In the world of motorsports, the Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most prestigious events being part of the Triple Crown (along with the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans). Winning in Monte Carlo is a special achievement for every Grand Prix driver.
In the case of Charles Leclerc, this was also his home race making Monaco doubly important for him. However, things hadn’t gone well for him as he had yet to finish it going into the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix.
Qualifying is crucial to winning the race as overtaking is near impossible with the narrow roads and the tight corners. After an abrupt end to Q3 with Sergio Perez crashing, Ferrari managed a front-row lockout with Leclerc on pole and Carlos Sainz in second, while Red Bull occupied the second row with Perez third and Max Verstappen fourth.
Things were looking good for Ferrari, but the weather literally rained on the entire parade. The race began in the pits as crews and mechanics rushed to get the right tires to their cars. The start was delayed with a formation lap done behind the safety car, but the red flag was brought out to wait for the weather to clear up.
While rain always makes a race much more interesting, it also gave flashbacks of the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix when fans both on the track and around the world, waited and waited only for the race to do a few laps behind the safety car for half points.
Some comments on social media questioned the delay. Being the best drivers in the entire world, shouldn’t F1 drivers be able to handle that much rain? In my opinion, that isn’t justifiable for a couple of reasons. The first and most important is safety. Formula 1 drivers are still human beings that are prone to mistakes and vulnerable to fatal crashes.
Once the cars start slipping and aquaplaning with all the water on the road, any driver would be rendered powerless and helpless. Sending them out to race knowing there’s a high probability for the carnage to ensue is completely unacceptable. On the other hand, no one would want to see the world’s fastest cars going around a track at a snail’s pace—like with Spa in 2021.
Thankfully, the rain subsided allowing the race to begin. Having not run in the wet throughout the weekend, everyone played safe as teams carefully searched for the best time to change to the intermediate tires. Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri was the first to make the switch.
While there was no immediate advantage, his lap times eventually improved triggering a domino effect. His pace was so quick that he could actually pass other cars on the wet Monaco roads. With the rest of the grid already on intermediate tires, the top four (Leclerc, Sainz, Perez and Verstappen) were still out on the wet tires.
Having more at stake, none of the front-runners could afford to take risks. Staying out longer than the rest of the pack, the question for them was whether to switch to intermediate tires or go directly to dry slicks.
Perez was first to pit on Lap 17 going with the inters, followed by Verstappen and Leclerc pitting simultaneously two laps after (on Lap 19) for intermediate tires. This left Sainz out in the lead with wet tires. On Lap 21, he came in to switch to the hard slicks, but he was also followed by Leclerc who put on the same compound as his teammate.
Red Bull did an overcut by pitting later than Ferrari, and this worked to the former’s advantage. An overcut is a tactic where a team pits the trailing car later than the leading car to gain position and stay ahead. If you watched last year’s Monaco Grand Prix, Perez and Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin did the same thing allowing them to gain places without having to perform overtakes.
With how difficult passing in Monaco is, it would be more advantageous for a trailing car to stay out and make up time with the clear road than get held up closely following a car in front. This assumes the following car has more pace, which the Red Bulls clearly had.
Perez managed to overcome the gap and take the lead. Sainz didn’t lose out much as he only dropped to second, but Leclerc was furious over a bad strategy call resulting in him pitting too early. The latter, who had started the race on pole, was now running fourth right behind his championship rival (Verstappen).
At this point in the race (Lap 27), Mick Schumacher of Haas spun and crashed at the entrance of the swimming pool chicane. This resulted in a double DNF for the American team as Kevin Magnussen had retired earlier in the race due to a loss of water pressure in his car. This brought out the virtual safety car, then the actual safety car before finally red-flagging the race at Lap 30.
In case you didn’t know, F1 races have a time limit of two hours or three hours in the event of a red flag. Because of the delays, it was clear that the race was going to be cut short.
Banking on that, Red Bull decided to fit both drivers with medium tires hoping they would have the jump over Ferrari during the rolling safety car restart. The Scuderia, on the other hand, outfitted its drivers with used hard tires hoping to outlast the Red Bulls.
From this point on, the race felt more like a procession. The top four were in a world of their own, while Fernando Alonso of Alpine, running in seventh, decided to act like the safety car by holding up the pack. This annoyed other drivers, especially Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes who had just battled with the other Alpine driver Esteban Ocon earlier in the race. The medium tires didn’t work well for Red Bull as Perez clearly lacked the grip and the pace. However, he managed to keep the lead by defending hard against Sainz.
After completing 64 laps (instead of 77) with a race time of almost two hours, Sergio Perez won the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix. Whereas he previously yielded to Max in Spain due to team orders, Checo was able to make up for it with his first victory in the principality. George Russell of Mercedes appears to have gotten a new nickname as “Mr. Consistency” has always finished within the top five after seven rounds this season.
While Leclerc was finally able to finish his home race, it was devastating as he couldn’t even make the podium due to bad strategy. With Checo’s third win in his F1 career in the bag, he’s now only six points away from Leclerc in the driver standings, while Max further extends his lead.