Verstappen wins Monaco GP from Sainz after pole sitter Leclerc fails to start

Max Verstappen took a maiden Monaco Grand Prix victory from Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris after pole sitter Charles Leclerc failed to make it to the grid.

Hithero championship leader Lewis Hamilton could only finish seventh and fellow Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas was forced to retire from second with a crossed wheel nut during his pit stop.

“Of course so special around here to win and also for me the first time on the podium,” said Verstappen after stepping from his winning steed. “An amazing race and it’s a lot of laps around here and you really have to keep your focus, but it’s really cool.

“You never know what’s going to happen but it’s all about looking after your tyres and finding a good stop/gap of course. The others went earlier so that made it a bit easier for me but I was pretty much in control.”

Whilst the Dutchman deservedly enjoyed the plaudits for what was a polished drive to victory, one couldn’t but feel for Monaco local Leclerc and the gathered Ferrari fans after a driveshaft problem to his car meant he could not start the race.

It was perhaps somewhat of a gamble for Ferrari to have not sacrificed a grid penalty to work on fixing Leclerc’s Ferrari after his final lap qualifying shunt. But the team insisted all was okay and that he would take his place on pole position for the most illustrious of races.

Yet moments before the cars were due to take to the grid, it looked a bad decision, Leclerc’s Ferrari being frantically worked upon in the garage. And moments later, the worse was confirmed… the Monegasque out of the race.

On this circuit, more than any other in world motorsport, gaining track position is all down to the work of the slickest of mechanics with passing on track nigh on impossible. And it now seemed a simple matter of who would take the race victory. Verstappen or Bottas?

Championship leader Hamilton was the first of the big hitters to roll the dice, pitting for a fresh set of Pirelli hard compound tyre to take him to the end of the race. It left the Englishman back out on track a net seventh behind Gasly.

A lap later, it was Bottas into the pits. And in the pits he would remain after a jammed wheel nut meant it was impossible for the team to fit the new tyres. A disaster for Mercedes. And worse was to come as a perfectly timed overcut from the Aston Martin team saw Vettel leap to fifth.

And that’s the way the race finished, the Aston Martin driver finishing ahead of Pierre Gasly, old rival Hamilton and Lance Stroll as Esteban Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi rounded out the top ten.

With Verstappen and his Red Bull crew executing a predictably polished stop, it meant that the race to the chequered flag would be only his to lose, bar mechanical failure. But this was to be Verstappen’s day, victory meaning he takes the championship lead from Hamilton by four points leading into the Azerbaijan GP on June 6.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.