It wasn’t even half of the 77 laps completed when the Formula 1 race in Monte Carlo had to be interrupted again. Red flag for the second time. At least, it is now clear that this Sunday will have a special place in the history of the Monaco Grand Prix. Cameras were trained on Mick Schumacher walking through the pit lane. Doing so at all brought a lot of relief. The 23-year-old had a serious accident on lap 27, the scene of the photos raising the worst fears: his car split in two, wrecks everywhere, smoke billowing.
In the pool lane, Schumacher loses control of the back of his car, which turns several times before hitting the gang and disintegrating. It took a while before he got out of the cockpit and looked at the wreckage in disbelief. “I’m fine, I just don’t get it,” he said over the radio after his second serious accident this season. At the end of March in Saudi Arabia, he hit barriers at more than 200 km/h in qualifying. “Conditions were tough, unfortunately I got out a little bit out of the corner,” he said. “I misjudged myself.”
It took nearly 20 minutes for the accident site to be cleaned and disinfected. The race resumed at 5:15 p.m., and the field initially raced behind the safety car, then there was a gradual start. Sergio Perez led in Red Bull in front of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, teammate Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc in the second red car. The four engaged in a closely watched pursuit. Lap after lap during the countdown: The race can last for a maximum of two hours. But Perez held his ground. At 6pm – after just 64 of 77 laps and an unusual day of racing – the Mexican was the winner, ahead of Sainz and Verstappen. “Winning Monaco is a dream come true,” said the 32-year-old. “It’s unbelievable and a great day for me.” It is the third victory of his Formula 1 career for a Red Bull driver. Verstappen extended his championship lead over Leclerc to nine points.
The heavy rain comes just in time to start
When the cars were parked on the tight start right on Sunday afternoon and there was no idea what the turbulent course was, mechanics and plenty of celebrities were huddling. Just as a glamorous Grand Prix race should be. What did not fit into the picture were the dark clouds in the sky. A few minutes before the start of the race, it started raining. A crackling sounded on the radio, “Expected heavy rain.” And then, after the hot and sunny days on the Cote d’Azur, what was already foreseen happened: rain, rain, rain. Awnings were erected over the cockpits, tires were packed with protective caps and drivers waited while water pounded the asphalt wildly.
The pre-start formation session was initially scheduled to start at 3:09pm instead of 3pm. But race control announced shortly after the first message appeared that it would be 3:16pm. In addition, he will drive the field behind the safety car and will switch to tires for extremely wet conditions, which, according to the manufacturer Pirelli, can displace up to 85 liters of water per second at a speed of 300 km / h. The 54-degree asphalt temperature measured in training dropped to 33 degrees. “What are you waiting for? Are you going to dry up completely?” asked world champion Verstappen, who started fourth behind Leclerc, Sainz and Perez.
The rain did not subside, but as he announced, the convoy set off behind the safety car anyway. In some sections, cars circled with thick spray behind them. “It’s raining like crazy,” Leclerc declared. Once the warm-up was completed, the guards waved red flags: demolition at 3:20 p.m. Driving through urban canyons in these conditions was risky. Cars were parked in the pit lane, drivers got off them, and a few spectators took cover in the stands. “I don’t think I got too wet in a Formula 1 car,” Schumacher said with a laugh.
Formula 1 action time is now limited to three hours
Nobody knows how long it will take to wait. But what was for sure regardless: the ending. At the 2021 Spa Grand Prix, torrential rain led to a very chaotic and bizarre race that started late and finished after a total of three laps behind the safety car. Based on this experience, the event time was limited to a maximum of three hours and the race time to a maximum of two hours. On Sunday in Monaco, the formation session started the countdown at 3:16pm, and finished at 6:16pm at the latest. If the race is not finished by then, the number of laps completed up to that point is counted and the number of points awarded is reduced if the distance is less than 75 percent.
Then came the update: At 4:05pm there will be another attempt, behind the safety car. And indeed, the cars came out of the pit lane. The track was still wet, but the rain had stopped. Once the first lap started, Nicholas Latifi ended up in the yellow flag gang at the famous corner behind the Grand Hotel, but he managed to keep going. From the second lap there was a gradual start. Leclerc accelerated in front, the spray was still massive at times, the cars skidded at times, but it was manageable to drive.
Gradually, drivers stopped working and wore intermediate materials, which work on both wet and dry tracks. Ferrari once again demonstrated the power of their cars: even with wet tires, they drove faster than anyone else. It can only prevent too much contact with the collision bulkhead. Red Bull brought Perez after 16 laps. Ferrari reacted immediately. But after the change, Leclerc returned to the track behind the Mexican.
Ferrari messing around in the pits
The asphalt continued to dry. Then Ferrari completely spoiled the sense of accomplishment. On lap 21, the Scuderia summoned Sainz and Leclerc into the hole, only to frantically cancel the latter: “Stay outside! Stay outside!” But it was too late. Once Sainz stopped, Leclerc shot into the bay. Monegasque was right next to him, and what he was shouting into his microphone should often be heard. The 24-year-old had not made it to the finish line in any of his previous Formula 1 debuts in his home country, and there has long been talk of a curse. And now this! “It was a damn disaster today,” he later said. “The win was clearly in our hands, we had the strength, we had it all. I just don’t understand the instructions and need explanations.” Shortly thereafter, Red Bull got both drivers, Perez back in front of Sainz, and Verstappen overtaken Leclerc. “We made mistakes today,” Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said.
After the Mick Schumacher accident and the 5:15pm Grand Prix continuing, the countdown began immediately. Round after round, Perez tried to make as few mistakes as possible while keeping Sainz in check, who continued to climb. Ten more minutes. Perez, Sainz, Verstappen and Liklick were close, but the end of this eventful day turned into a parade.