Formula 1 News: Monaco 2019 GP Review

An interesting Grand Prix to say the least. With Monaco usually being very uneventful and lacking action, the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix proved to be quite the opposite of the usual stereotype that we find ourselves with when coming to Monaco. This year’s edition is particularly meaningful as we’ve lost a true legend Andreas Nikolaus “Niki” Lauda. Additionally, we’ve seen some outstanding performances as well as some upsets – specifically from the scarlet reds.

The loss of a legend: Niki Lauda

Niki LaudaNiki Lauda with his legendary red cap which he wore on regular occasions

A three-time world champion, a legend and role model in the Formula 1 community. The name ‘Niki Lauda’ means so much to the F1 community that his hard work and perseverance will never be forgotten. He was a brutally honest person on and off the grid, persevered through the toughest of times and really made an impact in F1.

Andreas Nikolaus Lauda was an entrepreneur. He pushed for safety, he won championships for both Ferrari and McLaren and widely known as one of the greatest drivers of all time. The Austrian is heroically remembered for crashing in the 1976 German Grand Prix on the Nürburgring where his Ferrari 312T2 burst into flames, causing him to be trapped in toxic fumes and flames whilst desperately trying to battle for his life. Lauda emerged with severe burns and damage to his lungs from inhaling the fumes however, he returned just 6 weeks later at the Italian Grand Prix – still in bandages, to get back into the Ferrari and racing again.

Niki Lauda TributeF1 Drivers tribute the late Niki Lauda before the race start at Monaco

What’s even more horrific is that Lauda was given the last rites by a priest during those 6 weeks and thought that was the end of it. He continued on and narrowly lost the title to his rival – James Hunt. He went on to win 1 more championship title for Ferrari in 1977 and took a break from F1 saying he had no more desire to “drive around in circles”. Meanwhile, he dedicated that time to his charter airline company and decided to make a comeback with McLaren, where he won his third and ultimate world championship in 1984.

Lewis and BottasLewis and Valtteri showcasing the red halo as a tribute to Niki Lauda

Other achievements included Lauda being the first driver to lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife in under seven minutes, his push for safety in F1 or his incredible perseverance through this all. Mercedes decided to pay tribute to their non-executive chairman by painting their halo red, the same color as Niki’s hat that he would wear on a regular basis.

Rest in Peace Niki.

Leclerc’s Misfortune

Leclerc pushing through the tunnelLeclerc pushing his SF90 through the Larvotto Tunnel

Onto the Monaco Grand Prix. An upset for the home favorite: Charles Leclerc.

Ferrari made a critical mistake when deciding to keep Leclerc in for the final minutes of the first qualifying session thinking his time was fast enough to get into Q2. This was realized only when Vettel set the fastest time of that qualifying session in Q1, pushing Leclerc to 16th place – i.e. being eliminated and unable to continue through qualifying. Obviously, this was a great upset to the young Monegasque as he wanted to finally prove himself at his home Grand Prix in the scarlet red of the SF90.

Leclerc was left to sit on the sidelines and watch the remainder of the qualifying sessions, for him to start 16th on the grid at the notoriously hard-to-overtake track. The Monegasque knew his chances of winning were slim, nevertheless, he kept a positive attitude (at least it seemed like it) when being interrogated by the press.

For the young Ferrari driver, the race had an early but dramatic fate. Leclerc  made up a few spots, trying to overtake as many drivers as possible, albeit how impossible it is to overtake on the tight streets of Monaco. He ended up clipping the corner at La Rascasse and colliding with Hulkenberg of Renault, resulting in damage to his floorboard and a right-rear puncture which added damage to the other side of his floorboard. After coming in and out of the pits during the safety car (sent out due to debris coming off his car), Leclerc reported that it was almost impossible to control the car and felt he could not go on. Ferrari then decided to retire Leclerc, resulting in the dramatic yet early fate for the young Monegasque.

Lewis struggling with the medium tire

Lewis Paying Tribute to NikiLewis paying tribute to Niki Lauda with Sebastian’s grained tires in the background

With Leclerc damaging his floorboard and leaving a trail of debris due to his right-rear puncture, the safety car was deployed triggering teams to have a “cheap” pit stop. Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes AMG decided to switch onto the medium tire strategy which many looked at skeptically as Pirelli had claimed that the maximum tire age of that tire was about 50 laps – with 60 laps until the finish of the Monaco GP.

Mercedes claimed that initially they were deciding to go with the hard compound tire but with the safety car coming out and the chance to exploit a cheap pit stop, Mercedes decided for the medium compound. This decision came with the mindset that it will either start raining (resulting in the mediums being more controllable than the harder compounds that others were using) and from data collected on Thursday which concluded that the medium will be the strongest tire – if it lasts.

As risky as the decision was to let Lewis out on the rapidly deteriorating medium tires, he still managed to bring the tires back until the end. Although we know that Lewis struggled with the tires throughout the race, he did admit after the race that he was never planning to pit for fresher tires which meant that his complaints on the radio were merely a bluff. Regardless, he won the race and had a 17 point lead ahead of his teammate – Valtteri Bottas.

One of Max’s strongest performances

Lewis and Max Touch at ChicaneLewis and Max collide at the chicane during the closing laps of the Monaco 2019 GP

Despite the 5 second penalty caused by an unsafe release in the pits which made Max bump into Valtteri – resulting in a punctured right-front tire for Valtteri, Max presented a stellar performance from his side. Constantly battling against Lewis – who was struggling with tire management, persevering to the end despite being in a weaker car. The young Dutch driver was fearless when traversing the tight street of Monaco and quick out of the corners in his RB-15 which presented a tough challenge to the race leader.

Max let no room for Lewis to breathe at all which made it ever so harder for Lewis to defend himself against the determined Red Bull driver but he managed to defend the position against the faster Red Bull. Max tried to pass Lewis at the entrance to the chicane on lap 76, however Max barely made the corner and left no space for the Mercedes driver which resulted in Lewis having to cut the chicane and keep his position. This was a legal move by Lewis as Max didn’t give him any space which resulted in no further repercussion.

Max VerstappenMax has presented a stellar performance since the start of the season and is only getting better…

It was vital for Max to pass Lewis as he was on the harder tire that was able to go toward the end on a reasonably faster pace than Lewis was lapping the track. If theoretically Max were to pass Lewis at any point in the race, Max would have created a gap big enough to cover his 5 second penalty and potentially win the race. As such, Max was so determined to pass Lewis and his mechanics were trying to make that happen but ultimately Lewis was able to hold off the Red Bull. Nevertheless, Max showed a great amount of confidence in his skill and is arguably one of the best drivers on the grid at the moment (in my opinion).

One of the most interesting races in a while…

Lewis Dedicating Win to NikiLewis Hamilton dedicating his Monaco GP win to the late Niki Lauda

With the unfortunate and heavy loss of a racing legend – this race was already going to be out of the ordinary. With Lauda not being present at the Mercedes garage that weekend, emotions were high for not only Mercedes but the entire grid. Furthermore, with the home favorite being let down by his team and his dreams of winning his home Grand Prix being shredded in front of his eyes, Leclerc approached race day with an opportunistic mindset despite starting off 16th on the grid. The ongoing battle between two drivers on completely different strategies; Lewis and Max proved a very solid and respectful battle however Max’s performance is definitely worth noting despite his 5 second penalty. Overall, the Monaco 2019 GP has been well worth it and we’re excited for the Canadian 2019 GP on the 9th June.

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