2019 Monaco Grand Prix: The Rookie Report

by Sudha Sundararaj

It was the first appearance for the four rookie drivers at the iconic Monaco Grand Prix. The sixth race of the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship was held at this historic venue. The track is challenging for even the more experienced drivers with a very low margin for errors.  All the four debutants finished the race and Alexander Albon was the only rookie driver to score points.

LANDO NORRIS (MCLAREN F1 TEAM)

QUALIFYING: TWELFTH, RACE: ELEVENTH

Credit: McLaren Media Center

Lando Norris qualified in twelfth position at Monaco. The young British driver narrowly missed out on getting into the final phase of qualification by 0.116 seconds.

Norris had a bad start in the race that saw him fall back two places in the opening laps. Charles Leclerc suffered a puncture in his bid to overtake Nico Hulkenberg on lap nine. The young Monégasque driver spewed debris all over the track as he made his way back to the pits and the Safety Car was deployed.

The frontrunners made pit stops under the Safety Car. Norris moved up to tenth position during a long first stint on the medium compound tyres. His first pit stop on lap 48 saw him drop back to eleventh position behind Daniel Ricciardo.

Norris was now on the soft compound tyres, but could not get past Ricciardo over the next thirty-one laps at this hard to overtake street circuit. So Norris had to be content with eleventh position, just outside the points.

This is the second race in a row that Norris has not scored points. Team-mate Carlos Sainz finished in an impressive sixth position and has now scored points in his last three races.

“A long race and not a lot more I could’ve done,” said Norris.

“A couple of cars got past me in the opening laps – but both of those guys got punctures [Nico Hülkenberg and Charles Leclerc] so it didn’t affect me too much.

“It was a fairly straightforward race from then on. I had to manage my tyres in the middle of the race which restricted my pace and actually helped out Carlos [Sainz Jr.].

“It was a good result at the end of the day for the team and that’s the positive thing. For myself maybe not great and perhaps I could’ve got a point, but I’m still happy.”

Norris has dropped a place in the drivers’ championship and is in eleventh position now with twelve points. Team-mate Sainz is ‘best of the rest’ and has now surged to seventh position in the drivers’ championship.

Clearly the McLaren drivers are in the fight in the tight midfield battle. Norris has to turn his fortunes around and score points consistently starting with the Canadian Grand Prix.

ALEXANDER ALBON (SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO)

QUALIFYING: TENTH, RACE: EIGHTH

Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Alexander Albon was back in point-scoring form after finishing just outside the points in his last two races. Albon for good measure had his best result of his short Formula 1 career so far. The Anglo-Thai driver finished in eighth position and scored a precious four points in Monaco.

Scuderia Toro Rosso as a team had a good race with both drivers qualifying in the top 10 and scoring points. Team-mate Daniil Kvyat finished just ahead of Albon in seventh position.

Albon qualified in tenth position and had a good first stint of forty laps on the soft compound tyres. Albon progressed to fifth position as the drivers pitted in front of him.

Toro Rosso made the right call and did not bring in their drivers early during the Safety Car period. Both drivers made good use of the strategy as they retained track position on this difficult to overtake track.

Albon pitted for the medium compound tyres and rejoined in ninth position and finished in a career-best eighth position.

“I’ve got to say a big thanks to the team because the strategy was fantastic!,” said Albon.

“We knew there was the chance to get into the points today, and we did a good job to make it happen.

“It was tricky out there because you spend the whole race close behind other cars, you have to make sure you don’t brake late or lock up otherwise your race is over.

 “The most difficult part of the day was managing the tyres, as the Softs don’t really like to last that long, so they begin to degrade and vibrate. Still, it was good fun out there and great to have both cars finish in the points!”

Albon has moved up one spot to fourteenth position in the drivers’ championship with seven points.

ANTONIO GIOVINAZZI (ALFA ROMEO RACING)

QUALIFYING: FIFTEENTH (Started EIGHTEENTH), RACE: NINETEENTH

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Antonio Giovinazzi is still looking for that first elusive point of his Formula 1 career. The Alfa Romeo Racing team has lacked pace and struggled in the last two races. Even team-mate Kimi Räikkönen has not scored points and struggled to make it to the final phase of qualification.

Giovinazzi qualified in fifteenth position and started in eighteenth position as he was given a three-place grid penalty for impeding Hulkenberg in the first part of qualification.

Giovinazzi had a long first stint of forty-six laps on the soft compound tyres. The Italian driver was involved in an incident at Rascasse as his lunge on the inside of Robert Kubica spun him around. A huge traffic jam followed as other cars arrived on the scene.

The cars eventually got going without the Safety Car being deployed. Giovinazzi was given a ten-second penalty for the infraction and he ended up dead last in nineteenth position. Another miserable race for the Italian driver who is still  in search of his first point in Formula 1.

“It was not a very entertaining race for us,” said Giovinazzi. 

“I lost a position to a Williams in the first corner and, even though my pace was faster, I couldn’t find a way through.

“I tried a move at Rascasse but there was not enough space for two cars, we touched and I got stuck. It was really frustrating to stay behind slower cars, it ended up to be a fairly boring race for me.”

Giovinazzi sits in eighteenth position at the bottom of the drivers’ championship, just ahead of the two Williams drivers.

GEORGE RUSSELL (WILLIAMS RACING)

QUALIFYING: NINETEENTH, RACE: FIFTEENTH

Credit: Williams Racing

George Russell had the best race of his short Formula 1 career as he finished in a creditable fifteenth position at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Russell, as has become the norm, outqualified his team-mate Robert Kubica again. He started on the medium compound tyres and pitted under the Safety Car on the eleventh lap for the hard compound tyres.

The young British driver’s early pit stop was a good strategic move that saw him finish in front of Lance Stroll, Kubica, and both the Alfa Romeo drivers.

It was a good drive from Russell for the Williams team that has struggled at the back of the grid. Russell has outqualified and out-raced his team-mate Kubica at every race.

Russell has not let the general gloom and doom surrounding his team get to him. The performance of the Mercedes junior driver in the poor Williams FW42 challenger was creditable on this track which demands high downforce.

It was a really enjoyable race and I pushed myself to the limit, said Russell.

“Our pace was very strong, I got into the rhythm and my engineer came on the radio and said you are lapping the same pace as the leaders. We put in some good laps at the end and I was pleased with my performance.”

Russell sits in nineteenth position at the bottom of the drivers’ championship, just ahead of Kubica.

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