The most famous circuit on the calendar faced intense scrutiny during the build-up to the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix. This came amid complaints that the principality’s penchant for producing dull races is no longer compatible with blockbuster modern-day Formula 1.
But those complaints were tempered by an 11th-hour cloud burst that forced the race start to be delayed and then required the leading teams to roll the dice with tyre strategy as the track dried. Those circumstances ensured last Sunday’s bout was no lights-to-flag procession behind the polesitter as qualifying crashers Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz came to the fore.
However, on a day when the second string shone and F1’s wet-weather reaction was called into question again, a calamitous Ferrari strategy further hurt home hero Charles Leclerc.
While he raged in response to his faltering chase after points leader Max Verstappen in the likely end-of-season battle for the title spoils, the defending champion showed his lesser-seen contentedness to settle for the unremarkable as he rarely featured at the front.
Meanwhile, following the promise it showed last time out in Spain, Mercedes’ struggle to truly tame its troublesome W13 lingered on while speculation continues over Daniel Ricciardo’s place at McLaren after another weekend when he was upstaged by Lando Norris.
As the narrative of the 2022 F1 season grows, here are 10 things we learned from the Monaco weekend.
1. Monaco can offer more than glitz and glamour in its fight for an F1 future…
Monaco’s F1 future has been put into doubt, but it provided an intriguing event that will do its prospects of renewal no harm at all
Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images
Less than a decade ago, the Monaco Grand Prix seemed unimpeachable. Its status as the jewel in the crown for Formula 1 led to special dispensation and cut-price hosting fees to guarantee it was an annual fixture. But the story ahead of the 2022 edition had started to revolve around drivers rushing to defend the principality’s place on the calendar.
With even the well-remembered recent editions of the Monaco GP remembered for the overtakes that didn’t happen – Ayrton Senna defending against Nigel Mansell in 1992, a down-on-power Daniel Ricciardo holding on to win in 2018, Lewis Hamilton’s ruined rubber enough to keep Max Verstappen at bay in 2019 – the perception was increasingly that the long-standing F1 icon was incompatible with the bigger cars and insatiable appetite for action.
But as Monaco’s contract with F1 expires, it produced an entertaining encounter in the nick of time. In the main, that helps its credentials when discussing it remaining on the schedule – whether that’s on an annual basis or on rotation. It also helps combat the impractical case for the circuit layout to be changed to provide greater opportunities for on-track overtaking.
If the home to the vastly wealthy can stump up a bigger hosting fee and is more willing to hand over some of its cut from sponsorship deals, along with the recency bias of an engaging race, then Monaco has done its F1 future no harm at all.
2. …But we should rate the entertaining 2022 race as only a sticking plaster
Opportunities for overtaking were as usual limited on the narrow streets, with most of the order changes the result of tyre strategy on the drying track
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
However, the entertainment provided by cars slithering in low-grip conditions and the dash to hit the pits and nail the crossover from wet to intermediate, then inters to dry tyres, should only be viewed as timely respite for Monaco in its discussions with F1. The usual flaws were still poking through the cracks.
Despite a considerable pace advantage, Lewis Hamilton was trading paint with Esteban Ocon and held up by Fernando Alonso to prove just how much of a premium overtaking comes with through the narrow streets. In the early part of the race as drivers adapted to the slippery circuit, changes for position were decided by who ran down the escape road at Sainte Devote rather than true on-track passes.
It was hugely thrilling to watch Carlos Sainz and Zhou Guanyu save massive spikes of oversteer on a weekend when qualifying didn’t prove the be-all and end-all of a good Monaco event. But on another drier day, it might have been a dull affair to leave those watching at home far colder.
Similarly, the special agreement in place for Monaco to look after its own TV direction proved clumsy and inconsistent. The big moments of action were often missed, there were poorly timed cuts to other camera angles and time slipped away before the correct replays could be found. While there are often complaints about F1 switching to random faces in the grandstand to miss an exciting battle on-track, Monaco’s in-house production was another step behind.
Despite its historical significance to grand prix racing, there needs to be greater room for compromise from the venue’s top brass.
3. Formula 1 and the FIA haven’t yet resolved their wet-weather reaction
The race start was much delayed, leading to critical comments from Red Bull boss Horner
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
A pre-race shower meant FIA race director Eduardo Freitas suspended the start procedure by five minutes before the formation lap was delayed another four minutes and would be led by the safety car. That forced all drivers onto the fully wet tyres when the top four were down to start on intermediates, which might have left fifth-starting Lando Norris in prime position.
Then the formation lap was put back again by five minutes and after a second tour behind the safety car, red flags halted the hesitation by an hour. The rain had got heavier in this time to require the intervention to the start procedure, but Red Bull team boss Christian Horner still called the situation “chaotic”. He continued: “It’s a busy enough grid here, and it’s always a little dangerous to try and pre-empt the weather.
