Brundle: Perez’s win, Leclerc’s agony, and why FIA needs change

Martin Brundle

Expert Analyst @MBrundleF1

In his latest column, Sky Sports F1’s Martin Brundle dissects the Monte Carlo drama – from the delayed start to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc meltdown and Sergio Perez’s momentous win; Martin also delivers his verdict on the FIA amid more criticism, and Monaco’s F1 future

Last Updated: 31/05/22 10:28am

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The best of the action from the Monaco Grand Prix

The best of the action from the Monaco Grand Prix

The good news from the Monaco Grand Prix is that nice people really do win.

Sergio Perez remains one of the most down to earth and approachable people in the paddock and I’m sure many F1 folk were ready to share a tear with him on the podium. Congratulations to him and Red Bull.

His last six races have included two fourth-place finishes, a trio of second places, and a glorious victory. If he hadn’t been obliged to yield to his teammate Max Verstappen a week earlier in Barcelona, he would be just one point off the championship lead, although it must be said Max would likely have won on pure speed with fresher tyres had they been allowed to fight.

Eleven years ago, Sergio crashed in Monaco during qualifying and missed the race through concussion, which underlines well the 32-year-old’s tenacity and continued speed, now with 220 GPs under his right foot. These new ground-effect aerodynamic 2022 cars clearly suit his driving style.

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In the delight of his win at Monaco, does Sergio Perez accidentally reveal his future plans with Red Bull?

In the delight of his win at Monaco, does Sergio Perez accidentally reveal his future plans with Red Bull?

The bad news was the confusion around the start of the race, which should have been underway at the due time in my view.

Monaco confusion more proof that the FIA needs change

Holding up a race in anticipation of incoming weather is not necessary. We have virtual and real safety cars, red flags, pit stop crews who can change tyres in two seconds, and two types of wet weather tyres to cover those challenges. That’s what Formula One racing is all about.

A couple of reliable sources tell me that there were heated arguments in Race Control during the impasse as we all looked on unsure of what was happening. This presumably explains the periods of inaction and lack of information, and the reason why the safety car was not out exploring track conditions as usual.

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Heavy rain in Monte Carlo forces a red flag and a further delay to the Monaco Grand Prix.

Heavy rain in Monte Carlo forces a red flag and a further delay to the Monaco Grand Prix.

The FIA, for the well-being of F1, urgently needs a root and branch change with a fully dedicated and empowered Race Director with at least one understudy, a dedicated circuit and systems inspector, plus an empowered and effective communications department. I consider this a highest priority issue.

What happened in the championship defining circumstances in Abu Dhabi last year had been brewing up for months, perhaps even years, since the death of Charlie Whiting, and it was inevitable given that we had 39 races including many hurriedly assembled ‘pop-up’ events taking place during the pandemic without due resource and structure at the FIA.

And what happened to Michael Masi in the aftermath has made the job a poisoned chalice and that’ll take some fixing, if indeed that’s possible. He was the right man for the job, Charlie’s understudy, but frankly F1 and the FIA were winging it at times and the whole thing skidded off track with regard to dominant race control and refereeing, which is essential.

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Rivers of water flow across the Circuit De Monaco with the race red flagged on the formation lap.

Rivers of water flow across the Circuit De Monaco with the race red flagged on the formation lap.

We were informed by the FIA at 20.03 after the race on Sunday that there were power issues on the starting gantry due to the heavy rain which explains the rolling starts after the red flags. If we had been told this in the media via our simple and effective WhatsApp group, we could have then informed the tens of millions of viewers around the globe and the tens of thousands of fans trackside, and it would all have made a lot more sense.

During the first red flag the race appeared to randomly get underway on the countdown clock and with a lap showing as completed, there must presumably have been a trigger point, but then we were treated to some outstanding car control by drivers with zero experience of the 2022 cars on the new 18″ wheels on a wet and slippery Monaco.

Ferrari let down Leclerc again, Verstappen extends lead

Of course, there wasn’t lots of overtaking, it’s Monaco, but I was in awe of the drivers’ skills and commitment on a constantly changing track. At one point we had cars out there on slicks, intermediates, and extreme wet tyres such were the crazy conditions.

You must feel sorry for local boy Charles Leclerc, he aced pole position and comfortably led the race only for strategy to consign him to fourth place. Pitting on lap 18 for intermediates, then again three laps later for slicks with a confused radio message meaning he had to wait briefly for his teammate Carlos Sainz to receive his slicks in a double-stacked pit stop. Therefore, he was initially undercut by Perez into second place and then delayed into fourth by the second stop.

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Sky F1’s Anthony Davidson analyses Red Bull and Ferrari’s pit stops which lost Charles Leclerc the Monaco Grand Prix.

