The previous season of the Formula 1 calendar has had the prestigious and world-renowned Monaco race weekend omitted from the schedule due to the unforeseen effects of Covid-19. The entire weekend made it seem as if the years absence was worth it due to what happened throughout the course of the event.
All the teams began with their practice session on the Thursday, this grants the teams and drivers an opportunity to become acclimated to the track for the weekend and possibly test new upgrades on the car and see how it reacts. Usually, trying to get an idea as to how quick a car is during practice is not the best estimate as there are a lot of variables. For example, some cars would have different set of tyres on than their closest opponents, some would have different quantities of fuel in the car making it lighter or heavier, cars would have different engine mode selected meaning the car could be trying to preserve fuel for longer stints out on the track or they could be pushing hard trying to get a fast time.
Too many tests and scenarios are being run during practice sessions to get a concrete view on what the pace is, however, it does offer some inkling as to what to expect. The Red Bull of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen seemed to be rather quick across the practice sessions and a surprising performance from Ferrari considering their previous two years of form also showed some real pace.
It is well and good to be fast in practice sessions but the real time to shine is the qualifying. This is where the cars are going at their optimum pace and performance. In qualifying, the objective is to try get the best lap time, if your lap time is the best on the track your car will start the race on Sunday at pole, the second-best time starts at second and it works its way back the grid all the way to the 20th place on the grid.
However, in the qualifying on Saturday, Charles Leclerc driving the Ferrari was showing outstanding pace and managed to get provisional pole just minutes before the qualifying was to end. This meant as things stood, he was going to be starting the race in the best position on a track that is infamous for its difficulty in overtaking due to how closely compact the track is.
However, as Leclerc was coming around a chicane toward the end of the track, he misjudged the distance between his front right wheel and the barrier causing a brief but fatal nudge. The distortion of the tyre ended up causing it to briefly lift off the ground and cause it to land in an awkward position giving Leclerc little to no control over the vehicle and subsequently, he made contact with the barrier causing a serious collision.
The race director was forced to issue a Red Flag causing the session to stop and the session was over. This was to the dismay of the other drivers, particularly Max Verstappen as he was attempting to challenge Leclerc for his pole position.
However, it initially seemed to be beneficial for Leclerc, the damage done to the car was too great insofar as he was unable to race on Sunday. The mechanics worked strenuously to get the car in working order and on the formation lap just before the race, Leclerc’s gearbox began to malfunction, and he had to withdraw from the race. This left Verstappen in pole position for a race he eventually went onto win.
It was an astonishing victory for Max and Red Bull and has placed them above their biggest rivals, Mercedes in both the Constructors Championship and the Drivers Championship.
However, the contrary is the case for Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes. After poor showings in qualifying, and sheer bad luck in the race, it is a weekend to forget for the Mercedes team.
What was most astonishing was what cost Bottas a possible podium finish. He was running behind Verstappen in second place the majority of the race up until his fatal pitstop. In it, the right front tyre refused to come off. The mechanic handling the wheel gun endeavoured to remove the tyre however, the tyres nuts had infused itself with the chassis of the car and was not moving. The tyre could not be taken off and a new one fitted. As of this morning, the Mercedes mechanics are still trying to remove the tyre and thus far, they have had no luck in doing so.
Overall, the weekend was a rather peculiar one. Some would say successful, others would say unlucky and full of misfortune. It depends on what team or driver you follow. However, one cannot refute the fact that the Monaco GP has provided a fantastic form of entertainment for the spectator!