Formula One: Verstappen wins from pole in Monaco, takes lead in drivers' standings

Red Bull's Max Verstappen drives during the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix, on May 23, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

MONACO (REUTERS) - Red Bull's Max Verstappen won Formula One's showcase Monaco Grand Prix for the first time in his career on Sunday (May 23) to lead the world championship.

The 23-year-old Dutch driver started the day 14 points behind seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton and ended it four clear of the Mercedes driver, who finished seventh with an extra point for fastest lap. Ferrari's Carlos Sainz was second followed by Lando Norris in the McLaren.

Verstappen said: "It's so special around here to win. It's my first time on the podium here. Amazing race.

"It's a lot of laps- you really have to keep your focus, but it's really cool.

"You never know what's going to happen but it's all about the tyres and finding a good stop gap. The others went earlier, so that made it a bit easier for me but we were pretty much in control.

"You always want to win this grand prix. I remember when I was very little, you always want to win this one, so of course, I'm very proud, but I'm also thinking ahead - it is a very long season."

He started from pole after Charles Leclerc was a shock last-minute withdrawal as Ferrari announced a problem with his car.

Overtaking opportunities are hard to come by on the narrow twisting circuit pole with 12 of the last 16 winners having set off from the front of the grid.

Verstappen continued that trend and now leads the drivers' standings for the first time in his career.

Sainz said: "It's a good result. If you would've told me before coming to Monaco I would finish second, I definitely would take it.

"It's just the whole circumstance of the weekend, having Charles' problems today and me missing out in qualifying, maybe it doesn't taste as good as it should. But I'm sure when I reflect back, I think Ferrari need to be proud about the car and the step we've made.

"When you see the other car not starting on pole, all of a sudden the responsibility relies on you to salvage a bit of the weekend. You want to give the team at least a podium, and it was all about getting the start right.

"I felt good with the car today and I felt the team deserved a podium today."

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