F1 2023 Monaco race report: 5 things we learned in Monte Carlo

Published: 30 May 2023 Updated: 30 May 2023

► Monaco’s 2023 race delivered
► Max holds his nerve in difficult conditions
► Perez has another disastrous weekend

Well, that was entertaining, wasn’t it? Monaco usually gives us a show on Saturday, but this year the principality entertained on both Saturday and Sunday. While Max Verstappen won again, the race itself was as unpredictable as you’d hope for from Monaco; there was overtaking, crashes, masterful driving – even the rain arrived on time, instead of 15 minutes after the race had ended. After the sensible cancellation of the Emilia-Romagna GP, this year’s Monaco GP gave us everything we missed about Formula One – and provided some drama sorely lacking in 2023. Here’s everything we learnt about the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix. 

1. Sergio Perez falters

Sergio Perez is surely one of the best drivers in the world, and without doubt in the top half of the grid in ability – but he doesn’t appear to be in the same league as Verstappen, Hamilton, Lerclerc or Alonso. In the same way Bottas may not have been on the same level of Hamilton, Perez doesn’t seem up to fighting Max for what is surely his third drivers’ title. And that lack of ability is starting to cause further mistakes. 

After an untimely crash on Saturday, Perez started from 20th on Sunday – but things only got worse after that. After multiple contacts with the wall and other drivers, Perez left the principality with no points. Perez was supposed to be ‘king of the streets’ but he’s being shown up by his teammate. After all, who can forget Miami; a race where Perez had a huge head start and still couldn’t keep Verstappen behind him?

It’s likely we’ll look back on Miami and Monaco as the races where Perez’s title challenge ultimately folded – mentally if not numerically.  

2. Alonso maximises another weekend

Fernando Alonso may have an uncanny ability to utter inflammatory statements about drivers, teams and engine suppliers, but he has an equally incredible ability to get the most out of his car. Alonso ultimately converted his second slot on the grid to a second place, but it was closer run than you’d have thought. Alonso took chunks out of Max Verstappen’s lead a few times on Sunday – even if it’d have been tricky to overtake had he got within striking distance.

When the rain came down, a gamble for slicks proved to be the wrong one, but Alonso would’ve still finished second had his team mirrored Red Bull’s strategy. Alonso had to pit once again but kept his second place. Was it the wrong call? Ultimately yes, but it’s hard to argue with Aston Martin’s punchy attitude. 

Alonso’s performance also highlighted the difference between lead drivers in teams: in the same way Perez was exposed by Verstappen, Lance Stroll’s race was pointless.

Mercedes W14 in Monaco

3. Mercedes brings encouraging upgrades

Mercedes has officially abandoned its novel sidepod concept: in Monaco the Brackley team showcased a new solution which looks more like the 2022 Alpine and current Aston Martin. The team were originally planning to test the upgrade along with a new suspension, floor and other bits at the cancelled Imola GP, and instead had to debut the irreversible changes on the streets of Monaco. The verdict? Both drivers seem to mention the improvements, though the unique nature of Monte Carlo means it’s hard to learn much about them – that’ll come at the Spanish GP. 

Mercedes’ engineers say they would’ve done a few things very differently had they been able to start from scratch – and not the W14’s zero-pod optimized layout – but this update should still inform next year’s car. Is it too late for a 2023 title challenge? Probably, but we’ll know for sure next week. 

4. Ferrari pit wall makes mistakes

Ferrari has one of the best driver line ups on the grid, and it also has one of the best cars – on a Saturday at least. However, this year the Scuderia’s pit wall has made several poor calls, and it made another in Monaco. 

Late rain saw most teams rush into the pits, but both Ferrari cars opted to stay out on heavily used slick tyres. The result? Cold slick tyres with next to no grip, and lots of time lost. Both Ferrari’s showed the pace for third and fourth but were ultimately leapfrogged by Esteban Ocon and Lewis Hamilton. Carlos Sainz was also passed by Pierre Gasly. 

5. Alpine bounces back

The Alpine team was recently criticised by its CEO Lauren Rossi, and in Monte Carlo it responded with Esteban Ocon taking a remarkable P3 in changeable race conditions. The team had previously aimed to reduce the gap to third place in the 2023 constructors’ championship, though the rise of Aston Martin means that’ll be far trickier target to meet than the team initially expected.

Still, the first podium for the team in 2023 – coming at a race in which they also brought a significant upgrade – must be cause for optimism. 

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's Digital Editor, F1 and sim-racing enthusiast. Partial to clever tech and sports bikes