Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Motorsport prime

Discover premium content
Subscribe

Edition

Global Global
Special feature
Formula 1 Monaco GP

Ten things we learned at the 2023 F1 Monaco Grand Prix

Three different teams featured on the Monaco podium after a weather-affected Grand Prix in which Max Verstappen strengthened his grip on the championship with a crushing win. On a weekend that the often criticised circuit delivered a qualifying session for the ages, there was no shortage of talking points in the paddock. Here's what we learned from F1's jewel in the crown

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Powered by Liqui Moly

Motorsport content powered by Liqui Moly

Red Bull maintained its perfect victory sweep at the start of the 2023 season, with Max Verstappen's commanding victory in last weekend's Monaco Grand Prix.

But, as ever, there was plenty more to the overall event story – with Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin taking to the stage even more centrally than usual this season and Sergio Perez having an awful weekend that may have already blown his 2023 title hopes. Plus, there was much news to cover off-track and major car developments to analyse.

This, then, is this pick of what we learned from F1's latest visit to Monaco.

1. Verstappen, Alonso and Ocon show the most Monaco magic

Starring drives for Alonso, Verstappen and Ocon earned well-deserved rostrum visits

Starring drives for Alonso, Verstappen and Ocon earned well-deserved rostrum visits

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

The Monaco weekend places demand on drivers like no other, with qualifying having extra importance, the tight confines of the track meaning zero chance to relax across 78 gruelling laps, and added threat from the barriers if rain arrives to spice up the action.

It did so for the second year in a row here, which enlivened the (typically) tense but straightforward early action. But through it all the top three drivers showed their class. They'd already done so with scintillating, whoop-inducing qualifying performances – Verstappen stunning Alonso and Charles Leclerc at the death and Esteban Ocon shocking the field with his impressive Q3 pace.

The Alpine driver benefited from some luck last weekend with Leclerc's qualifying penalty and George Russell's post-intermediates pitstop off boosting him in the qualifying and race results, but it was a timely reminder of his class.

Verstappen delivers that basically every weekend these days: he made hay even while struggling on worn mediums before the rain arrived last Sunday but did get away with a few minor errors tapping the barriers and not delivering early in Q3 again. Alonso has also been magic across 2023 so far and, in fact, given his consistency, the Aston Martin driver is looking back to 2010 and 2012 for inspiration he might be able to stay in the title hunt even lacking the best car…

2. Perez surely has lost the championship now

A messy race for Perez that required an additional stop for a new front wing before the rain hit meant he was never likely to threaten the points

A messy race for Perez that required an additional stop for a new front wing before the rain hit meant he was never likely to threaten the points

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

…Alonso is currently 51 points behind Verstappen and Monaco was surely the best chance for any team to stop Red Bull taking a clean sweep of 2023 victories without reliability or unforeseen crashes taking their shock toll. So, a title charge against Verstappen seems unlikely at best, yet it's great to hear the fire still burns brightly for the veteran warrior.

The driver with the best chance of stopping Verstappen marching to a third successive world championship remains his team-mate: Perez. But the Monaco weekend was such a disaster for the Mexican with his Q1 crash, in-race clashes and zero points, that even with 16 rounds left there is little realistic chance of him pulling off such a feat.

Perez was really poor in Monaco. Caught out and surprised by his rear end swinging around at Ste Devote early in Q1 and slamming into the barriers, he was confined to a painful race. He showed acceptable pace on Red Bull's aggressive lap-one-stop strategy, but his botched passes on Lance Stroll and Kevin Magnussen at the chicane pre-rain were sloppy, even with the challenge of the tight track a mitigating factor. He ended up twice lapped and being used to test alternative wet weather strategies for Verstappen up front, although his Swimming Pool save in the late wet chaos was impressive.

In isolation that's all rather bad, but Singapore and Las Vegas are now the only remaining street circuits on the calendar – the track type where Verstappen struggles slightly and Perez usually excels. Now F1 heads to the fast stuff where Perez was badly off the pace in 2022. He must at the very least show progress in this area to keep his diminishing 2023 title hopes alive.

3. Aston Martin's strategy calls under scrutiny

Alonso's ill-fated stop for mediums before coming in one lap later for intermediates secured victory for Verstappen

Alonso's ill-fated stop for mediums before coming in one lap later for intermediates secured victory for Verstappen

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

For the first time in 2023, Red Bull was really under pressure for the win from another team. Verstappen had done the crucial thing in sealing pole, but he still had to escape Ste Devote in the lead on lap one, with the feisty Alonso alongside him on the front row.

It was therefore surprising to see the Aston start on hards, reducing the chance of a dive given that compound's comparative lack of launch grip. The green team was playing the long game – hoping Verstappen's mediums would wear fast and force him into an early stop and getting mired in traffic. But that didn't happen, with Verstappen having good pace and a big gap even as his yellow-walled rubber grained.