“You can argue it both ways. You could say we would have been better starting the race and then reacting to the downpour, and either putting the safety car out or stopping the race, but I think it needs a bit of a review after this weekend.”
As it turned out, a power outage had further affected the systems and panels on the F1 grid to contribute to the delay and ultimately put paid to standing starts after the red flag period had ended. All in all, it was a clumsy reaction to the situation, if a considerable improvement on the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix (that wasn’t), for which the bitter aftertaste still lingers.
4. Perez proved the second string can shine in response to Spanish snub
Perez responded well to losing out in Barcelona by beating Verstappen in qualifying and leading him home in the race
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
The debate in the aftermath of the Spanish Grand Prix earlier this month centred on Red Bull’s team orders. Was it ruthlessly pragmatic to twice ask Sergio Perez to drop behind Max Verstappen or in fact acting insensitively early in the season to establish the hierarchy so publicly? Perez fought back immediately and emphatically with his considered drive to victory in Monaco, to take his third F1 win and became the most successful Mexican grand prix driver.
PLUS: The six key F1 moments that meant Perez won Leclerc’s Monaco GP
It was not a perfect weekend. Even though he outqualified team-mate Verstappen by fourth hundredths of a second, his late spin out of Portier was a driver error, nonetheless. But when the time came for Ferrari to drastically drop the ball with its strategy, Perez pounced effectively and held off Carlos Sainz in the closing laps of the shortened race to claim the spoils.
For so long in the wake of Daniel Ricciardo’s exit, Red Bull struggled to settle on a driver who could work alongside Verstappen and handle a skittish rear end. But the early indications at the start of F1’s second ground-effect era is that Perez finally can be that long-awaited backup to enable the team to win the constructors’ title. Perez’ intermediate tyre and in-lap executions were masterful as he found justice for a win that got away in Saudi Arabia and the sacrifice he made to play the team game in Spain.
5. Ferrari’s recent fumbles mean it must fight back in Red Bull territory
Ferrari saw its win chances go begging for the second grand prix in a row on a track that ought to favour the characteristics of its car
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
The engine trend seen so far in 2022 has the Red Bull-badged Honda power unit as the top-speed king, while Ferrari finds its gain in acceleration out of the slower corners. The Spain and Monaco double-header therefore arrived at the optimal time to dent the momentum of Verstappen’s recovery before the high-speed sweeps and long straights of Baku and then Montreal. However, the Scuderia has now blown both chances.
Leclerc was totally in control of proceedings in Spain until his engine expired to ultimately hand victory and the points lead to nearest rival Verstappen. Then in Monaco, the indications from practice were that the Monegasque would break his home-race hoodoo. Leading from pole position should have dictated that he was halfway there.
But Ferrari was brutally exposed by the lesser-deployed overcut, it was muddled on whether to pit Leclerc or keep him on track and then the botched double-stack pitstop squandered what might have been a 1-2 in this quest to end the Maranello title drought. Unreliability and ultimately bad strategy must now be banished ahead of visits to what are, on-paper, ‘Red Bull tracks’ should Ferrari not want to again blow its latest chance to return to the top.
6. Leclerc has an inner ire that bubbled over
Leclerc found it hard to contain his frustration as Ferrari got its tyre tactics wrong, allowing Verstappen to extend his points lead
Photo by: Ferrari
Ferrari dropping the ball quite so spectacularly also allowed an enraged Leclerc to surface. He owned his spin behind Perez at Imola as a driver error and bounced back well from his Q3 blunder in Spain to seize pole. While we learned he wasn’t infallible, Leclerc took the blame where necessary and kept the team buoyed. His retirement from Spain was a case in point, as the public line from the driver was that he felt optimistic about Ferrari’s ability to lead from the front, even if his car had let him down cruelly.
In Monaco, that changed. He was there to put the pressure on Ferrari’s litany of errors rather than look for the silver lining. A short fuse was exposed early on. Leclerc was a little irked by being released into traffic in Q1 and Q3, questioning why Ferrari had put him on an off-beat strategy to leave him out of sync with the competition.
Then in the race we heard his frustration over the confusion at the pit entry as Ferrari made a last-second call for Leclerc to stay out, by which time it was too late. Then Leclerc voiced his sarcastic frustration when it appeared no more rain would arrive to swing the odds back in his favour. The red flag gave us a view of Leclerc marching away from his car, muttering choice words, shaking his head and displaying a wide array of hand signals as he considered what Ferrari had cost him.
His frustration was understandable in the circumstances as a home win went bagging and his points deficit to Verstappen grew. But it was nevertheless an indication into how Ferrari got it wrong and what Leclerc knows is at stake after two fine performances from the driver have been rewarded with nothing.
