Leclerc ends Monaco curse with long-awaited home win

Charles Leclerc cruised to his maiden Monaco Grand Prix victory after a carnage-strewn first lap suspended the race for more than 40 minutes.

Leclerc got away cleanly from pole position, but the race lasted only a few seconds before an enormous three-car pile-up on the road to Massenet caused an immediate red flag.

Sergio Perez found himself bottled at the first corner and lacked momentum running up the hill. Kevin Magnussen, starting last, saw the slimmest of overtaking chances around his outside as they charged towards Massenet.

But the narrow space to Perez’s right disappeared as the road kinked towards Turn 2. Magnussen already had his front axle alongside the Red Bull car, and the two made catastrophic contact.


Perez was tipped out of control, with Magnussen’s momentum ploughing the RB20 into the barrier. The Mexican then ricocheted back onto the circuit, three of his four wheels missing, and collected Nico Hulkenberg before all three cars came to rest in a heap at Massenet. The stewards opted against opening an investigation into the first-lap incident.

A delay ensued for barrier repairs and track cleaning, after which the race resumed with a standing restart based on the order the cars had passed the second safety car line where the pit lane rejoins the track.

It was good news for Sainz, whose race had appeared over after light contact with Oscar Piastri had left him stopped on track at Casino Square with a front-left puncture. He was allowed to take the restart from third after repairs.

Pierre Gasly was also a major beneficiary after being punted into the barriers at Portier by teammate Esteban Ocon.

Ocon ambitiously dived down the inside in a botched attempt to take 10th place but ended up crunching the sister car against the barriers. His own car was launched high into the air by the contact and sustained too much damage when it slammed back onto the ground to take the restart.

Gasly was able to continue after repairs during the red flag and restarted 10th, his hope for points still alive.

Ocon was slapped with a five-place grid drop at the upcoming Canadian Grand Prix for causing the smash.

The restart got underway with notably less drama than the original launch, with just two position changes on the first lap and no reported contact.

With 15 of the 16 drivers having made their mandatory tire changes during the red flag — Logan Sargeant was the exception — Leclerc at the head of the field set a dawdling pace to ensure his hard tires could make it to the end of the race without invoking pit stop strategy that could threaten his hold on top spot.

Piastri occasionally attempted to pressure Leclerc into a mistake, but the Monegasque was steadfast in his go-slow strategy, increasing his speed only incrementally through the race as his fuel load burnt off.

The meandering pace made for soporific viewing but worked a treat for the Leclerc, who at the third time of asking converted pole position to victory at his home grand prix with an ultimately comfortable 7.1s margin over Piastri.

“No words can explain that,” a relieved and emotional Leclerc said. “It’s such a difficult race.

“I think the fact that twice I’ve started on pole position and couldn’t quite make it makes it even better in a way.

“It means a lot. It’s the race that made me dream of becoming a Formula 1 driver one day.”

Piastri came under late pressure from Sainz but allowed for now way through for the Spaniard to collect a career-best second-place finish.

“Tricky race,” he said. “The pace at the beginning was incredibly slow. I had one little half-look [at Leclerc] before the tunnel but didn’t have a small enough car to fit into a gap.

“Thanks to the whole team. It’s been a great weekend all round. It’s nice to finally put a result on the board – we’ve been very strong for the last few weekends but didn’t have the results to show for it.”

Sainz capitalized on the good fortune of being able to take the restart by claiming third place, his third podium in the principality.

“It was obviously a very bad feeling there in lap 1 that very quickly turned into a good feeling after being reinstated in P3,” he said. “The race pace was as good as expected, but it’s just impossible to get past on the streets of Monaco.

Lando Norris finished an unchallenged fourth ahead of George Russell, who spent most of the race lapping at an even slower pace than the hard-shod leaders to preserve his medium tires, which were marginal to make it to the finish.

The strategy proved a good call when Max Verstappen found space to pit into with 26 laps to run, taking a practically new set of hards to sternly challenge Russell for position late, though to no avail.

Lewis Hamilton likewise made a late stop — though he was frustrated not to have been told to push harder on his out-lap to try to jump Verstappen, who stopped one lap later — to finish seventh.

Yuki Tsunoda collected another four points from eighth ahead of Alex Albon, who scored Williams’s first points of the season in ninth.

Pierre Gasly completed the top 10 for his first score of the season.

Fernando Alonso finished 11th after backing up the pack to allow teammate Lance Stroll to make a free pit stop, though the plan came to nothing when the Canadian punctured his tires against the barriers at the chicane.

Stroll has to pit again, dropping him to 14th behind Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas.

Logan Sargeant finished 15th ahead of Zhou Guanyu in 16th and last among the finishers.

Story originally appeared on Racer