Both Mercedes had a weekend to forget as Hamilton couldn’t find pace and Bottas retired after a failed pit-stop
By Olivia Kairu
Overtaking is no easy feat on those narrow streets, with the ten teams, therefore, relying heavily on pit stop strategy during the race and settling for the overcut or the undercut.
One of the prime examples is Sergio Perez. He executed Red Bull’s strategy successfully, leaping from P8 to P4 after pitting for hard tires on Lap 35. The overcut helped the Mexican driver get ahead of Sebastian Vettel, Pierre Gasly and Lewis Hamilton. The Austrian team now leads the constructor’s championship for the first time in the hybrid era.
“I’m pleased with the result today,” said Perez after the race. “I think for the team, it’s a good one especially, a good day… We managed to minimize the damage from Saturday… but it’s only the fifth race of the season.”
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Max Verstappen’s Monaco win not only added to the double points finish but also handed him the lead in the driver’s championship for the first time in his career. The first Dutch driver to ever lead the F1 standings is now ahead of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton by four points.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner revelled in the team’s effective strategy and ability to capitalize on Mercedes’ rare underperformance.
“It was important to take our chances here,” Horner said. “Mercedes had a rare off day and it was important to convert that. So as a team, we’ve done that. Checo also had great pace today and he was able to make the overcut work.”
The opposite is to be said for Mercedes in terms of strategy and execution. Disaster first struck after Valtteri Botta’s pit stop led him to retire from the race on lap 31. The Finn was running second behind Verstappen when his race ended in a failed pitstop. The intended undercut was unsuccessful after his right-front tyre got stuck onto the axel.
“If it’s a technical issue, we need to get on top of it and make sure it never happens again,” said Bottas. “It’s disappointing. I couldn’t believe it was happening.”
“It felt like forever. I was counting, like now maybe we lost a place to (Carlos) Sainz, then probably to (Lando) Norris, then I knew it was going to be hard. But I think I’ve never had it where actually the race is over because of that. Learning needs to happen from this day.”
The team’s second attempt at an undercut for Hamilton yielded no results, leaving the Briton stuck behind the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff defended Hamilton’s strategy and explained the pit stop debacle.
“The undercut looked like the only feasible way of clearing Gasly and with the tyre warm-up, the gap he had before, the one/one and a half seconds, was sufficient for him to stay ahead,” said Wolff. “There wasn’t any mistake, the out-lap was good, the pit-stop was okay, but it just wasn’t enough.”
“The pit-stop failure we had is something we need to understand because we completely machined the wheel nut. And with Lewis, we just didn’t have the pace in the car.”
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P5 for car #5
Aston Martin was also able to secure its first double points finish this season. Sebastian Vettel finished in the top 10 for the first time in 2021 by placing his car #5 in fifth place, three ahead of teammate Lance Stroll, who started P13.
The Canadian-owned team carried out a successful overcut pit stop strategy to secure Vettel’s highest finish since Turkey in 2020 and the Driver of the Day award.
“Sebastian produced a truly impressive drive today, finishing fifth after a tough race in which he never put a wheel wrong,” said Aston Martin team principal and CEO Otmar Szafnauer.
“He spent the early laps in a solid seventh place, keeping in touch with Lewis (Hamilton) in sixth. Then, in the pit stops, he delivered on an excellent strategy devised by our strategists and engineers to jump both Lewis and Pierre (Gasly).”
Stroll, who added a third point finish in five races this season, commented on his drive and praised the team for a stellar performance on the streets of the Principality.
“Both cars scoring points in Monaco is a good day for the team,” said the Canadian. “We executed a great strategy and picked up some deserved points for our hard work. It was not easy to race on the hard tyre in the first stint, especially at the start, but I was able to launch well off the line.”
“We gained three places through the overcut in the end and had a strong pace to the end, too. We are still learning every race and we can be proud of the job we did today. We will work hard to keep up this momentum in Baku.”