Alonso also came in for mediums just as rain was changing the state of the race, which turned out to be the wrong call timing-wise and all but confirmed Verstappen's victory if he could keep it out of the wall to the flag, which did bar a few near-misses and minor touches.

Aston was unfortunate the rain was heavier, that was wider spread than expected, and hindsight is a wonderful thing when assessing race strategy. It tried a few things, which might've come off had small details of the race been a bit different. This is how it goes up front, every decision is just much more closely scrutinised and, in this case, F1 observers are left wondering if Aston has missed its best shot at a 2023 victory given Red Bull's domination.

4. The full worth of Mercedes' much-vaunted upgrades is still unknown

Russell might have scored podium for Mercedes by coinciding his only stop with switch to inters before his outlap off

Russell might have scored podium for Mercedes by coinciding his only stop with switch to inters before his outlap off

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Imola's cancellation had a big knock-on impact for many of the first major car development upgrades of the 2023 season, with Ferrari even changing its plan not to introduce a new rear suspension it knew it would cause an extra headache to be examining around Monaco's unusual low-speed bumps and kerbs.

Mercedes, however, pressed on with introducing the reworked W14 here, the package finally back with bigger sidepods and now featuring a new suspension system. The team believes that, even though upgrades are so hard to assess in Monaco, its new sidepods have delivered a downforce gain and its new suspension is aimed at creating a more stable platform with an anti-dive impact on braking and corner entry, which should make its floor more potent.

The Black Arrows, which finished fourth and fifth despite Russell's late penalty, is nevertheless still keeping its expectations in check, with this weekend's Barcelona outing more critical for discovering the full impact of the changes.

"It's so difficult [to assess] because we were in the mix with Aston Martin and with Ferrari, I would say," Toto Wolff explained. "On a positive note, maybe encouraging because we have never been really good here. We have been three tenths behind pole. Last year was six tenths.

"The car was awful last year and this time around the drivers said it's not good. So, there's a step in description. But we really need to be careful. We've got to go to Barcelona, collect more data. It's a new baseline. [But] I don't expect us clearing Aston Martin and Ferrari there either."

5. Hamilton's 2024 Mercedes contract talks still progressing amid Ferrari speculation

Hamilton is confident of agreeing new terms with Mercedes

Hamilton is confident of agreeing new terms with Mercedes

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Mercedes was in the headlines throughout the Monaco weekend thanks to the interest in its upgrades, but arguably of even greater focus before its design changes were finally revealed centred on Hamilton's 2024 contract situation.

Following speculation that Ferrari could be poised to offer the seven-time world champion a big bucks offer to jump ship for next year, his response when facing the media last Thursday was keenly awaited. In that press conference, Hamilton flatly denied any contact with Ferrari and said "we're almost at the end of having a contract ready" with Mercedes. The was followed by Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur saying his team had not made an offer and Wolff giving his usual take on how simple contract discussions were with Hamilton.

This is perhaps the most revealing aspect, as it demonstrates there is no panic at Mercedes about potentially losing its star driver. But it doesn't address the thrust of the pre-Monaco suggestion about Ferrari and Hamilton, that the Scuderia is considering making a major offer.

It could yet still do that and until Hamilton signs a new Mercedes contract for 2024, nothing can be ruled out for sure. It would be foolish to do so. After all, just look at the expectations regarding Alonso signing an Alpine extension this time last year…

6. A key part of F1 car packages under new costs scrutiny

Aston boss Krack questioned the worth of significant investment in gearboxes that yield little performance gain

Aston boss Krack questioned the worth of significant investment in gearboxes that yield little performance gain

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Soon enough, F1 is going to be at the halfway stage of the current ruleset, with the next change for 2026 suddenly seeming not so far away. While the engine rules are decided, the chassis changes are still being debated and decided on – with wider use of active aerodynamics likely coming into force to try and help F1's ongoing overtaking conundrum.

But a new point of discussion emerged over the Monaco weekend, with Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack asking why teams are spending nearly $10 million on gearbox development in a cost cap era when there is no performance difference between them in this area these days and that it's a hidden part that adds nothing to F1's show. Talks on this subject are ongoing with F1 and the FIA.

"If you look at the gearbox these days, and you compare it with other motorsport categories, the gearbox is not a performance differentiator anymore," Krack explained.

"Everybody has more or less the same performance from the gearbox. But the cost for gearboxes is horrendous, especially if you compare it to other categories. Every team is just writing off $8-9 million a year for gearboxes where there is no performance difference at all."

7. McLaren again leads the way in temporary special liveries

McLaren pulled out all the stops with its Triple Crown-themed livery

McLaren pulled out all the stops with its Triple Crown-themed livery

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

McLaren's special 'Triple Crown' livery is a key part of its celebrations in its 60th year of history. The unofficial accolade is usually a driver-only concern, with Graham Hill the only 'Triple Crown' winner, but McLaren's success in the 1974 Indianapolis 500, 1984 Monaco GP and 1995 Le Mans (albeit as a factory-linked privateer) is still a special achievement worth celebrating.

