The 2022 Monaco Grand Prix was a fantastic race packed with incidents and events that changed the race. It was a race that many certainly won’t forget. Last year, we remembered the Monaco GP for being painfully boring and for having poor TV Direction. But we’ll remember the 2022 Monaco GP for being unpredictable and exciting. The race got off to a slippery start, with heavy rain hitting Monaco around 10 minutes before the scheduled race start. 18 minutes later, the cars went out for a formation lap, and an in-lap because the race was Red Flagged. Even though the conditions were not too torrential, it was certainly too dangerous for racing at Monaco.
There is a common argument that modern F1 cars have outgrown the Circuit de Monaco. The races were boring, and incidents and crashes were frequent. There are many facts and opinions supporting both sides of the argument. For example, the regulations have outgrown the Monaco circuit. The street circuit is around 9-10 metres wide, with the minimum width for a circuit being 12 metres, which shows how the FIA has to make an exception to race in Monaco. On top of that, the race distance for each race is around 305 km, and the FIA calculate how many laps it would take to complete that distance around a circuit for each race. That’s why the number of laps varies for each race. For Monaco, the race is a massive 78 laps, but the race distance is only 260 km. Another exception the FIA made.
However, the 2022 Monaco GP is exactly what the race promoters needed to keep Monaco on the calendar and to keep Monaco as an interesting race. The wet weather hitting Monaco was perfect, because although weather changes can make any race exciting, no race benefits more from rain than Monaco. The tight street circuit allows weather change to encourage more mistakes, and more on-the-edge battles. And it also makes the strategy calls far more interesting. We will analyse how the Monaco GP was exciting. We’ll also look at Ferrari’s mistake that cost Charles Leclerc his home win. We’ll analyse how Checo Perez pulled off a fantastic win and how proved a point. And lastly, we’ll analyse Fernando Alonso’s incredible defending.
ACTION IN MONACO!
As I mentioned earlier, the 2022 Monaco GP was full of excitement. That’s why this race was sort of like a lifeline – many people were losing or had lost interest in the Monaco GP because of how boring the races were getting. But this year, the changing weather brought in a strong element of unpredictability. The race was meant to start at 3:00 PM Monaco Time, but the rain was too heavy. An hour and 5 minutes later, the race truly got underway as the rain got lighter. The track, however, had a lot of standing water, such as puddles.
The race started under the Safety Car, and then the SC came in at the end of Lap 2 to allow the rolling start for the beginning of Lap 3. Under the Safety Car, Stroll and Latifi hit the barriers and took damage, which forced them to pit. Of course it was those 2 drivers! Pierre Gasly also pitted, but he pit at the end of Lap 2 because he wanted to go onto intermediates. He thought it was dry enough for inters, but in my opinion, he pitted a bit too early.
He only really started to gain an advantage at around Lap 13. That’s when we started to see his lap times decrease and his position increase. He was making many overtakes and provided most of the action in the early parts of the race. He put in a fastest lap on Lap 14. However, when the leaders came onto the intermediates, they went a lot faster than Gasly, whose inters were fairly worn. Gasly’s fastest lap was the indicator that this was the right time to go onto the intermediate tires. Many drivers jumped and pit at that time. What seemed like the most genius strategy call was from Carlos Sainz.
Sainz stayed out and stayed on the wets and waited until the track was dry enough for dry tires. It seems like it worked because he got to skip a pitstop. But he could’ve only made that strategy work if he was hitting lap times that were fast enough to ensure that he would come out of the pits ahead of both Red Bulls. And I don’t think he or his team focused on that enough. When Sainz pitted, he pitted on Lap 20. But he wasn’t the only red car coming into the pits. Ferrari accidentally called Charles Leclerc in as well! I’ll save talking about Charles Leclerc’s pitstop issues later. But the teams were so unsure about when to pit their drivers throughout the first part of the race, which made this race exciting.
Moving on from strategy, let’s talk about how actual incidents made the race exciting. For example, the 2 minor crashes under the Safety Car at the start. There were 2 more incidents during the race that were really memorable. The first was Mick Schumacher’s crash on Lap 24. This was a massive crash that resulted in a Red Flag. Before we analyse the crash, the Red Flag meant that the 78-lap race couldn’t be completed within the 2-hour window.
