Red Bull’s Monaco Grand Prix win was a strategic triumph over rivals Ferrari on a day when either team could have won the race.Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr locked out the front row of the grid, banishing the Red Bull pair to row two.
A pre-race downpour meant proceedings began with a rolling start, depriving the Red Bull drivers of an opportunity to split the Ferraris. But it also increased the opportunity for them to capture the lead via strategy.
The whole field had to start the race on the full wet weather tyres. With no further rain falling and the track drying out quickly on a warm afternoon, it was clear drivers would eventually end up on slick tyres.
Whoever found the quickest route slicks stood a great chance of taking the lead. The teams faced two routes: A conventional transition to intermediates and then slicks, or jumping straight from the ‘extreme’ full wets to dry-weather rubber, as Lewis Hamilton used to win the race in similar conditions six years earlier.
After the Safety Car peeled into the pits Leclerc led the field away. Behind him Sainz was pursued by the Red Bull pair, all four hunting for grip on the treacherous surface:
|6||Perez||I’m struggling a little bit for traction. The rest I think we are quicker than Sainz.||Marcos Padros||The only place losing to Sainz is braking later for turn 10, we need to try to brake later turn 10 and better exit.||Adami||Perez two seconds behind. Perez lap time 38.2. Good job.|
|Bird||Okay copy Checo. How are conditions?|
|Perez||They are improving.|
|7||Lambiase||How are conditions Max?||Bird||Strat eight if you can, strat eight if you can.||Marcos Padros||So gap to Sainz behind 3.4. Some cars on inters but they are not faster than us at the moment.|
|Verstappen||Drying but still a bit tricky on these tyres.||Bird||Mode six. Mode six.|
|Verstappen||Like I’m moving a lot on the rubber.|
|8||Verstappen||Okay Max so just keep on top of the tyres. We are monitoring pit windows.||Perez||What can I do to help traction?||Marcos Padros||Gap to Sainz behind 3.3. As a reference Perez lap time behind Sainz 37.2.|
|Bird||Torque three to help rotation and then help the traction. Rear tyres started to get a bit on the warm side.|
|9||Lambiase||Max let me know if you’d like a recommendation on tools.||Perez||Yeah. The car doesn’t turn into 15. What shall I do there?||Marcos Padros||Gap to Sainz behind 4.0. Sainz lap time 37.1 as a reference.||Adami||Perez 1.2 behind.|
|Verstappen||No, that’s okay.||Bird||Having a look. Think about hand brake for turn 15, hand brake for turn 15.|
|Lambiase||Understood.||Bird||So rear tyre temps are still rising a little bit above target now.|
|Verstappen||Turn 12 becomes very slippery.|
As the conditions improved Leclerc picked up his pace at the front and began to put some distance between himself and team mate Sainz. Perez, running third, told his team he was losing time behind the second Ferrari.
“Charles in the early laps seemed to have things pretty much under control,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. “He’d got the buffer of his team mate behind him as well. At that point in time it looked like Ferrari had the race in the bag.”
Max Verstappen’s radio chatter was strikingly different to his rivals, particularly the Ferraris, in that there was far less communication going on. For an eight-minute stretch, while the Ferrari drivers were getting constant updates on lap times and tyre temperatures, Verstappen circulated without a word between him and race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase.
