Far from the snoozefest we expected
Honestly speaking, I had no plans to watch the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix.
In previous years, it's been nothing but a snoozefest. There's nothing but a train of cars following each other closely, but not close enough to swap positions and actually race. There were times when I found the Saturday qualifying more exciting than the race itself, as it's the only time where drivers could go totally flat out for pole.
One ingredient, however, transforms the Monaco Grand Prix into an exciting race; rain. And that's exactly what happened last Sunday.
The Monaco circuit turns into a tricky place for drivers under changing conditions. With no room for mistakes, it's hard to execute a brilliant race, let alone formulate race-winning strategies. In the end, it was Sergio Perez of Red Bull taking the victory ahead of Ferrari's Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen.
Two red flags and all, the Monaco Grand Prix was chaotic and was a largely entertaining race to watch until the end. After 64 laps, these are the things we learned throughout the weekend.
Mercedes are back.... or are they?
Mercedes-AMG came into Monaco with a lot of promise and momentum, as they left the Spanish Grand Prix with a podium for George Russell, and the W13 exhibiting front-running pace in the hands of 7-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
But from the start of Friday's free practice session, it was clear that they haven't fully figured out their 2022 challenger just yet. Russell and Hamilton only managed P6 and P8 in qualifying, and neither drivers were able to make an impact despite the mixed conditions in the messy race.
In the end, only their consistency and reliability led them to another double points finish, as Hamilton got stuck in 8th behind Fernando Alonso, while Russell continues his run of consecutive top 5 finishes in 5th.
Mick Schumacher is running out of chances
Time might be running out for Michael Schumacher's son to prove that he's worthy of a seat in Formula One. It's the seventh race of the season, and as of late, he and Nicholas Latifi are the only full-time drivers yet to score championship points.
Mick Schumacher ended his Monaco Grand Prix with yet another expensive shunt at the swimming pool chicane in lap 24. The junior is exhibiting no signs of getting even a hint of his dad's regenmeister (rain master) genes, and his Haas F1 car's backend was ripped off after losing control of the car in the fast left-and-right section. Schumacher walked away unscathed, but another hefty repair bill is on the way for Haas.
To add insult to injury, the Haas F1 Team also looks to be slipping away from being regular points scorers, as McLaren, Alpha Tauri, and Alpine seem to have edged them out in the midfield battle.
Ferrari's blunder in Leclerc's home race
Ferrari may be back as the front runners, but it seems like their strategists have also gone back to their 2018 ways. The Scuderia had the fastest car and the fastest driver in Monaco, but they were let down by a strategic blunder which ended with 2nd place for Carlos Sainz. And even worse, dropped hometown hero Charles Leclerc to 4th place.
Leclerc sprinted into an early lead at the start of the race and looked set to finally claim victory in his home race. But it wasn't meant to be. As conditions dried, all teams were scrambling to switch from full wets to intermediates, and later on, to slicks. This was where Ferrari shot themselves in the foot again, much like their championship duels with Mercedes from years ago.
The reds pitted Leclerc too late to switch to inters, which gave the race lead to Sergio Perez. And when they had to double stack for slicks, Ferrari called it too late for Leclerc to stay out. This then handed 3rd place to Max Verstappen, much to Leclerc's radio rage.
Both Ferraris stayed close to the Red Bulls even on harder compound tires and were trading fastest laps throughout the race. But in a track like Monaco where overtaking is nearly impossible, their pace advantage was not enough for them to move up the leaderboard.
Perhaps the only good thing now is that Ferrari has its two drivers back in the hunt for race wins, and the F1-75 looks to have the edge pace-wise against the Red Bulls. But like Leclerc said after the race, they can't manage to repeat their strategy mistakes again.
Red Bull could have an intra-team battle ahead
With Sergio Perez's victory in Monaco, there are only 15 points separating the top three drivers in the championship. Max Verstappen is leading with 125 points, but Checo is right on the hunt in third at 110 points, just six behind Charles Leclerc. This may prompt Red Bull to not impose team orders for the next few races, as both drivers are in contention for the championship lead.
Perez showed that he has the speed this year to match Verstappen in qualifying, and could take on immense pressure from attacking drivers in the race. His win also gives Verstappen his first race finish without a victory this season. I guess it's game on for the battle of the Bulls from here on then. Might not be good for team harmony, but for us viewers, this could be an Alonso vs. Hamilton 2007, or a Vettel vs. Webber 2010 looming. As Checo said after the Spanish GP, "we'll talk later."
The next race is the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku, a track where Red Bull usually performs well. So will we see five race wins in a row for them? Or will Ferrari finally combine a fast car with a great strategy? We'll find out in two weeks.