rain having receded, the two pairs of Red Bulls and Ferraris had a great four-way scrap out front, but there were to be no further changes of position and Pérez, who had looked on form all weekend, was delighted to claim his third career victory in F1. Russell and Norris completed the leading sextet and this meant that the former continued his impressive streak of finishing in the top five at every Grand Prix so far this season. His team-mate Hamilton started and finished the race eighth after being thwarted by Alpine’s Fernando Alonso during the final part of what felt like a thrilling, but very long race. The extra point for the fastest lap of the Grand Prix was earned by Norris.

Sebastian Vettel prepares to go to work and finish 10th for Aston Martin
Sebastian Vettel prepares to go to work and finish 10th for Aston Martin
Next up comes a return visit to Baku in Azerbaijan, another temporary and in places narrow street circuit, albeit with more overtaking possibilities than Monaco. One of Formula 1’s many attractions is the variety of circuits it races on and it will be fascinating to see who emerges on top two weeks today.


2022 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship

1 Max Verstappen 125
2 Charles Leclerc 116
3 Sergio Pérez 110


2022 Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship

1 Red Bull 235
2 Ferrari 199
3 Mercedes 134