Meanwhile Sainz, running in second place, had become convinced that switched directly to slicks, skipping the intermediates, was the best way to go, and made his preference clear to his team:
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|10||Lambiase||Understood.||Perez||What’s the pace of Leclerc?||Marcos Padros||And Safety Car window is open.||Adami||Try to improve first sector if you can. The rest is very good. First sector.|
|Verstappen||Here it’s getting quite dry.||Bird||Leclerc’s last lap a 36.3.||Marcos Padros||Gap to Sainz behind 4.3. Sainz lap time 36.9.|
|Lambiase||Understood, thank you.||Bird||Mode 10, mode 10.|
|11||Perez||I’m just held up by Carlos.||Marcos Padros||That was a good lap. Gap to Sainz behind 5.0. Sainz lap times 35.9.||Adami||Charles lap time 5.3, for info, Perez 5.9.|
|Bird||Yeah. Copy, Checo.|
|Bird||Checo, rear tyres are getting on the warm side now. Try and cool them where you can. That’ll help your traction.|
|12||Bird||Okay so try and cool these tyres where you can.||Marcos Padros||Gap to Sainz behind 5.2. Sainz lap time 35.3. The only place losing turn 12 apex speed.||Adami||Losing around three-tenths in turn one for info, but I leave it to you to judge the risk. Three tenths to Charles.|
|Perez||It’s definitely inters now.||Adami||Last lap the first sector was good, only two-tenths.|
|Bird||Okay. Copy, Checo.|
|13||Bird||Click overtake, click overtake.||Marcos Padros||And secondary RB Position one when you can. RB one when you can. And let me know track condition.||Adami||Go back to lap mode race when you want, lap mode race for temperatures. All is good.|
|Leclerc||It’s drying up quickly||Adami||Perez lap time 4.1, same lap time as Charles, good job.|
|Marcos Padros||Okay. Copy that. And other drivers thinking about going straight to slicks. Let me know your opinion on that.|
|14||Bird||Try and cool the tyres, they’re on the hot side now.||Leclerc||Yeah could be a thing but not now.||Sainz||We’re going to go straight to dry.|
|Bird||Press and hold overtake, just need to drain the SOC a little bit.||Marcos Padros||Understood. Sainz lap time 33.0.||Adami||Okay, understood.|
|Adami||Tyre temperatures are good like this. Try some wet patches if you can. Not hotter that this if you can.|
|Adami||Charles lap time 33.3, you are four-tenths faster and purple out there.|
Red Bull made their move on lap 15, bringing Perez in. This was likely provoked by Lewis Hamilton’s pit stop the lap before, which left a gap for fifth-placed Lando Norris to drop into. Once Norris pitted, a gap for Perez would appear.
As it happened, McLaren didn’t bring Norris in, and Perez emerged behind him. Fortunately for Perez it took him a lap to catch the McLaren, at which point Norris peeled into the pits, and Perez was able to press on with clear air ahead of him. Others would not be so fortunate.
Strikingly, while Ferrari debated their tyre preferences, at Red Bull the drivers were simply told to pit when the best strategic option became clear to the team.
“You’ve got to have effective and clear communication,” said Horner. “I think as a pit wall we worked, we had all the information, we were using the information well to get that crossover right.
“We were debating whether you go straight from the extreme onto the slick, as we saw with Lewis when it hurt us a few years ago with Daniel [Ricciardo]. But we decided it was a quicker route to go through the inter onto the slick. The power of the out-lap was enormous and I think Checo absolutely nailed it.”
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|15||Lambiase||Mode three Max, mode three when you can.||Bird||Strat five, strat five.||Marcos Padros||And if possible, try to use wet patches for tyre temps.||Adami||For info Safety Car window is open for inters, just in case.|
|Perez||Yeah. I’m managing the tyre.||Marcos Padros||Gap to Sainz behind, Sainz lap time 32.6.||Sainz||Copy.|
|Perez||Let me know when you need to close me up to Sainz.||Adami||Charles lap time 32.0. For info Gasly with inters 31.2 at the back. We are monitoring. Get your plan.|
|Bird||PU eight position one. PU eight position one. Minus three.|
|Bird||Box, Checo box.|
Having seen Perez pit, Ferrari felt the need to respond. Sainz was called in first but he expressed doubt, reasserting his preference to wait for the crossover point to slicks.
Leclerc was less emphatic about his tyre preference. Having been advised of Perez’s move he told the team “inter would be much quicker, for sure.” He was called in soon afterwards and put on a set of intermediates.
