Eight things we learned from the Monaco Grand Prix | Top Gear
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Wednesday 4th October
Formula One

Eight things we learned from the Monaco Grand Prix

Verstappen bouncing off the walls to pole and rain nearly handing Alonso a stunning win… Monaco was pretty gripping after all

Monaco Grand Prix 2023
  1. The quickest way around Monaco is off the walls

    The quickest way around Monaco is off the walls

    How incredible was that qualifying session? Monaco showed why its place on the calendar should never be questioned as the grid put on one heck of a show around the streets of Monte Carlo, with the top five ultimately separated by just three tenths of a second.

    And sensing an opportunity, it looked like it'd be Fernando Alonso starting from pole as the Spaniard delivered a scorching lap that was two tenths up on Max Verstappen's time as the Dutchman entered the final sector. Impossible to claw that back in just two corners, right?

    Wrong. Verstappen threw everything at the last two turns, even bouncing off the walls as he crossed the line eight hundredths quicker than the Aston Martin driver. You've gotta applaud that kind of commitment. What a lap!

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  2. Alonso needed inters

    Alonso needed inters

    Everyone expected the Red Bull to cruise to victory, and for much of the race that was exactly how things were shaping up. Verstappen had to carefully manage his medium compound tyres as Alonso had picked the longer-lasting hards, but at no point did it look like Max was in trouble.

    Until the rain came. The threat of a weather system forced everyone to extend their first stint, but when it arrived it initially only affected a small section of the track, making inters a real gamble.

    Alonso went for slicks, fitting fresh mediums in a bid to steal away the race win for Verstappen. But within seconds of the Aston pitting, it started raining everywhere and his shot at victory had gone. Verstappen up ahead - having clouted the wall on his old slicks - now had a comfortable margin to fit inters, and from that moment the contest was over.

    So, what if Alonso had gone to inters straight away? Aston reckons it would've finished second regardless, but timing data from the cars that went straight to inters suggests it would've been a really, really close-run thing. We'll never know...

  3. Este Bestie's on the podium baby!

    Este Bestie's on the podium baby!

    Alpine went into the Monaco GP off the back of being called amateurish by its own boss, so it needed to bounce back with a good result. It got one.

    Esteban Ocon was on it in quali, setting a provisional pole time in Q3 until it was bettered by Verstappen and Alonso. If only he'd ridden a few walls along the way...

    Starting P3 on the grid, it was clear he didn't have the pace of the Red Bull or Aston, but an error-free drive ensured the cars behind never had a sniff at an overtake, and Esteban held on to become the first French driver to score a podium in Monaco since Olivier Panis won it in 1996. Chapeau!

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  4. Mercedes has sidepods now

    Mercedes has sidepods now

    Mercedes has finally given up on the whole zero sidepod thing, and in Monaco we got our first look at the b-spec design that has a similar philosophy to everyone else's.

    We won't get a proper idea of how quick the new package is until F1 visits a proper racetrack next weekend, but Lewis Hamilton, George Russell and the team sounded fairly happy with the upgrade.

    It certainly seemed to deliver on track: the Mercedes pair started 5th and 8th, and came home 4th and 5th (even though Russell got a five-second penalty for reversing into Perez mid-way through) as those ahead made mistakes. Solid weekend.

  5. One team made a mistakes and its identity won't shock you

    One team made a mistakes and its identity won't shock you

    Yeah, it won't surprise you to learn which team made all the big errors in Monaco. Having thrown away a front-row lock-out last season, Ferrari conspired to shoot itself in the foot and then also the other foot for good measure again.

    Charles Leclerc actually qualified third ahead of Esteban Ocon, but afterwards we discovered that miscommunication on the radio had led him to block Lando Norris’s flying lap in the tunnel. A slam dunk three-place grid penalty followed, and Leclerc finished where he started. Will his luck round here ever change?!

    Meanwhile Carlos Sainz started fourth and began hounding Esteban Ocon for that final podium place, but as soon as he began to push he badly misjudged an overtake diving into the chicane... and broke his front wing. After that his pace was nowhere, and lost places to Hamilton, Russell, Leclerc and Pierre Gasly. Oops.

  6. Sergio Perez isn't going to be world champion

    Sergio Perez isn't going to be world champion

    Can we drop this absurd idea that Sergio Perez might challenge for the world championship now? The Mexican was talking up his chances a few weeks ago, but in Q1 in Monaco he slammed into the wall at the first corner and that was his weekend effectively ruined.

    He started last and pitted on the first lap, with the intention of running all the way to the end on the hard tyre to make up places on strategy. However he got stuck behind Lance Stroll and having made a hash of overtaking the Aston driver, he then drove into the back of Kevin Magnussen’s Haas and had to pit for a new front wing.

    The team eventually started using Perez as a test vehicle for Verstappen, fitting him with new tyres just to see what the pace would be like if their lead driver needed them. Ouch. He’s now 39 points behind his teammate after just six races.

  7. Lance Stroll isn't going to be world champion

    Lance Stroll isn't going to be world champion

    Alonso talks a good game, that's for sure. The Spaniard has been schmoozing his own team owner lately, suggesting that Lawrence Stroll’s son definitely has what it takes to become a world champion one day.

    Let's say the Canadian has… yet to demonstrate this potential to the wider world, despite this being his seventh season of F1. Monaco was another poor performance, exiting qualifying in Q2 and then playing bumper cars with his rivals at the back of the field on the opening lap of the race.

    It's a pity because respect for Stroll skyrocketed after his amazing efforts to recover from broken wrists in time for the Bahrain GP. His lack of competitiveness - in direct contrast with Alonso’s exploits - is a ticking time bomb...

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  8. Overtakes happened!

    Overtakes happened!

    Overtaking! In Monaco! In the dry! Granted there weren’t many moves and most of the chaos was at the start: Nico Hulkenberg fully sent it down the inside of Logan Sargeant at Mirabeau Haute, swiftly followed by the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas. Then the resulting queue at the hairpin saw Zhou Guanyu sail past Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen. Very nice.

    Sergeant’s day didn’t improve from there. Magnussen lunged past him on lap 18 and Stroll and Perez soon did the same, one after the other in the final two corners. The American rookie won’t be watching the highlights back, that’s for sure.

    The other move that springs to mind is Lando Norris’s DRS pass down the main straight (well, it’s not straight is it?) to overhaul Yuki Tsunoda. To be fair to him the AlphaTauri was suffering from brake problems, so it wasn’t long before several others streaked past him.

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