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, and looking at the photos raised the worst fears: his car had split in two, and there was wreckage everywhere.
Running in front of the pool, Schumacher lost control of the back of his car, which turned several times before hitting the gang and disintegrating. “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.
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. According to the announcement, 31 laps have been completed. 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 pursued pursuit. Something could have happened lap after lap, the countdown started due to the timeout being introduced. 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. 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? Until it’s completely dry?” asked world champion Verstappen, who was met by rain on the street circuit, which is usually unfavorable for overtaking. He 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 Grand Prix in Spa 2021, torrential rain led to a very chaotic and strange race: after much back and forth, it only started at 6.17pm, after a total of three laps behind the safety car had finished at 6.45pm. Due to the short race distance, only half of the points were awarded. Based on this experience, the event time was limited to a maximum of three hours. On Sunday in Monaco, the formation session started the countdown at 3:16pm, which will therefore end at 6:16pm. If the race is not finished by that time, the number of laps completed up to that point will be counted and fewer points will be awarded again.
Then came the update: At 4:05pm there will be another attempt, behind the safety car. The track was still wet, but the rain had stopped. As soon as the first lap started, Nicholas Latifi went down in the gang at the famous corner behind the Grand Hotel, with a yellow flag, but 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.
After the first laps, Monegasse set the fastest time with 1:43:218 minutes. For comparison, the Monte Carlo record since 2021 is 1:12.909 for Hamilton. Gradually, drivers were turned off and left with so-called media, which works 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. Too much contact with the collision bulkhead can be prevented.
Ferrari messing around in the pits
The asphalt dries up gradually. Then Ferrari spoiled the sense of accomplishment. On lap 21, Scuderia Sainz called up the hole. First Leclerc, only then frantically nullifies: “Stay out! Stay out!” 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 often had to whistle – and given the volume, it was hard to understand anyway. 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!
After the Mick Schumacher accident and the 5:15pm Grand Prix continuing, the countdown began immediately. The track continued to dry, and Perez tried lap after lap to make as few fouls as possible while keeping Sainz in check, who kept getting close. Ten more minutes. Perez, Sainz, Verstappen, and Lyclick were close together – but the end became a quiet procession.