Sky F1’s Anthony Davidson analyses Red Bull and Ferrari’s pit stops which lost Charles Leclerc the Monaco Grand Prix.

Unusually during the second red flag for Mick Schumacher’s sizeable crash at the swimming pool he was no doubt able to share his feelings about all this with the team. It was his race to lose, and he didn’t even end up on the podium just to rub salt in his wounds.

The mutual admiration and affection between Leclerc and Ferrari remind me of the relationship Michael Schumacher had with the team, but that has been severely tested on Leclerc’s side in eight days of two missed glorious victories and wasting the opportunity to regain the lead of the world championship.

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Charles Leclerc was left furious by radio calls from his Ferrari team over whether to come into the pits or not.

Charles Leclerc was left furious by radio calls from his Ferrari team over whether to come into the pits or not.

We don’t hear all the radio messages of course, but it must be said that Sainz in the Ferrari was abundantly clear that he wanted to skip the intermediates and go directly to slick tyres, and this was potentially a smart, confident and winning decision. Sadly for him, exiting the wet pitlane on the hard compound slicks he followed Latifi’s Williams for a dozen corners and lost track position to Perez, who delivered race-winning speed on his intermediate tyres between laps 16 and 21.

Despite his tenacious and best efforts to pass Perez, whose medium compound tyres were past their best in the closing stages, it would be another second place for Sainz. His day will come.

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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were full of praise for the team for making the right strategy calls during the Monaco Grand Prix.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were full of praise for the team for making the right strategy calls during the Monaco Grand Prix.

In third place was a surprisingly content Max Verstappen, presumably because he had his current championship rival Leclerc behind him. Max was missing a fraction all weekend for some reason and was behind Perez in that respect. A one-three for Red Bull was a very solid result for the team given that Ferrari were clearly faster.

Hamilton’s frustration, Ferrari’s protests and Monaco’s future

George Russell put in yet another fine drive for Mercedes to take 5th. He ended up just two tenths ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris who also achieved fastest lap on his fresh medium tyres, fitted on lap 51 of what became a shortened and timed-out 64 lap race (instead of the scheduled 78) in a curious elapsed time of one hour and fifty six and a half minutes of racing.

Norris had that luxury of an extra stop because behind him Fernando Alonso went into a steady, but necessary for him, tyre preservation mode with the rest of the field queued up behind him, starting with a very frustrated Lewis Hamilton. ‘That’s not my problem’ said Fernando, and you can’t help but sense there’s still needle between them after their McLaren season as teammates back in 2007.

Fernando then bizarrely took off for a while and did the third fastest lap of the race to retain 7th place.

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Lewis Hamilton and Esteban Ocon come together at Sainte Devote as the Mercedes driver tries to overtake.

Lewis Hamilton and Esteban Ocon come together at Sainte Devote as the Mercedes driver tries to overtake.

8th was Hamilton who would normally have excelled in such conditions given some clear air, and 10th was Seb Vettel for Aston Martin, meaning that along with Alonso just seven seconds covered drivers with a combined 13 world championships… but not much glory on this day. Valtteri Bottas guided his Alfa Romeo nicely to 9th place to join them at the flag.

It was a day to forget for Schumacher who alarmingly tore his car in two pieces for yet more damage repair bills for the Haas team, and I can imagine he’s getting the full ‘hairdryer’ treatment from team boss Gunther Steiner in the style of an angry Ken Tyrrell or Alex Ferguson.

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Mick Schumacher’s car split in two in a high-speed crash at the swimming pool chicane, leading to a red flag at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Mick Schumacher’s car split in two in a high-speed crash at the swimming pool chicane, leading to a red flag at the Monaco Grand Prix.

It was another weekend to forget for Daniel Ricciardo, a known Monaco expert, who just can’t find his mojo in the McLaren and the tension and frustration there is now becoming public.

Ferrari protested both Red Bull drivers after the race for crossing the dividing line on the pit exit, but not withstanding the semantics and potential conflict of the wording of the various regulatory documents, it was decided that Perez didn’t cross the line at all, and that Verstappen ran the line but didn’t cross it entirely with any wheel, and as per the 2022 regulations this was acceptable.

I know a lot of fans find Monaco too frustrating on race day with its lack of overtaking and wheel to wheel action, but in the round of a global world championship taking place on a wide variety of circuits and venues, I do hope that Monaco and F1 can find a way to strike a new deal for 2023 and beyond, it’s always a unique and occasionally totally crazy three days there.

If it’s a stand-off I don’t think Liberty Media the owners of F1 will blink first, and they now have other ‘jewels in the crown’.

MB

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