Max Verstappen produced an assured performance at the Monaco Grand Prix to move to the top of the Formula One drivers’ championship standings for the first time in his career.
The Red Bull driver finished almost nine seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in second place to claim his second win of the 2021 season.
Verstappen started at the front of the grid after hometown favorite Charles Leclerc, who had qualified in pole position, failed to start after suffering a pre-race driveshaft issue.
Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton could only finish a disappointing seventh, over a minute behind Verstappen, as the 23-year-old dominated from wire to wire.
After looking very comfortable at the famous street race, the Dutch driver called his first win at the Monaco Grand Prix “so special.”
“It’s a lot of laps – you really have to keep your focus, but it’s really cool,” Verstappen said.
“You never know what’s going to happen but it’s all about the tires and finding a good stop gap. The others went earlier, so that made it a bit easier for me but we were pretty much in control.
“You always want to win this Grand Prix. I remember when I was very little, you always want to win this one, so of course, I’m very proud, but I’m also thinking ahead – it is a very long season.”
Arguably the most distinctive race on the F1 calendar, the Monaco GP is one of the sport’s showpiece events.
Often attracting the biggest and brightest stars from across the world – this year Borussia Dortmund superstar Erling Braut Haaland made the trip in a jazzy outfit – it is must-see viewing.
And the race probably meant all the more to Monegasque Leclerc. So when he drove using all his ability to claim an excellent pole position, he was over the moon.
However, when he was ruled out of the race before the start due to what Ferrari announced was a “drivershaft” issue, it was even more heartbreaking for Leclerc.
Yet, Leclerc’s loss was also Verstappen’s gain.
With no car ahead of him on the starting grid, the Red Bull driver took full advantage from the first lap, squirming ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.
And over the following 78 laps, Verstappen only relinquished the lead briefly when visiting the pits for tire changes.
In claiming his second win of the season and his first ever podium in Monaco, he moved atop the drivers’ championship for the first time in his career, earning himself a four-point lead ahead of second-placed Hamilton.
Ferrari’s Sainz claimed his first podium in the famous red overalls finishing second, his former McLaren teammate, Lando Norris, finished third.
In what was an off day for the all-conquering Mercedes, Hamilton could only finish seventh – the position he qualified in – while Bottas had to retire because of a stuck right-front tire in his pit stop.
With his teammate crashing out beforehand, Sainz said his objective had been to “salvage the weekend”, something he thinks Ferrari achieved.
“It’s a good result. If you would’ve told me before coming to Monaco I would finish second, I definitely would take it,” he said afterwards.
“It’s just the whole circumstance of the weekend, having Charles’ problems today and me missing out in qualifying, maybe it doesn’t taste as good as it should. But I’m sure when I reflect back, I think Ferrari need to be proud about the car and the step we’ve made.
“When you see the other car not starting on pole, all of a sudden the responsibility relies on you to salvage a bit of the weekend. You want to give the team at least a podium, and it was all about getting the start right.
“I felt good with the car today and I felt the team deserved a podium today.”