Estie Bestie’s on the podium and other winners and losers from the Monaco Grand Prix

It was a longshot that Sunday’s 2023 Monaco Grand Prix would live up to the thrilling qualifying session that came down to the wire. However, thanks to a brief flash of rain late in the Grand Prix itself, a few thrilling moments were in the offing.

The end result, however, what in line with everything else we have seen this F1 season: Max Verstappen at the front, and everyone trying — and failing — to catch up.

Still, Verstappen is not the only winner from the Grand Prix weekend, so let’s dive in.

Winner: Estie Bestie on the Podium

F1 Grand Prix of Monaco

Photo by Arnold Jerocki/FilmMagic

What a weekend it was for Esteban Ocon.

For a brief moment on Saturday, it was the Alpine driver on provisional pole, thanks to a stunning lap that put him at the top of the timing sheets late in Q3. While he would eventually be nipped at the top of the table, and qualify in P4, a grid penalty handed down to Charles Leclerc saw Ocon start Saturday in third.

While it looked for a moment that someone would catch him from behind, Ocon managed to stay there, recording just the third podium of his F1 career.

The celebration began as soon as Ocon crossed the finish line:

And then continued trackside:

Ocon’s podium, combined with a seventh-place finish from Pierre Gasly, added up to 21 points for Alpine on Sunday, perhaps the “big haul” of points when both drivers qualified in the top ten for the Grand Prix. That result sees Alpine clear into fifth place in the Constructors’ Standings, sitting on 35 points and fairly well ahead of McLaren, who sit in sixth with 17.

The results likely ease the simmering tension that had been building at the team, at least for one week.

Losers: An underwhelming weekend for Ferrari

One of the things I absolutely love about covering F1 — and there are many — is the brutal honesty you often see from teams. It is rare that they hold back in their assessments.

Ferrari is no different. Their post-race report after Monaco was titled “[a] watered down result.”

With good reason, as this was probably not the weekend Ferrari was hoping for.

First there was the grid penalty handed down to Charles Leclerc, that saw him start P6 despite qualifying third. That penalty was due to the failure of the team to warn Leclerc at the end of qualifying that Lando Norris was barreling his way on a push lap. Instead of giving Leclerc the heads-up, the team was working through qualifying permutations.

That resulted in Leclerc not giving way to Norris, Norris abandoning his qualifying lap, and Leclerc being stuck with the three-place penalty.

Then there was the Grand Prix on Sunday, and the frustrated party was Carlos Sainz Jr. Sainz was running in P4 and eying a spot on the podium, but was then instructed to pit. When he returned to the track farther behind Ocon than he was, he aired out his frustration over the radio: “This is exactly what I talked about,” exclaimed the Ferrari driver. When informed of the plan to keep Lewis behind, he replied: “I don’t care about Hamilton, I was quick!”

Then the rain came, and Sainz endured a spin that saw him ultimately place eighth.

He summed up the race this way: “It was an eventful race in Monaco today. The final result is not what I was aiming for because I had good pace with every compound and P8 is frustrating. Pit stops were key today but they were all difficult calls, especially the change to Inter tyres, as the rain picked up very quickly and the spin with the slicks obviously made me lose some positions.

“I leave Monaco with a bitter taste, but next up is my home race and we need to keep focused.”

While Sainz’s finish meant double points for Ferrari, thanks to Leclerc finishing in P6, it was clearly not the kind of weekend the Scuderia were hoping for.

Winners: Light at the end of the tunnel for Mercedes?

Sidepods are back at Mercedes, and that could mean a light at the end of the tunnel for hte Silver Arrows.

The highly-anticipated upgrades for the W14 came to Monaco this week, and with them brought the end of the zero-pod days at Mercedes. Instead the team unveiled a sidepod design reminiscent of both Red Bull and Aston Martin.

That was not the only adjustment to the W14, as Mercedes unveiled a new front suspension, but those were the most discussed changes.

The result? Double points for the team as Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished in P4 and P5 respectively. That result pushed Mercedes closer to Aston Martin in the Constructors’ Standings, as the Silver Arrows are now just a single point behind Fernando Alonso and company.

Bigger than the result, however, might be what we heard from Hamilton throughout the week. Hamilton seemed much more comfortable in the W14 while in Monaco, and had this to say after the Grand Prix. “I‘m really happy with today’s result. We moved forwards in the race and that’s not an easy task here in Monaco. Coming into the weekend, I didn’t know where we would stand,” said Hamilton in the team’s post-race media report. “To come out with fourth and fifth is great points for the Team. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone back at the factories for pushing and bringing these upgrades. It’s been so much work to bring those here. We managed to keep it in one piece today and brought it home.”

In fact, Hamilton is already looking ahead to next week.

“Barcelona, though, is probably the best test circuit we could ask for in order to learn more about our package. I’m looking forward to seeing how the car reacts,” added the seven-time champion.

Could the Mercedes bounceback be on?

Losers: Haas has a 150th Grand Prix they would like to forget

F1 Grand Prix of Monaco

Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images

Haas came to the streets of Monte Carlo looking to celebrate their 150th Grand Prix in fashion.

They probably cannot get their 151st Grand Prix started fast enough.

Both Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hülkenberg were eliminated in Q1, failing to advance to the second qualifying session. Team Principal Guenther Steiner tried to find the positives after a disappointing Saturday in the team’s post-qualifying media recap. “It’s not where you want to start in Monaco, but in the end, we need to look into why we ended up where we ended up. Now we have to deal with the situation and that’s trying to find the best place for tomorrow to be in, should something happen,” said Steiner. “We need to keep our heads up as there are still some chances that somewhere, some mayhem happens.”

Mayhem did happen on Sunday, however, the Haas duo seemed to get swept up in it.