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|16||Bird||Aggressive launch.||Marcos Padros||So Perez just pitted now, we believe for inters. Confirm inters on Perez.||Adami||Hamilton has pitted for inters, for reference, and Perez is three seconds behind.|
|Bird||Tyre four, tyre four.||Adami||And push, in-lap. Perez is in for inters. Push, in-lap.|
|Bird||Okay. Norris just coming past now. Russell’s on the main straight. Let’s go get ’em. Hunt down Norris.||Sainz||I’m not sure it’s the right call. It’s nearly ready for dry, yeah?|
|Bird||Strat five when you can, strat five when you can.||Adami||Okay, copy, we’ll come back to you.|
|Bird||Let’s go, Checo, let’s use this tyre.||Adami||We would like to cover Checo on our side.|
|Bird||You’ve got the grip over Norris, let’s do it.|
|Bird||All out, Sainz is pitting, Sainz is pitting, all out.|
|17||Lambiase||Max that last lap was the fastest of the top three.||Bird||Okay Sainz has stayed out. Let’s clear Norris.||Leclerc||Inter would be much quicker, for sure.||Sainz||I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.|
|Bird||Okay free air, let’s go.||Marcos Padros||Copy, understood.||Sainz||In five, six laps, might be dry.|
|Bird||Okay Leclerc might be putting let’s push, let’s push, get the undercut here, get the undercut.||Marcos Padros||Gap to Sainz behind 6.3. I will let you know the lap times from Perez.||Adami||And box, confirm, box. We need to respond to Checo.|
|Bird||All out. Okay press and hold, press and hold, you’re racing Leclerc here.||Marcos Padros||And box this lap, box, pit confirm.||Adami||And stay out, stay out.|
|Sainz||Copy, stay out.|
|Adami||Charles lap time 31.4.|
|Adami||Verstappen four seconds behind.|
This was the point Leclerc’s race started to go wrong. Perez gained so much time in the two laps between his pit stop and Leclerc’s that he jumped ahead of the former race leader. Had Ferrari seen that coming, they would surely have left Leclerc out and waited to put him on slicks.
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|18||Lambiase||Push, Max, push.||Bird||Okay mate Leclerc’s in turn three.||Leclerc||Box this lap.||Adami||Charles is coming in for inters. Verstappen 2.8 behind, 2.8.|
|Lambiase||Box and pit confirm Max. Box, pit confirm.||Bird||Nice lap, you’re reeling Sainz in. We can manage it now, just chip away at his times.||Marcos Padros||Multi-function tyre position seven, tyre position seven when you can.||Sainz||Happy to stay out.|
|Lambiase||Strat eight, tyre four, torque nine.||Bird||Strat five. Strat five.||Marcos Padros||And box now, box. Verstappen also pitted.||Adami||Okay. Understood.|
|Lambiase||Very close to Russell, close with Russell.||Bird||Sainz might be going long here, might be trying to run onto a slick so keep this tyre in shape.||Marcos Padros||Will be tight with Perez.||Sainz||Stay out until dry.|
|Lambiase||Okay crack on. You can still get the undercut. Checo’s first timed lap was a 25.2.||Marcos Padros||Gap to Perez in front, 4.4.||Adami||Copy.|
|Adami||Checo is in front of Charles. Head down.|
|Adami||Checo is in front of Charles with inters. 25.2 lap time.|
Red Bull brought Verstappen in on the same lap as Leclerc. On his second lap out of the pits the world champion gained over three seconds on Leclerc, who caught the lapped Alexander Albon. The Williams driver reasoned that letting Leclerc past would cost both of them more time than him staying ahead, and didn’t give the place up until he skidded off the track at Sainte Devote.