The split livery incorporating the colours of all three of the cars that won those races is a bit of an odd look, but it nevertheless looks rather dynamic and makes a nice change to the team's usual design. It's a far and much better cry from just putting a few extra stripes on a sidepod or recolouring an engine cover, Red Bull and Ferrari…

McLaren, which is keeping the 'Triple Crown' livery for the next race in Spain this weekend, has form in running one-off colours, with its Gulf livery at the 2021 Monaco race a firm hit with fans. Now, Williams has Gulf sponsorship and last weekend launched a fan vote to run a similar design at the upcoming Singapore, Japanese and Qatar events – albeit with slight tweaks across all the four options. More of this, please!

8. Monaco qualifying drama alone proves this race's place on the F1 calendar

Alonso and Verstappen shared mutual respect after a thrilling conclusion to qualifying

Alonso and Verstappen shared mutual respect after a thrilling conclusion to qualifying

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Although the top three drivers in the race finished in the same places they started, this Monaco race was rather entertaining – thanks to the weather intervention. As ever, the dry action was formulaic and processional, such has long been the way with F1 machinery racing around these tight streets.

But even if that had played out to the finish, it would've been a price worth paying for the incredible and wonderful qualifying action witnessed the day before. From Perez boshing his Red Bull poorly into the Sainte Devote barriers in Q1 and Hamilton's struggle to escape that segment, to Verstappen stealing pole from Alonso in the final sector of his final lap from a long way down. It was close, it was breath-taking, it was brilliant.

The F1 calendar is very long these days – there are surely plenty of events for fans who complain about Monaco's place on the calendar due to its dull dry race action to have their fill. The drivers love the challenge of nailing the hardest qualifying laps of the season and so it's great to have a unique challenge that upends the usual weekend norms once a year. The debate won't end there, but perhaps it should be more settled now.

9. Monaco's special crash recovery systems reveal some of F1's most close-guarded secrets

Hamilton's car was hoisted high into the air after his FP3 prang, where eagle-eyed photographers didn't miss a trick

Hamilton's car was hoisted high into the air after his FP3 prang, where eagle-eyed photographers didn't miss a trick

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Any crash is unfortunate, but those Perez and Hamilton suffered in qualifying and practice last weekend had extra winces being drawn at their Red Bull and Mercedes squads. This is because Monaco's effective and usually rapid car recovery system at many corners involves craning machines away high over the track and surrounding areas, rather than lifting cars with a mobile tractor crane and driving them behind nearby barriers, as is the case at most other tracks.

Here though, with a similar system also used at certain corners at Zandvoort, the RB19 and W14 were respectively left dangling at great height for a long time above Sainte Devote and Mirabeau in Q1 and late in FP3. These developments revealed the full designs of their floors – the major aerodynamic performance differentiator on ground-effect cars.

This was a handy lesson for F1 fans and observers, but much more so for rival teams, which all pay photographers to snapshots of other designs. The images might need comparative CFD analysis to be really worthwhile, but it's still something Red Bull and Mercedes would've preferred not to have happened.

"I suspect they're probably more annoyed at their car being left in the sky than we would be about ours," said Mercedes director of trackside engineering, Andrew Shovlin. "To be honest, with these regulations, the most important bit is the bit you don't normally get to see. So, the teams will be all over those kinds of photographs. Monaco is a good opportunity to get that kind of shot."

10. New Monaco TV arrangement works a treat

TV direction didn't miss a beat in Monaco this year, which made a nice change

TV direction didn't miss a beat in Monaco this year, which made a nice change

Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

Another complaint often directed at this race has been rather more on the money: that in previous years the TV direction hasn't been brilliant. That key moments of the race were missed, the action was not shown in the most dynamic ways due to certain camera positioning, and replays were often cut in at awkward times.

That changed for 2023 with F1 itself taking control of the Monaco TV direction and its in-house team producing and directing the coverage. There was plenty of familiar feel to what was broadcast, but this was enhanced by new camera positioning – particularly looking up the hill through Beau Rivage and Massenet around Casino Square and the Swimming Pool complex – that better revealed the speeds with which these F1 beasts can blast around this track from a bygone era.

But the first of helicopter-mounted shots over Monaco really demonstrated the scale of this famous event and just how tightly the track is draped around the compact, coastal principality. Excellent decision-making all around.

The scale and spectacle of Monaco was beautifully on show for TV viewers

The scale and spectacle of Monaco was beautifully on show for TV viewers

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Be part of Motorsport community

Join the conversation
Previous article Monaco Grand Prix Driver Ratings 2023
Next article Mercedes still needs to dial out “nasty” rear end of F1 car

Top Comments

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Motorsport prime

Discover premium content
Subscribe

Edition

Global Global