Hülkenberg was able to improve one spot, finishing in P17 after starting 18th. Magnussen retired late in the race, finishing in P19.

Steiner summed up their race this way.

“We tried everything possible today to get into the points. There’s no point in finishing twelfth, thirteenth or fourteenth so we decided to take a gamble at the end staying out and then pitting for full wets as you never know what can happen, but it didn’t work out,” said the Haas team boss. “The race was lost yesterday in qualifying, and we knew that if something special doesn’t happen, we cannot get into the points. We tried, everybody was working hard to get it done. We got a penalty – we don’t know what for on lap 1 – again, inconsistency from the FIA there, but it seems to be what now is normal.”

Here’s hoping for brighter days for Haas in Spain.

Winners: Breathing room for Nyck de Vries?

Ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, AlphaTauri rookie Nyck de Vries was given the “yellow card” by Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko: Improve your performance or else.

The cancellation of Emilia Romagna gave the rookie one extra week to think about things, and it may have paid off. De Vries advanced to Q2 and started the Grand Prix in P12.

While that is where he ended up, just outside of the points in P12. Still, it was his best finish this season.

“It was an extremely difficult race with very challenging circumstances. We could have managed the first stint better because I had a huge drop-off in pace and suddenly recovered a lot of speed in the last seven laps on the Mediums, before it started raining. Perhaps we could have pushed less on Oscar (Piastri) at the beginning, nevertheless, it was a solid race,” said De Vries after the race in the team’s media report. “The Intermediates initially didn’t have any temperature or grip, but we kept our nose clean. Overall, I am satisfied with my weekend, no major mistakes in tricky conditions. It was encouraging to see that we were so close to the top 10, and we worked well as a team throughout the weekend to put the cars where they were on the grid, so we’ll take those positives to Barcelona.”

Those positives might be enough to cool the temperature of his seat at AlphaTauri. At least for one week.

Loser: A day to forget for Lance Stroll

With Fernando Alonso finishing in P2 — his best finish of the 2023 season — that gave Aston Martin 18 more points on the year.

Those would be their only 18 points of the weekend, as Lance Stroll and his AMR23 were battered, bruised, and ultimately unable to finish. Stroll retired, and finished dead last.

“In all honesty, this wasn’t a race to remember,” said Stroll in the team’s post-race debrief.

“But I was struggling a little to get the car slowed down even before the rain; then when it started raining the brake issues meant I just couldn’t stop the car,” added Stroll. “I think I hit the wall about five times out there, but it just wasn’t my day.”

“Lance struggled with damage after a couple of hits on lap one, but he drove with a good amount of verve, overtook a couple of cars and was battling hard. That was great to see. He correctly judged the switch to Inters but was managing the brakes in the wet and lost his front wing after a tangle with the barriers,” added Team Principal Mike Krack. “Starting 14th, it was always going to be a tricky race for Lance – but he kept his head up throughout.”

Stroll’s season has taken on a bit of a “all or nothing” feel. He has three finishes in the points this year: A P6 in Bahrain, a P4 in Australia, and a P7 in Azerbaijan.

He also has a pair of retirements (Saudi Arabia and now Monaco) as well as a P12 in Miami.

Threatening Red Bull at the top of the table might be a bridge too far for Aston Martin this season, but if they are going to make a push, they’ll need more positive results from Stroll in the weeks to come.

Winner: Verstappen shows his brilliance in two critical moments

F1 Grand Prix of Monaco

Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

We conclude with the man who finished first.

We’ll have more on Verstappen later this week, but the defending Drivers’ Champion showed his brilliance on two different moments this week.

One came in the Grand Prix itself. Verstappen was leading the way late in the race when the long-anticipated rains finally came. The Red Bull driver was working around the streets of Monte Carlo on old medium tyres, on a day when many drivers found that tyres were wearing down faster than expected. The track was slick, he was struggling with grip at that point even when the surface was dry, and he was hoping to come in and make a change.

But, his team warned, if you come in now you would give up track position and be behind Alonso when you returned to the circuit.

So, somehow, Verstappen kept it together, managing to stay out on the track long enough to ensure that when he finally did pit, he would remain in front.

He described the race in the post-race press conferences as follows.

“I think the whole race was all about like management. Because, Fernando starting on the Hard made me do a very long stint, probably almost double to what we would have liked, but because of the rain in the area, we couldn’t really stop. I mean, if it would have been nice and sunny, I would have stopped, put the Hard tyre on, and you catch up and you wait until Fernando does his pitstop, but we couldn’t do that because the risk of rain was around so I had to stay out. The tyres were graining, I had to go through that graining phase, which wasn’t that easy. But then luckily it picked up a little bit but then of course, it started to rain. And with really worn tyres, to go through there was not really enjoyable. Clipped a few barriers, especially on my in-lap, I think. It was very, very difficult. But even on the Intermediates after that, it was still very slippery through the second sector. It was quite wet there. And yeah, the hard bit is that, you have a good lead, but of course, you don’t want to risk too much, but also you don’t want to drive too slow, because then you have no temperature in your tyres.”

But his true magic showed on Saturday.

At the very end of Q3, Alonso was sitting on provisional pole thanks to a fantastic qualifying lap. Verstappen was giving it his last chance, with time running out in the session. Through the first two sectors of the course, Verstappen was behind Alonso’s pace.

Yet in the third sector, Verstappen put it all on the line, and somehow it was just enough.

Following qualifying on Saturday, Verstappen talked about how he gave it everything in that final sector: “But I knew that the last lap I had to do it, because they improved. And I also knew going into the last sector I was down on them. So I had to push flat out in the last sector, risk everything to get back the lap time. And luckily, we did.”

Coming through in that kind of moment, with everything on the line, is the stuff of champions.

Which is exactly what Verstappen is.

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