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Verstappen takes title lead with Monaco romp

Verstappen takes title lead with Monaco romp

FORMULA ONE: Max Verstappen has broken his Monaco podium hoodoo yesterday (May 23) with a dominant victory on the streets of the principality to take the championship lead over a hapless Lewis Hamilton.

By Michael Lamonato

Monday 24 May 2021, 10:46AM

Max Verstappen’s maiden Monaco victory puts him four points ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the championship standings. Photo: AFP.

Max Verstappen’s maiden Monaco victory puts him four points ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the championship standings. Photo: AFP.

The Dutchman inherited pole position from Charles Leclerc, who failed to take the start of him home grand prix with a driveshaft problem likely caused by his crash at the end of qualifying.

Verstappen seized the opportunity to make his first podium appearance in Monte Carlo a victory. His launch was good enough to muscle Valtteri Bottas out of the way into the first corner and never looked back, leading every lap of the race to record an imperious victory.

“It’s of course so special around here to win and also for me the first time on the podium here,” he said. “It’s a lot of laps around here and you really have to keep your focus, but it’s really cool.

“Of course you always want to win this grand prix. When I’m standing here of course I’m very proud, but I’m mostly thinking ahead — it’s a very long season.”

The newest Monaco winner took a 14-point championship deficit to Monte Carlo but emerged with a four-point lead after title rival Lewis Hamilton struggled to a frustrated seventh.

The Briton started sixth after qualifying poorly and couldn’t make up ground early in the race, but it was a flawed strategy that proved most costly, losing him a place to Sergio Perez in the sister Red Bull Racing car and a resurgent Sebastian Vettel in his Aston Martin to trail home seventh.

A late stop for fresh tyres got him a consolation point for fastest lap, but it was cold comfort to the disappointed Briton, who admitted he and the team had underperformed all weekend.

But Hamilton’s difficulties didn’t compare to those of his teammate, Valtteri Bottas. The Finn was running second early in the race, but a problem at his first pit stop - the wheel gun at the front-right wheel cross-threaded the nut onto the axle - proved unrecoverable, forcing the car into retirement on the sport.

With the Bottas out of the equation, Carlos Sainz found his way clear to secure second place for Ferrari, his best result since joining the storied Italian team this season and the teams’ highest finish since last year’s season-opening grand prix in Austria.

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“If you had told me before coming to Monaco I’d finish second, I would have definitely taken it,” he said. “I feel really good with the car today, and the team deserved at least a podium

“I think Ferrari as a team need to be proud of the car and the step they’ve done this year.”

Lando Norris spent the final 20 laps defending against Perez, but the McLaren driver was centimetre perfect to rebuff the Mexican’s advances for his second podium of the season.

“I didn’t think I’d be here today,” he said. “It’s down to these guys [the team]… a bit of luck and I want to say some good driving - and a good car all weekend.”

Perez finished fourth ahead of Vettel, Pierre Gasly and Hamilton, with Lance Stroll finishing eighth to complete Aston Martin’s biggest points haul of the season.

Esteban Ocon finished ninth and less than half a second ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi in the Italian’s first points finish of the year.

Kimi Raikkonen followed ahead of an underwhelming Daniel Ricciardo n the second McLaren. The Australian lost two places off the line and made little impact on the race on his way to finish a lap down on the lead - and teammate Norris.

Fernando Alonso was 13th ahead of Williams duo George Russell and Nicholas Latifi. Yuki Tsunoda was next, with Haas teammates Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher last in the order.

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