When the race started under the Safety Car, the 2-hour clock was started. The race would then have to be completed in those 2 hours. Because of the rain and the Red Flag, the drivers could only complete 64 laps. For the last 30 minutes, instead of a lap count, the TV directors put a timer on the screen to show the countdown. It gave a Formula E vibe because Formula E races are 45 minutes + 1 lap. That 30-minute countdown added a sense of excitement and anticipation as the battle for the Top 4 took place.
Back to Mick Schumacher’s incident, it was a very costly crash for the Haas team. The team might have to spend up to $1 Million to repair Mick Schumacher’s car. Mick Schumacher lost control of the rear end of his car when exiting the fast chicane of Turns 13 and 14. His front wing clipped the metal Armco barrier, and the wing came clean off. His car then slid into the Tecpro barrier at fairly high speed. The impact was strong enough to split the car. The teams have designed the 2022 F1 cars to split upon heavy impact to avoid a fuel leak like the one that caused Romain Grosjean’s fiery crash at the 2020 Bahrain GP. The FIA made it mandatory for the cars to be able to split upon a heavy impact.
As I mentioned earlier, Schumacher’s incident caused a Red Flag. Not only did the crash scatter loose debris across the track, the crash also damaged the Tecpro barriers. There were many debates sparked across social media as people contemplated whether Mick should stay at Haas, or whether Haas should bring in a more experienced or a faster driver. On one side of the argument, Mick Schumacher has been costing Haas a lot of money.
In Monaco last year, he cost the team half a million US dollars. In Jeddah both this year and last year he cost them up to a million in each. And then this incident in Monaco cost them around a million. On the other, hand, he’s a Formula 2 champion, a talented driver, and is close to breaking the ice and scoring his first F1 points. In my opinion, Haas should give him at least one more chance. Mick Schumacher needs to score some points to secure a seat at Haas at least for next year. This incident sparking up debates and being fairly major made this race memorable and exciting.
And to end this section we have two incredible saves. One was on Lap 23 when Carlos Sainz exited the final corner. He was on the dry tires, so when he hit a puddle on the track, he nearly spun and nearly hit the barriers. But he caught it, showing that he can avoid spinning after all. The last save was Guanyu Zhou’s save on Lap 50. Zhou was trying to overtake Yuki Tsunoda down into the Nouvelle chicane. But when he moved to the right to make the move and started braking, Zhou lost the rear end of the car. He nearly crashed into the barriers at a VERY high speed. However, he sort of drifted the car and caught the spin just in time and avoided a massive crash. It was a fabulous save that showed his skill as an F1 driver.
Overall, this race was exciting because of incidents, strategy variability, and a battle for the Top 4, which I will analyse later in the post. Next, we’ll look at how Ferrari ruined Charles Leclerc’s chances of winning his home race.
Charles Leclerc Just Can’t Get A Break!
Charles Leclerc’s home race curse continued at the 2022 Monaco GP. While many are happy that he actually finished the race, it’s safe to say that finishing 4th place would’ve done the damage to Leclerc. He started the race on pole position after a hectic end to qualifying. He lead the race for the first 17 laps, but at the end of Lap 18, he pitted for intermediate tires. However, he came out of the pits a few seconds behind Sergio Perez. Perez pitted 2 laps earlier and got an undercut on Leclerc.
This was the first instance at the 2022 Monaco GP where Ferrari messed up with Leclerc’s strategy. However, there was still plenty of time for Leclerc and Ferrari to try and regain the lead of the race. After Sainz pitted, Leclerc would be P2 or P3, depending on Sainz’s pitstop and his performance on the dry tires. But Ferrari took away that opportunity as well. Leclerc’s engineer accidentally called Leclerc into the pits on the same Lap that Sainz pitted (Lap 21). Leclerc not only pitted too early, but he also lost time because he had to double-stack. That meant that he had to wait for Ferrari to finish Sainz’s pitstop before the team could perform a pitstop on his own car. As soon as he entered the pitlane, his engineer told him to say out, but it was too late.
