Written by Sasha Macmillen
Viva Mexico! Sergio Pérez is victorious around the streets of Monte-Carlo, after a smartly executed win. A brilliant collaboration between team and driver, with Red Bull managing to outwit Ferrari in the crossover between wet and dry tyres. A close-fought battle between the Mexican and Carlos Sainz in the final stages served a tense ending to what was a chaotic race in Monaco.
Rain began to fall mere minutes before lights out, causing pandemonium in the pitlane. The race start was suspended, and some exploratory laps under the safety car proved unsuccessful, with horrendous conditions. A 45-minute delay followed, which was partly induced by a powercut that impaired the FIA's ability to function the starting lights, amongst other issues. As a result of the malfunctioning lights, the race began under a rolling start, with everyone therefore holding their positions. But the race had began.
The track began to dry, lap by lap, as twenty cars pounded around the tarmac. Gamblers on the intermediates influenced the race, with Pierre Gasly making overtakes. Pérez was the first to blink at the front, followed by his teammate. Then, a radio exchange between Ferrari and Carlos Sainz saw him convince the team to stay out until slick tyres were appropriate, which was only a few laps later. In the midst of it all, Leclerc ended up as the unfortunate driver to lose out hugely, as he was held up behind his teammate in a double-stacked pit stop.
The top four emerged after the pitstops with Pérez jumping both Ferraris to take the lead, and Leclerc losing out on all three positions, finding himself behind one of his championship rivals, Max Verstappen. Laps passed before a heavy crash for Mick Schumacher, as he skidded on the damp patch at the swimming pool chicane. A hefty impact into the barrier compromised its structure, even splitting the car in half, the second time we've seen Mick's Haas in two pieces this season. This was certainly not what Schumacher needed, considering he is yet to score this season. The resulting barrier damage was enough to trigger a red flag, bringing the cars back to the pits again.
Another rolling start followed, and the top four followed in formation for the remainder of the race, which only lasted 64 laps, due to the two-hour time limit being reached. The man from Guadalajara crossed the line to win, sparking the celebrations galore. The emotion on his face as the Mexican anthem played was lost on no one. It's a shame that Pato O'Ward couldn't fulfil the prospect of a Mexican motorsports double, as he came within whiskers of winning the Indy 500, just hours later.
With victory in Monaco, Pérez hauls himself into championship contention. He sits on 110 points, only 15 behind his teammate and championship leader Max Verstappen. It was a mightily successful day for Red Bull, converting a second row lockout into 40 points, an achievement on a track where they were clearly second favourites to Ferrari. The shellshock among the Scuderia's fanbase will take time to wear off, having at one point seen Charles Leclerc looking so comfortable out in front. The debrief will be difficult, and strategy lessons once again, must be learnt.
In Formula Two, Felipe Drugovich solidified his blossoming championship credentials with a win in the Monaco feature race, having held off stern pressure from Theo Pourchaire. The Brazilian now leads by 32 points from the aforementioned Pourchaire, and with his current rich vein of form, is looking nigh-on unstoppable from clinching the championship. What remains to be seen is whether he can find a route into Formula One, a task that won't be easy considering he's unassigned to a driver academy and is by no means a rookie champion.
Baku lies on the horizon, in two weeks' time. Formula One and Formula Two will continue their respective campaigns in the Azerbaijan capital, and plenty of teams and drivers have unfinished business. Max Verstappen will look to make amends for his late retirement last year, and Lewis Hamilton will be seeking to banish his turn one demons after that dramatic restart. Can Pérez hit his rivals with back-to-back wins, at a track he is traditionally strong at? The Azerbaijan Grand prix will reveal all.