|19||Lambiase||Okay looks like Ferrari with Sainz may wish to extend to slicks. His last lap was a 31.7. So Checo has got effective track position on Leclerc.||Bird||Gap to Leclerc behind four seconds, Sainz at six in front.||Marcos Padros||Gap to Perez it in front 3.5, you’re doing a good job.||Adami||Perez is nine seconds behind, nine seconds.|
|Bird||Sainz’s last lap 31.7. Just chip away.||Marcos Padros||Next car in front is Albon with blue flags, solid blues.||Adami||Let me know what you for slicks.|
|Bird||Think about torque three, we see low-speed understeer.||Leclerc||Oh, Alex.||Sainz||It’s going to be a few laps but not a lot.|
|Adami||Okay understood. And Mick is on slicks already, for reference, we are monitoring.|
|Adami||Okay. Which compound?|
|20||Lambiase||Mode nine, strat five, mode nine, strat five please Max.||Bird||Okay into some management now. We don’t want to overcook these inters.||Leclerc||Oh come on! What the fuck?||Adami||He’s on hard.|
|Lambiase||So info Sainz turn 16.||Bird||So think about the wet line on the straights, save the grip for when we need it.||Leclerc||Oh! Fucking hell!||Sainz||I would go with him.|
|Lambiase||Okay don’t destroy the tyres too quickly, Max. Checo last lap is a 28.7. And I’ll have an update on conditions…||Bird||Sainz’s last lap 31.6.||Marcos Padros||You are faster than Perez. You are doing a good job.||Adami||Okay copy. Perez is 5.5 behind.|
|Bird||Okay Checo how are conditions inter versus slick?||Sainz||Verstappen then? [Unclear] protect me?|
|Perez||Yeah they’re improving and I’m losing a bit the inter.||Adami||Repeat, sorry, didn’t get?|
|Perez||Yeah wet line were you can.||Sainz||Where is Verstappen?|
|Adami||Verstappen is in front of us.|
|Adami||And Mick on hard is fast, 27.5. And box, box for hard. Box for hard.|
Sainz had taken the lead of the race on his full wet weather tyres but was being caught quickly by the intermediate-shod trio of Perez, Leclerc and Verstappen. However other drivers had already switched to slicks and Ferrari had taken note of their lap times.
They brought Sainz in for a set of slicks, making him the only one of the leading quartet to skip the intermediates. It was a well-timed stop from the lead, and it should have put him on course to win the race.
But infuriatingly for Ferrari their other driver now lost time behind the other lapped Williams, which belonged to Nicholas Latifi. Sainz was less agitated on the radio than Leclerc was about Albon, but the loss of time as well as heat in his slick tyres cost him badly.
Leclerc had a new reason to get upset. Ferrari called him in for his switch to slicks on the same lap, which would have been a well-timed move, except that he followed his team mate in and lost around three seconds waiting for the crew to switch between cars. He exploded with fury.
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|21||Verstappen||And me?||Perez||Has Carlos gone to the pit?||Marcos Padros||And box now, box. Box now box for hard.||Sainz||Copy.|
|Lambiase||24.8.||Bird||Both Ferraris have pitted. Onto slicks.||Marcos Padros||Stay out, stay out, stay out!||Adami||Tyre switch six, tyre switch six.|
|Verstappen||Yeah it’s getting drier. Just keep an eye on these slick guys.||Bird||Push on, push on.||Leclerc||Fuck! Fuck! Why? What are you doing?||Adami||Pit confirmed.|
|Lambiase||Yep. Look after the inter, Max.||Bird||Both Ferraris are on hard tyres. Take it all out of this tyre.||Marcos Padros||Multi-function tyre position five. Multi-function tyre position five.||Adami||K2 off.|
|Verstappen||I think it will be dry out soon enough.||Bird||All out, Checo.||Marcos Padros||Tight with Norris. Tight with Norris. Brake balance minus two, suggestion.||Adami||Lap mode PW, watch the yellow, be careful pit exit.|
|Lambiase||Yeah. Both Ferraris have pitted for hard tyres. Push now, Max, push.||Bird||Box, Checo, box.||Marcos Padros||Race is long, you are doing a good job. Continue like this, good job.||Adami||All have blue flags in front. Blue flags.|
|Sainz||Get this guy out of the way.|
Now Red Bull demonstrated to Ferrari how to perform ‘stacked’ consecutive pit stops for both drivers on the same lap. Verstappen followed Perez in, but lost around a second less than Leclerc, and jumped ahead of him. That completed the Ferrari driver’s misery. Having led the race, he’d fallen to last out of the leading quartet.
