It was all set to be a Charles Leclerc Monaco Grand Prix redemption fairytale when he brilliantly took pole position on Saturday.
Even when the rain arrived during the frantic build-up, Leclerc remained calm and was driving beautifully in the wet to gap Carlos Sainz by around six seconds, until it all went wrong when Ferrari made a strategic blunder.
Sergio Perez took full advantage to take his third victory in Formula 1, whilst Max Verstappen increased his lead in the championship.
Ferrari’s strategy team exposed
Since 2017, Ferrari have been known for making some poor strategic decisions but they made a terrible mistake on Sunday by pitting Leclerc at the wrong moment.
Red Bull boldly pitted Perez onto the intermediates on Lap 16, meaning Ferrari had to respond with Leclerc immediately on the next lap or carry on and wait to switch to the dry tyres.
Instead, they pitted Leclerc on Lap 18 when it was clear Perez had undercut him so it was a strange move.
To add salt to the wounds, Ferrari accidentally double stacked their drivers so Leclerc lost a crucial second or two by having to wait for Sainz. This precious time cost him a position to Verstappen, who overcut his championship rival by going one lap longer on the intermediates.
It’s always better to go for the overcut when changing from intermediates to slicks, a trick Red Bull pounced on as soon as the Ferrari drivers pitted.
Mattia Binotto was expectedly disappointed with the result, after Ferrari locked out the front row of the grid.
“I understand the disappointment of Charles,” Binotto told Sky Sports. “He thinks something was wrong in the decisions we made.
“I think we underestimated the pace of the inters. We should have left him out longer maybe later on.
“Mistakes do happen but more importantly we need to understand why they happen. We will do it.
“It’s not a relief [that Verstappen didn’t win], we have lost constructor points today and that’s more important. It’s come down to mistakes we need to analyse.
“The slow lapped cars Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi cost them positions, it’s a lot of situations that have not been in our favour. We made mistakes and I will take responsibility for that. Overall, it’s been a difficult race.”
Perez’s best F1 weekend ever?
For all of Ferrari‘s mistakes, you have to give credit to Perez and Red Bull. Perez had the upper hand on Verstappen from first practice and carried it all the way through the weekend in impressive fashion.
The 2022 F1 cars have suited Perez‘s driving style, but to be ahead of Verstappen on merit in every session was a statement.
His only mistake was at the end of Q3 when overdriving into Portier, which was fortunate because he didn’t suffer any gearbox damage.
Other than that, his outlaps and mini stint on the intermediates was outstanding as he showed great pace and kept it out of the barriers when the pressure was really on.
“It was quite obvious at the time that the track was ready for slicks [when pitting for intermediates], especially with the wets already overheated,” Perez told the press.
“But it wasn’t clear for me if we could keep going and do like Carlos did, going straight into the slick.
“But I think in that phase you could see with Carlos that he lost so much race time that I was already behind him, but again, we managed to stay out, pushed when we needed to, to make that inter work.
“I think it was just a great combination, you know, the team was telling me what to do, how to get the maximum out of today’s result and we managed to make it work.
“It sounds easy. But in these conditions, pushing but not making mistakes, and not putting a foot wrong is never easy to achieve in Monaco.”
Perez‘s maiden win at the 2020 Sakhir GP was incredible, but for a weekend performance he will look back at the 2022 Monaco GP as perhaps the highlight of his career, unless he wins in Mexico on home soil one day.
Norris damaging Ricciardo’s reputation
It looks like Daniel Ricciardo‘s days as a McLaren driver are numbered because Lando Norris, once again, was utterly dominant over the Australian, on a track he used to love.
Ricciardo was nowhere despite being on the right strategy, having no pace in the wet or dry. There’s surely no way back for him because he’s had more than enough time to try and string some good results together, and it’s simply not happening.
As for Norris, he had an excellent qualifying to start from fifth and was pushing George Russell hard at the end of the race on fresh medium rubber.
“It was a good day for me,” said Norris. “We lost out to the Mercedes in the first pit-stops which was a close call, but you win some, you lose some, and in this case today we just lost out.
“I think the team did a really good job, I had a competitive car and it was an enjoyable race. It’s impossible to describe what it’s like to drive an F1 car around Monaco in the rain – it’s very tough.”
Alonso’s Trulli-esque train
The term “Trulli Train” hasn’t been used for years in F1, but Fernando Alonso was up to his own fun and games by strangely driving really slowly in the second half of the Monaco GP, to the annoyance of Lewis Hamilton.
Alonso has been driving really well this year, as he proved again in Monaco, and is finally getting some points for his efforts.
Esteban Ocon was all out of sorts on Friday but Alpine rescued things overnight by finding a good balance which enabled him to get into Q3.
An awkward clash with Hamilton at Turn 1 resulted in a time penalty, which was harsh but fair, although you could argue Ocon had to turn in at some point.
The Frenchman’s five-second penalty pushed him out of the points, so Alpine are now one point behind Alfa Romeo for fifth place in the constructors’ championship.
Alfa Romeo had a very disappointing weekend considering their short wheel-based car was meant to be strong on the tight turns of Monaco.
Should the Monaco GP have been delayed?
A heavy rain shower prior to the Monaco GP appeared to have been the reason for the race to initially be delayed which was a frustrating decision according to many fans, but it was probably the right choice in hindsight.
Had the race started on time with a standing start, there almost certainly would have been a crash at St Devote, given the conditions which would lead to a safety car. Then, the next band of heavy rain would have led to a red flag.
It’s likely only 1-2 laps of action were missed so race control made the right decision. The only questionable move was the long wait to get the race underway at 16:05 local time when the rain had not been falling for around half an hour.
With all of the action and drama that unfolded, thankfully this isn’t a big talking point although the memories of the shambolic 2021 Belgian GP remain.