By Sean Kelly, C4F1 statistician
Juan-Manuel Fangio once said that the objective of Grand Prix racing is to win at the slowest possible speed.
By that definition, he would surely have approved of the manner in which Daniel Ricciardo finally claimed a long-anticipated first Monaco victory, after being head and shoulders above the field throughout the weekend.
Ricciardo led every session at this meeting, including all three segments of qualifying – the first driver to do so since Lewis Hamilton in Austin last year.
In fact, he fell just a fastest lap short of recording a 'grand slam' weekend as he not only led every session but also led every lap of the race. This rare achievement has not been seen since Hamilton at the 2015 Italian GP, and even Michael Schumacher only ever achieved it once, coincidentally in his first Monaco GP win in 1994.
It was still a great way for Red Bull to celebrate their 250th grand prix start in F1, and they have a habit of winning milestone races – also triumphing at their 100th (Hungary 2010) and 150th (Bahrain 2013).
It was Ricciardo’s seventh career victory, and his first when starting in the top three on the grid – an irony considering none of the previous three Monaco GPs had been won from pole.
It seems Ricciardo and Monaco have a natural affinity for each other, and it will be interesting to see if this domination translates to other racetracks in 2018.
Until Sunday he had led only 12 laps all season (the final 12 in China) and spent only 21 laps in a podium position. Not that this will matter to him at the moment, as he now joins Sir Jack Brabham (1959) and Mark Webber (2010, 2012) as the only Aussie winners in the Principality.
Such dominance was even more impressive after a mid-race MGU-K power unit failure threatened not only a loss of position, but retirement altogether. Ironically Ricciardo’s first career victory at the 2014 Canadian GP came partly as a result of an MGU-K failure on rival Nico Rosberg’s car, so he needed no reminding of what it could mean.
Even with the MGU-K working, the race pace was almost bizarrely slow, and the failure only compounded it. On laps 37 and 40, Ricciardo dipped into the one-minute 20-second range, almost TEN seconds slower than his pole time, which was the fastest lap in Monaco history.
He was lapping so slowly that he was only just quicker than pole position for the Formula 2 race (1:21.727), but then he’s hardly the first Monaco winner to overcome an in-race mechanical failure. Ayrton Senna had to drive the closing stages in 1989 with only three gears, so Ricciardo is in good company – he, at least, had six of his possible eight on this occasion.
Ricciardo at 1:11.353. That's 39 seconds quicker than Juan-Manuel Fangio's 1950 pole time. Well Fangio was clearly rubbish at this game #MonacoGP— Sean Kelly (@virtualstatman) May 26, 2018
Second place belonged to a fully-functioning Sebastian Vettel, who cut Lewis Hamilton’s championship lead to 14 points. Both he and the third-placed Englishman scored their sixth podium finishes in Monaco.
Of greater statistical note, it was Hamilton’s record-extending 31st consecutive race in the points. His streak is now longer than the entire F1 careers of grand prix winners Peter Revson and Peter Gethin (30 races).
Last year’s polesitter Kimi Raikkonen had a more anonymous day this time and ended fourth, his first finish in 2018 outside the podium positions, albeit with two retirements in the six races so far.
Fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas has never been on the podium in Monaco and that wait continued on Sunday as he came home fifth for Mercedes, but behind them came several drivers with reasons to celebrate.
Susie on Ocon: "Great points for Force India. He’s really showing himself to be a talent who could move to a bigger team next season."— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) May 27, 2018
Today Ocon both qualified and finished in P6, after a thoroughly competitive performance from the Frenchman #C4F1 #MonacoGP pic.twitter.com/ZykkSXSUUP
Esteban Ocon was sixth, his best result of 2018 coming after he suffered consecutive retirements for the first time in his career. French joy continued in seventh, as Pierre Gasly gave Toro Rosso a top-eight finish in Monaco for the third year in a row.
Meanwhile, Nico Hulkenberg’s eighth place was surprisingly the first points for Renault as a constructor in Monaco since Robert Kubica finished on the podium back in 2010.
Max Verstappen's FP3 crash meant he had to sit out qualifying, and given that it was an identical incident to his prang two years ago – also on a Saturday – the Dutchman was under pressure just to get the Red Bull home, having also crashed out of the race in both 2015 and 2016.
Ninth place for Verstappen was fairly scant reward for doing almost all of the overtaking seen in the race (there were only six passes for position across the entire field) while he also set the fastest lap of 1:14.260 – a new race record for Monaco.
His former Toro Rosso team-mate Carlos Sainz, by contrast, has been the picture of consistency around this circuit. His 10th place for Renault means the Spaniard has scored in all four of his Monaco GP starts.
Spare a thought for Marcus Ericsson. While the focus was inevitably on Sauber team-mate Charles Leclerc in his home event, Ericsson got to the flag just one place out of the points in 11th. This also happened when he drove for Caterham in 2014, but the Swede is still yet to actually score in Monte-Carlo!
With Leclerc being classified as a finisher despite his late crash with Brendon Hartley (the result of a blown front brake disc), there was a record-low one retirement in this year’s Monaco GP.
Based on recent years, perhaps you might have guessed it was Fernando Alonso, whose gearbox failed on lap 52.
Alonso to Lee: "We lost a little points for the team today. There’s nothing we can do now except work on our reliability."— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) May 27, 2018
It was Alonso's first DNF of the season today, after a mechanical issue struck his car #C4F1 #MonacoGP pic.twitter.com/N9CPEZq6qy
Alonso was set for points in seventh place, but after so much was said about McLaren’s chassis during the Honda years, it should be noted that the Spaniard was more than 36 seconds behind Ricciardo when he broke down, and they’re now using the same engine.
In his last Monaco visit in 2016 – with a Honda engine – Alonso was fifth. It would appear that not all of McLaren’s problems were to do with the power unit, after all.
Although Lewis Hamilton could only manage P3 in the race he still leads the drivers' championship, 14 points ahead of Sebastian Vettel— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) May 27, 2018
Victory for Daniel Ricciardo has promoted him from P5 to P3 in the championship #C4F1 #MonacoGP pic.twitter.com/RaGvcuxfzx
Canada is next, the circuit where Ricciardo claimed his first F1 win in 2014.
We will go into Montreal with three drivers from three different constructors – Hamilton, Vettel and Ricciardo – on two wins each.