The Monaco Grand Prix is a race like no other. One of Formula 1‘s most historic events, the glitz and the glamour that surrounds it is often required to compensate for what is typically a fairly sterile race thanks to the tight and twisty nature of the circuit around the millionaire’s playground of Monte Carlo.
If a driver leads into turn 1 – the tight hander at Ste. Devote as Lewis Hamilton did yesterday, then barring mechanical failure or strategic blunder, the likelihood is that he will go on to win the race.
And that’s exactly what happened yesterday.
While it may have seemed at times yesterday that Max Verstappen had a genuine chance of wrestling a sixth straight win from the Mercedes Team as Hamilton sought reassurance time and time again from his team that his medium tyres would last the duration of his extended second stint under pressure from Max behind, the likelihood was always that the Mercedes W10 was simply too good out of Monaco’s twisty corners, and Lewis Hamilton too good a driver to allow the Dutchman any real chance of an overtake.
And in any case, should he get past, as the laps ticked down, the chance of Max building the five second gap he needed to Hamilton courtesy of a penalty for an unsafe release into the path of Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas, became slimmer and slimmer.
In reality, and as loathe as F1 might be to admit it, Lewis Hamilton won the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix when he secured pole position 24 hours earlier.
The real story for Williams fans was what happened towards the back (and for the first time this season not at the very back!)
For the Monaco Grand Prix was the first time that Williams were able to compete on genuine outright pace with the teams around it.
Prior to the race the threat of rain looked like it might offer Williams a chance of benefitting from a significantly increased rate of attrition that typically accompanies a wet race.
But as the rain clouds passed, it soon became clear that even in the dry Robert Kubica and George Russell had a car with which they could actually match the pace of the Alfa Romeos and Racing Points.
When lights out Kubica moved up from his 20th place grid slot, ahead of team mate Russell and the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi, who went off at turn one.
When the safety car was deployed on lap 8 to clear up the mess caused by Charles Leclerc’s bungled attempt to move through the field after starting out of position, several cars ahead pitted, and Kubica, opting to stay out, moved as high as 15th, before being unceremoniously thumped by Giovinazzi at Rascasse, costing him a handful of positions and Giovinazzi a ten-second penalty.
Russell, plum last at the end of the first lap, and having stopped on lap ten – a traditional strategy favoured by most of those around him – profited from the incident, moving up to 17th which became 16th when Lance Stroll pitted on lap 38, and then 15th when Kimi did likewise a couple of laps later.
For the ensuing 30 laps, Russell was able to keep the four cars behind him at bay, even lapping at the same (albeit conservative) pace as the leaders, much to his amusement post race.
At the flag Russell came home 15th, matching his best result of the season, and the unlucky Kubica 18th in a race that should have yielded much more for the Pole.
How much of a Williams ability to compete was down to the unique characteristics of the Monaco Circuit will be demonstrated in two weeks time at the Canadian Grand Prix where there will be much less opportunity to use strategy and circumstance to get and maintain track position.