Leclerc shouted in anger over the radio. He knew that the team had made a mistake. When Verstappen and Perez pitted on the next lap, they both came out ahead of Leclerc. That left the home hero in 4th place. He had “no words” in the post-race radio after finishing 4th in a race that he was initially on course to win. It was clearly a mistake from Ferrari and a situation that the team could’ve avoided. Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto gave a short summary of exactly what mistakes they made. It shows that the team are evaluating their mistakes and using them to make them stronger for the future.
“I think the first mistake was underestimating the pace of the intermediates, and the gap we had to the other cars in terms of track position. The process, I think it’s still something on which we need to look at, and we just had our briefing with drivers, we went through it, we had discussions, we tried to understand but believe me it was quite a complicated one, so it was not an obvious one, but certainly, we made a mistake,” explained Binotto.
“And I think we made a mistake as well because we should have called him [Leclerc] earlier, at least a lap early, or if not as we did we should have stayed out and simply stayed on the extreme wet, taking I think the [lead] position, and then maybe switching directly onto the dries.” That was the strategy that Sainz was on. I do agree that that strategy could’ve worked for Leclerc if he was lapping at the right pace. Hopefully, Leclerc and Ferrari can learn from these mistakes and come back stronger in the future. There are still 15 races left in the season, meaning they have plenty of time to take control of the championship back from Verstappen and Red Bull.
Checo Proves A Point
Sergio Perez got exactly what he needed at the 2022 Monaco GP. He secured a race win that was more than just a win on the track, but a win for him off track as well. At the 2022 Spanish GP, which was the race before the Monaco GP, Perez was going to win the race. However, Red Bull went on the radio and made him give the position to Verstappen. Even though Verstappen probably would’ve won anyway, Checo wasn’t even given a chance. But in Monaco, Checo played it perfectly. He was consistently faster than Verstappen. Checo was faster than Verstappen in all practice sessions, and he qualified higher than Max.
He was running in P3, but when Ferrari made a strategic mistake for Leclerc, he went up to P2. Then when Sainz pitted onto the hard tires, he went up into the lead of the race. He made an overcut work on the intermediate tires. From there on, the battle for the lead began. The Top 4 consisted of Perez (Red Bull), Sainz (Ferrari), Verstappen (Red Bull), and Leclerc (Ferrari). So these were all top drivers in the top 2 teams battling to win the 2022 Monaco GP. They were separate from the rest of the pack, with Russell finishing in P5 as the best of the rest.
All 4 drivers were on the hard tires. But when Mick Schumacher crashed and race control brought out the Red Flags, the drivers had the option to change their tires. Red Bull chose to put both their drivers on a set of fresh mediums. However, Ferrari thought that the mediums wouldn’t last, so they didn’t change their drivers’ tires. When the Red Flag restart happened, the Red Bulls weren’t that much quicker on the fresh mediums. Since they were on a faster compound, everyone expected them to be clearly faster than the Ferraris. However, the gaps between the RB and Ferrari drivers only stretched out between Laps 40-50. And even then, the gaps were not really significant.
After Lap 50 however, the Ferraris caught right back up. It seemed like Red Bull’s strategy call had come back to bite them. Their tires were worn, but the Ferraris were still going strong. It looked like Leclerc had a chance at getting a podium, and Sainz had another chance to go for the race win. Unfortunately for the home hero, he couldn’t catch up to Verstappen enough to make an overtake. It was Sainz and Perez who were more closely matched, with Sainz trying to take the race win from Perez. Sainz got close to overtaking him down into the Nouvelle chicane a couple of times. But Perez would place his car in the middle of the track, which is even more effective at a narrow circuit like Monaco. That allowed Checo to keep the lead despite having worn tires.
Checo needed this win so much. After what happened in Spain, this was redemption for him, and it was redemption at its finest. After winning the 2022 Monaco GP, Red Bull pulled 34 points clear of Ferrari in the constructors’ standings. Perez showed his consistency because he is now only 6 points behind Leclerc and only 15 points behind his teammate, who is leading the drivers’ championship. Perez could ride the wave of the good result to announce his contract renewal with Red Bull, which sees him staying with the team until the end of 2024. Of course, the contract renewal was finalised before the 2022 Monaco GP. But Checo winning assured Red Bull that they had taken the right decision.