Was the Monaco Grand Prix a Pivotal Race in the 2021 Championship?
Red Bull leave the Principality with both championship leads marking a potential turning point in the championship
Monte Carlo, Monaco - It certainly wasn't a classic Grand Prix by any stretch, even for Monaco standards it was a fairly dull and uneventful 78 lap race. Although the racing itself doesn't give us much to talk about, the finishing order at the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix certainly does. In what was a stark contrast to the previous race in Spain, Red Bull triumphed in Monte Carlo through better race pace and strategy to steal the championship lead away from Mercedes. Max Verstappen's victory in Monaco marked not only his first win in Monte Carlo but also the first time in his career that he's lead the Formula 1 World Championship. With the help of Bottas' DNF and Sergio Perez's solid recovery drive, it also means that Red Bull take the lead of the Constructor's standings for the first time since 2013. It really doesn't get much better for Red Bull as I'm sure this result even exceeded their expectations before the weekend. So with the championship picture changed in the blink of an eye, will the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix turn out to be a pivotal moment in the championship? Before we find an answer to that question, remember to like this video and subscribe to our channel if you enjoy this type of content.
A Momentum Shift for Red Bull Racing
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As we said before the race weekend, this wasn't really a 'must win' race for Verstappen but to be honest, a win in Monaco would be critical for Red Bull as we head into the summer races. After Lewis Hamilton took victory in Spain, it was Mercedes' second victory in a row and one in which they had out-classed their Red Bull counterparts in all areas. Red Bull were making one too many mistakes in the early part of the season which was costing them valuable points and victories. Although Verstappen had only one race win heading into Monaco, he actually led the most amount of laps in 2021 with 144 entering the weekend, almost double that of his championship rival Hamilton. That's why Verstappen's lights out to checkered flag victory in Monaco symbolizes an important momentum shift for Red Bull. Mercedes downplayed their chances heading into Monaco but it was clear from the onset that their pace truly wasn't going to be enough to match Red Bull or even Ferrari at times. Regardless, I don't think Lewis Hamilton would've expected to be stuck behind the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly for 78 laps and come home to only finish 7th. In an ironic turn of events, it was the Mercedes strategy call to bring Hamilton in first that saw him get jumped by not only Sebastian Vettel but also eventually Sergio Perez. “We lost a lot of points today for a really, really poor performance from the team," said Hamilton post-race. “We obviously have some weak points with our car, and this race and the next race will be just as tough I think."
To make an awful day even worse, Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas suffered some horrible luck with a right front wheel that would not come off his car due to a cross-threaded wheel nut. This all played into the hands of Red Bull as they sail away from Monaco with both Drivers and Constructor's championship leads and that all important momentum from a great weekend.
Every Point Counts in 2021 Title Fight
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We've talked quite a bit about the mistakes Red Bull have made throughout 2021 and how those mistakes are costing them in the championship. Those criticisms are more than fair but let's not overlook the fact that Mercedes have been far from perfect so far this season. Monaco was another race in which we saw uncharacteristic mistakes from Mercedes as a team that ended up costing both drivers. Bottas has been on the end of Mercedes' worst pitstops this year and it is an area in which the 7 time World Champions have really struggled in 2021. It just underlines the such small margins between these two teams in the fight for the championship. After Spain, it was looking like Mercedes were ready to go on a strong run of wins like we've seen in years past but look how quickly things changed just after one race. It really makes you think how different this championship would look had the red flag not come out in Imola saving Hamilton a P2 finish. After 4 consecutive races of Verstappen and Hamilton finishing in the top two, this is the first instance in which either driver has finished outside of the first two places. Poor qualifying and race strategy really cost Hamilton as we had an 18 point swing in the standings going in the Dutchman's favor. It underlines the importance of making the most out of every race in a championship that could come down to the wire at the end of 2021. It might be too early to tell, but the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix certainly could be a pivotal moment in the larger championship picture.
Monaco GP Shakes Up the Rest of the Grid as Well
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The shake up in the 2021 championship was also felt up and down the grid after the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix. Because of Bottas' second DNF of the season, it has brought Sergio Perez back into the fight for third quite nicely as he's just three points back of Bottas for 4th. It wasn't looking good for Perez after qualifying in P9 but good team execution and solid race pace from Perez allowed him to jump 4 cars to finish 4th in the race and help steal the Constructor's championship lead. But of course, both of those two drivers are now chasing the hands down driver of the year so far, Lando Norris. The stunning special Gulf livery brought some good fortune to McLaren as Norris is back up in 3rd place in the drivers championship as he took his second podium in 5 races. This result was critical for McLaren's battle for third as Ferrari were primed to take over that spot with the pace they showed throughout the weekend. Unfortunately for Ferrari, Charles Leclerc's Monaco curse continued and McLaren walk away with a slim 2 point lead for third in the Constructor's. Then further back, the fight for the top places in the mid-field are shaken up after Monaco thanks to Aston Martin's best weekend of 2021. Sebastian Vettel looked very strong and comfortable all weekend long to take 5th place and driver of the day honors while Lance Stroll managed a long stint on the hards to grab P8. Aston Martin now hold onto a slim lead for 5th in the championship ahead of their nearest rivals Alpha Tauri and Alpine.
Monaco is a very particular circuit and is a one off in many respects. It is impossible to tell at the 5th race in the season whether this weekend will have a dramatic effect on the outcome of the championship. But make no mistake about it, it was a very important victory for Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing. As we head into another street circuit in Baku, Verstappen has punched back in the title fight to make it 2 wins versus Hamilton's 3 and a 4 lead in the title race. Mercedes will have to answer some tough questions and regroup quickly to recover their losses from Monaco but as we expected, this 2021 championship fight is no where near finished and is only just heating up nicely!