Max Verstappen survived the chaos of a rain shower to win the Monaco Grand Prix where, despite the wet-weather induced drama, the top three on the grid were the top three at the chequered flag.
Fernando Alonso, having pitted for slicks only to come in for intermediates a lap later, had such an advantage over Esteban Ocon he was able to hold onto second ahead of his former team-mate.
Verstappen on the medium tyres made a better start than Alonso who was quickly across the track to cover Esteban Ocon, the Alpine also on the mediums to the Aston Martin’s hards. Carlos Sainz held off Lewis Hamilton to run fourth ahead of Charles Leclerc.
Further back Nico Hulkenberg had a flier as he made up four places, at least one of those at Lance Stroll’s expense with the Canadian dropping four. Hulkenberg’s efforts were undone by a puncture suffered in his battle with Logan Sargeant and Stroll at Mirabeau, the Haas driver then penalised five seconds for causing a collision. Zhou Guanyu and Sergio Perez from the back of the field also pitted.
As Verstappen ran in the late 1:17s it was evident the race leader was managing his pace in the early laps with his team-mate Perez lapping a second and a half faster. Verstappen still dropped Alonso by two seconds with the duo building a gap over Ocon, who had Sainz stuck to his rear wing.
Sainz: “Let’s push.” Race engineer: “That’s a good plan.” And then he promptly pushed into Ocon’s Alpine as the Spaniard tried to divebomb him out of the tunnel only to break his front wing endplate on the rear of the Alpine. Despite his mechanics standing ready with a new front wing, Sainz refused to pit.
Behind them the other Ferrari of Leclerc was chasing Hamilton for fifth place, the Mercedes driver hitting the debris of Sainz’s endplate. They had Pierre Gasly and George Russell running three seconds behind them.
Back at the front Verstappen began to stretch his legs and easily put 10 seconds between himself and Alonso. Ocon continued to run third ahead of Sainz with the Ferrari driver told there could be rain late in the race. Sainz was again told to pit to undercut Ocon but, for the second time, refused to. Alpine let Ocon know he was frustrating the Ferrari driver.
Heading towards the halfway mark in the race Alonso began to reverse his deficit to Verstappen as the Red Bull driver dealt with traffic as Alonso’s hard tyres came into their own. Hamilton, like Verstappen on the mediums, was the first of the top-ten to pit with Mercedes finding the perfect gap with the driver dropping from sixth to eighth with Ocon the next in followed by Sainz, the Frenchman keeping position ahead of the Ferrari.
Perez’s scruffy Monaco weekend continued as the Mexican driver tried to follow Verstappen through as the race leader lapped Stroll only for the Aston Martin to close the door on the second Red Bull. Perez straight-lined the chicane and took the position off Stroll but lost it when he rear-ended Kevin Magnussen and broke his front wing. Stroll was back ahead in the melee with Perez into the pits for a new front wing. A few laps later Stroll then hit the back of Magnussen.
Pushing hard on his medium tyres to keep Alonso roughly nine seconds at bay, Verstappen told Red Bull “I don’t know how long I can keep this up for”. Another driver struggling was Leclerc, the local favourite in on lap 45 for fresh mediums. He came out 10s behind Hamilton but on fresher tyres. Gasly was the next in with Verstappen, Alonso and Russell the top three on lap 50.
A lap later drivers began to report drops of rain! Despite the drivers cutting the chicane and slipping and sliding through Rascasse, Verstappen, Alonso and Russell stayed out.
Red Bull told Verstappen if he can “survive” the wet parts he should stay out but then Alonso pitted, surprisingly doing so for mediums. Russell followed him in but for inters, Hamilton also pitted as too did Ocon. Sainz had an off on his slicks, sliding into the barrier and falling behind Leclerc. Verstappen then came in for inters and Alonso was back in to swap his slicks for inters and in came the Ferraris for a double stop.
As the chaos played out Verstappen was P1 ahead of Alonso, Ocon, Hamilton, Russell, Leclerc, Gasly and Sainz had fallen down to eighth. Stroll, another in the barrier, was in the pits for a new front wing, so too was Magnussen and then Sargeant also hit the barriers, twice, as too did Perez, who bounced off them, while Russell was given a five-second penalty for returning to the track in an unsafe manner that led to contact from Perez and Stroll retired.
As the rain abated but the track stayed wet Tsunoda struggled with his braking and dropped out of the points before sliding his AlphaTauri the wrong way up an escape road. Magnussen, having been rear-ended twice while also hitting the barriers himself on at least two occasions, pulled into the pits with three to go to park his Haas.
Verstappen won the race, his second Monaco GP victory, to extend his lead in the championship to 39 points with Alonso back on the podium for the fifth time this season but for his first runner-up result. Ocon joined them with his third place, Alpine’s first podium of the campaign.
Hamilton was fourth ahead of Russell and Leclerc, the latter unable to get within five seconds of the Mercedes driver. Gasly, Sainz, Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri completed the top ten with Hamilton taking the fastest lap point.
2023 Monaco GP result
1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:48:51.980 78 laps
2 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +27.921
3 Esteban OCON Alpine +36.990
4 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +39.062
5 George RUSSELL Mercedes +56.284
6 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +61.890
7 Pierre GASLY Alpine +62.362
8 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +63.391
9 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1 lap
10 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +1 lap
11 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1 lap
12 Nyck DE VRIES AlphaTauri +1 lap
13 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +1 lap
14 Alexander ALBON Williams +1 lap
15 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +1 lap
16 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +2 laps
17 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +2 laps
18 Logan SARGEANT Williams +2 laps
Did not finish
Kevin Magnussen Haas crash damage
Lance Stroll Aston Martin crash damage