Despite having issues with his Red Bull a long way ahead of the halfway mark of the race, Daniel Ricciardo mastered the conditions and controlled from the front, winning his first Monaco Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel finished second with Lewis Hamilton completing the podium in third place.
The race kicked off on a dry track, even though one hour before the start, rain fell all over the circuit, washing away some some of the rubber that had been laid down during earlier running. This could complicate tyre strategy and wear.
When the lights went out, Ricciardo easily retained his position at the front, protecting it slightly from a somewhat better launch by Vettel. Hamilton followed up in third, ahead of Raikkonen, Bottas. Esteban Ocon was next, followed by Alonso, Sainz, Perez and Gasly in 10th. Max Verstappen at the back gained two positions in the first lap, passing both Magnussen and Grosjean. Sirotkin and Stroll gained a single spot, making those three the only men who managed to change anything to the starting order.
On lap 4, Verstappen had moved up position by moving ahead of Ericsson at Mirabeau Haute, with Stroll getting passed another 2 laps later at Nouvelle Chicane.
There was more bad news for Williams at the same time, as Sirotkin was handed a 10-second stop-and-go penalty. His car's wheels were not fitted 3 minutes ahead of the start. And that wasn't the end, as Stroll broke his front wing on lap 9. The Canadian returned to the pits for a new one, along with a change to super soft tyres. He returned to the track in 20th position, behind his team mate.
On lap 12, Hamilton was the first to pit for a normal stop, changing to ultra softs and returned to the track in 6th place, just behind Ocon and ahead of Alonso. Hamilton though didn't mess about, and in that out lap immediately got ahead of Icon, diving into a 10s gap of clear track between Bottas and himself.
2 laps later, Vettel responded by pitting Vettel, similarly switching to ultra soft tyres.
Verstappen meanwhile got into a chasing position behind Vandoorne, thanks to passing Hartley.
Leader Ricciardo pitted on lap 17, also taking on a new set of ultra softs and returned to the track still in the lead.
Crucially for Alonso, who pitted on lap 19, Vandoorne kept Verstappen and Sainz, who pitted two laps earlier behind him. When Alonso got out of the pitlane, he emerged just ahead of his team mate. The Belgian pitted the next lap, and just like Alonso took on a new set of super soft tyres.
By lap 27, clouds appeared over the blue skies at Red Bull, with Verstappen reporting a problem with the downshifts. A single lap later, Ricciardo reduced pace, slowing into 1:18.2 and allowing Vettel to return quickly. 2 laps later, Ricciardo's pace had dropped another second, up into 1:19.0 - a full second a lap slower than Hamilton who on lap 32 was 8 seconds down on the leader. In fact, the pace meant the entire top 10 was similarly fast or faster at that time.
Meanwhile, Bottas's return on Raikkonen was impressive, nearing 1.5s a lap. While the Finn was closely following Hamilton ahead, Bottas's super soft seemd to be the better tyre at this time, versus used ultra soft for Hamilton and new ultra softs on Raikkonen's car.
By lap 36, Ricciardo's pace had further reduced to 1:19.8, but Vettel seemingly opted to back away a little bit, leaving around 1.5 between himself and Ricciardo. Hamilton was at 5s, with Raikkonen another extra 4s further down the road. Valtteri Bottas remained in striking distance of Bottas. After Gasly made his first stop from 6th, Hulkenberg moved up into that position, followed by Ocon, Alonso, Verstappen and Gasly.
8 laps later, the top 5 are all bunched up within a space of 6 seconds. All seemed to have issues though, as Hamilton reported bad graining on his ultra softs and Vettel asking for a check of his dash after a blackout on his screen.
On lap 48, Verstappen finally pitted, changing his initial set of ultra softs to a new set of hyper softs. The Dutchman returned to the track in 11th position, with Sainz 10s ahead of him. Hulkenberg, the only man left to make his first stop pitted two laps later, rejoining on used hyper softs in between Sainz and Verstappen, but only just!
Fernando Alonso was then the first retiree of the race as he reported "lost power" on lap 54. He slowed down rapidly on the main straight, before parking his McLaren in the runoff at Ste. Devote.
Meanwhile, Hulkenberg and Verstappen had caught up with Sainz. The speed difference was pretty massive, so Renault told Sainz to let Hulkenberg past. A smart move, as the latter immedately gained 4s on the Spaniard in the next lap (1:16.4 vs 1:20.4). This made Sainz literally a driving chicane, with him even having to defend his position on the hill out of Ste. Devote, before the Red Bull driver got ahead at Nouvelle Chicane. By that time though, Hulkenberg was already 11.3s up the road.
At the front meanwhile, Ricciardo managed to up the pace again into 1:18.2, though that was still close to slowest among the top 10 drivers. Verstappen at the same time managed to record a 1:14.260. His pace was such that within three laps, he lined up behind Hulkenberg who failed to find a way past Gasly for 7th place.
The problem with Ricciardo's reduced pace is that the leading 5 were unable to make a stop without falling behind 6th, so as the end of the race closed, they all started to manage their pace, given that the ultra softs were being stretched. Hamilton's tyres were oldest and would end up being 72 laps old, and they were used to start with. Raikkonen, Vettel and Ricciardo were in a somewhat better position with originally new tyres that were being raced 8 laps less. This was clearly adverse to Mercedes's earlier intentions to stop twice.
By lap 71, Ocon joined up behind Bottas, with Gasly, Hulkenberg and Verstappen right behind as well.
6 laps from the end, Leclerc loses it under braking out of the tunnel and drives into the back of Hartley. Leclerc immediately retired in the runoff area while Hartley returned to the pits to retire there with a broken rear wing and flat right rear tyre.
The event triggered a virtual safety car and pitstops for Vandoorne, Grosjean and Sirotkin.
Strangely, when the race was on again, Vettel immediately lost 5 seconds on the leader. Hamilton was another 8 seconds further down while Raikkonen and Bottas were still closely behind Hamilton. So, instead of all being 2s apart from one another, the gaps between the top three had increased massively.
Actually, Ricciardo's first lap after the VSC was 1:16.801, while Vettel and everybody behind ran 1:18s. Vettel especially seemed to struggle to get his tyres back up to temperature, a known issue with badly worn Pirellis.
No position did change after that SC, making this a brilliant and certainly not the easiest win for Daniel Ricciardo.
|1||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||78||1:42:54.807||25|
|3||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG||78||+17.013s||15|
|5||77||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG||78||+18.822s||10|
|6||31||Esteban Ocon||Force India Mercedes||78||+23.667s||8|
|7||10||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||78||+24.331s||6|
|9||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||78||+25.317s||2|
|11||9||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber Ferrari||78||+69.864s||0|
|12||11||Sergio Perez||Force India Mercedes||78||+70.461s||0|
|13||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||78||+74.823s||0|
|14||2||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren Renault||77||+1 lap||0|
|15||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||77||+1 lap||0|
|16||35||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Mercedes||77||+1 lap||0|
|17||18||Lance Stroll||Williams Mercedes||76||+2 laps||0|
|18||16||Charles Leclerc||Sauber Ferrari||70||DNF||0|
|19||28||Brendon Hartley||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||70||DNF||0|
|NC||14||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Renault||52||DNF||0|