7. Verstappen can be calculatingly quiet
Verstappen was a low-key third, but crucially still finished ahead of Leclerc
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
The stat doing the rounds up until the Monaco Grand Prix was that Max Verstappen had won every race in 2022 that he’d finished. Red Bull unreliability had been a major player in the peaks and troughs as Verstappen would get hot under the collar over team radio as his win-or-bust form played out. Last weekend was therefore comparatively run of the mill.
Fourth place in qualifying was clearly below expectation as Perez and both Ferraris had the measure of the defending champion. His climb to third place was built around the Scuderia’s strategy clanger rather than any in-car heroics. But he kept his nose clean and was happy to spend a weekend out of the limelight. He didn’t overly pressure his team when early on, Leclerc and Sainz were escaping, and Verstappen was held up behind Perez.
In the dying stages as the clock ran out on the shortened affair, Verstappen didn’t attempt lunges or stick his nose in awkward positions to force mistakes and increase risk. Other than finding the limit with the line on the pit exit, it was a performance without bells and whistles. That revealed a lesser-seen side to Verstappen as he settled in position to bank the points and efficiently extend his lead over Leclerc.
8. Mercedes can’t fully unlock its W13 despite Barcelona bounce back
Russell continued his run of points on another tricky weekend for Mercedes
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Another remarkable top-five result for George Russell ensures he is the only driver to chalk points in every race so far this term. That was the positive headline from a round in which Mercedes returned to its struggling 2022 form.
After Russell defended so stoutly against Verstappen to land a podium in Spain and Lewis Hamilton ran with race pace that might have put him in contention for the win had he not tangled with Kevin Magnussen on lap one, the atmosphere was immensely positive. Toto Wolff reckoned the fight was back on, Hamilton said on Friday morning in Monaco that the W13 will win races.
PLUS: Monaco Grand Prix Driver Ratings 2022
Then came qualifying and while low-speed Monaco minimised the porpoising that has hurt the car so greatly, both complained of the extremely bumpy nature of their ride. Russell was again stellar in the race to persevere with graining tyres and deliver the goods in fifth. Hamilton, meanwhile, was hobbled by being held up behind Alonso to secure eighth.
It was not a downright bad day for the three-pointed star, and the team had predicted a difficult day due to the tight corners and lack of room for overtaking. But still the step backwards for this year was made clear as the W13 proved stubborn once more.
9. The questions over Ricciardo’s future will continue to mount
Ricciardo was again beaten by his team-mate and struggled on a track where he won in 2018 with Red Bull
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Zak Brown gave an interview in the lead up to Monaco summarising that Italian Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo’s tenure at McLaren had so far failed to live up to expectations. The speculation over the Australian’s future had been cast into doubt when he mixed up his words in Spain to leave commentators wondering if instead of a three-year contract signed for 2021, he might actually be out of a job at the end of this season.
Ricciardo fought back against the criticism and owned his slip up saying he had “tanned, beautiful and also thick skin”. But after his practice shunt into the barriers, he again fell well beyond Lando Norris. As his still-ill team-mate ran well to sixth, Ricciardo mustered only 13th.
This came during a weekend for the very well remunerated driver when McLaren extended the contract of its IndyCar boy-wonder Patricio O’Ward. The Mexican is tipped by many to make the jump to F1. Ricciardo didn’t give himself any extra security in that decision last weekend by virtue of simply lacking pace.
10. Ferrari’s customer teams didn’t take their big chance to excel
Zhou Guanyu was eliminated in Q1 and finished 16th
Photo by: Alfa Romeo
Courtesy of using the same power unit as the Ferrari works team, Haas and Alfa Romeo might have predicted also to do well around low-speed Monaco. With Alfa specifically, as the car with the lowest weight and shortest wheelbase, it had the inherent traits to have excelled around the tight principality course. But much like the factory outfit, both donor teams failed to capitalise on the opportunity presented.
A poor qualifying, not helped by a red flag, left Zhou Guanyu bogged down at the back of the grid. Despite his excellent save out of the tunnel, he managed just 15th. Team-mate Valtteri Bottas, a shining light at the front of the midfield so far this term, was eliminated only in Q2 before being trapped in a train in the race by a pace-limited Alonso to bag a couple of points for ninth when more might have been realistically expected.
Haas’ early-season promise returned even less, however. Not long after Kevin Magnussen had been filmed out of the car after retiring with a water pressure leak, Mick Schumacher served up his latest major shunt. Much like the $1million Saudi Arabia qualifying spill, Schumacher again split his Haas in half when the rear stepped out through the Swimming Pool complex and spat him into the TecPro to cause a lengthy red flag and ensure Haas failed to score a point.
Schumacher had his second chassis-destroying shunt of the season
Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images