|22||Lambiase||Box and pit confirm, Max, box, pit confirm.||Bird||Tyre five. Tyre five. Okay it’s going to be close. This could be the race lead.||Leclerc||Yeah, copy.||Adami||Okay. All clear in front. Next car in front is six seconds, Mick.|
|Lambiase||Strat eight. Tyre eight. Max. Strat eight. Tyre eight.||Bird||Sainz just coming to turn one. Let’s go, let’s get these working. A lot of backmarkers in front.||Marcos Padros||And we need you to push this out-lap.||Adami||And leave K2 on. Leave K2 on. Perez is pitting.|
|Lambiase||Could be rated Leclerc. Racing Leclerc.||Marcos Padros||Perez just pitted for hard, he is out and Verstappen also pitted for hard. We need you to push.||Adami||Perez getting out from the pits. Push. And Verstappen as well.|
|Lambiase||You are ahead of Leclerc.||Marcos Padros||Car in front is Verstappen.||Sainz||Who are they?|
|Lambiase||So reset brake bias.||Adami||Perez in front. Verstappen behind.|
|Adami||Okay check I touched the wall a bit.|
It was a bitter run of a mistakes and misfortunes for Ferrari, who had lost one or more positions for their cars with every pit stop they made.
“We had to go out and win it but we also capitalised on the mistakes that were made,” said Horner. “I think we just reacted very well to the to the conditions and got the crossovers right, the double pit stop, et cetera, et cetera. It worked very well for us.”
|23||Lambiase||Strat five for when you can, Max, strat five.||Perez||Get them out of the way.||Marcos Padros||In front of Verstappen there’s Schumacher for blue flags.||Adami||Pressures are okay.|
|Bird||Yeah. We’re on it.||Adami||Can use K1.|
|Bird||Tyre temps coming in.||Sainz||That blue flag cost me.|
|Adami||Yeah, we saw that.|
|Adami||Verstappen two behind.|
|Adami||Yep, stay cool.|
|24||Lambiase||So ahead of Sainz is Zhou. Blue flags for Zhou ahead of Sainz.||Bird||Zhou’s getting blues.||Marcos Padros||You’re doing a good job. In front we have Verstappen. In front of Verstappen there’s Sainz. In front of Sainz there’s Zhou with blue flags.||Adami||Completed lap 23, 23 laps.|
|25||Bird||Okay Checo that’s 25 laps complete, 52 to go.||Leclerc||We are past.||Adami||Verstappen 0.7 behind, 0.7, you can use K1 if you need.|
|Bird||Sainz’s lap 22.6.||Leclerc||Copy understood.||Adami||Verstappen 0.8 behind, 0.8. 0.9.|
|Bird||Strat four, Tsunoda’s getting blues.||Adami||Verstappen lap time 22.9.|
|Adami||And when you can lap mode race, when you can.|
|26||Verstappen||I smell something burning but I don’t know from which car.||Bird||Okay Stroll’s getting blues as well.||Marcos Padros||Stroll and Tsunoda with blue flags in front.||Adami||Verstappen 1.1 behind.|
|Lambiase||Understood.||Bird||Virtual Safety Car deployed.||Marcos Padros||Virtual Safety Car deployed. There’s a crash at turn 13.||Adami||Big shunt turn 15.|
|Lambiase||Tsunoda ahead.||Adami||Charge button on. And Virtual for now.|
|Lambiase||VSC deployed Max, VSC deployed. Target plus one. Target plus one.|
Red Bull came close to inflicting total humiliation on Ferrari, as Verstappen was not far off jumping ahead of Sainz for second place. Nonetheless Perez had successfully taken positions from both Ferrari drivers, and was on his way to victory.
“I thought we might be able to get one of them, I didn’t think we were able to get both of them,” Horner admitted. “Obviously we capitalised from their mistake. At one point it looked like we were going to get both of them passed Sainz, with Max as well. So it was pretty close.”
Horner said Red Bull’s result vindicated their attacking approach to the race. “I’ve always prided ourselves on us being an attacking race team,” he said. “We’ve always focussed on trying to do the basics well, whether that’s strategy, whether it’s pit stops, thinking on your feet.
“This was all about thinking on your feet and reacting to the situation as it happens around you. And I think that the whole team responded brilliantly well and the drivers, of course, had to deliver their part.”