He led from start to finish, as his closest challenger Valtteri Bottas was forced to retire after a right-front wheel stub axle got stripped in his pitstop, which promoted Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz to second and McLaren’s Lando Norris to third.
2021 Monaco Grand Prix race results
How the Monaco Grand Prix unfolded
From P2 on the grid, but effectively pole position due to Leclerc’s absence, Verstappen chopped across the bows of Bottas to lead at Sainte Devote.
Ferrari’s sole participant Sainz ran third, ahead of Norris and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, with points leader Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) in sixth. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) repelled an early attack from Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, with Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) and Esteban Ocon (Alpine) rounding out the top 10. Aston’s Lance Stroll was the leading medium-tyred starter in 11th.
Bottas began to struggle with his soft tyres at one-third distance, allowing Sainz to close in as Verstappen increased his lead to over 5s.
Hamilton triggered the pitstop cycle on Lap 30, switching to the hard tyres in an effort to undercut Gasly. But he failed to do so, and his annoyance was amplified when Vettel managed to jump ahead of both Gasly and Hamilton via the overcut strategy of running longer while pushing hard. Vettel only just clung to the place, after braving it out side-by-side with Gasly through Beau Rivage as he rejoined after his pitstop.
Bottas pitted a lap later than Hamilton, but the right-front wheelgun machined away the thread of the stub axle so the mechanics couldn’t remove the wheel. Bottas was forced to retire, promoting Sainz to second and Norris to third, although Norris had received a black-and-white flag warning for straightlining the Nouvelle Chicane, putting him at risk of a 5s penalty if he did it again.
Sainz pitted on Lap 33, with Verstappen following suit a lap later. That released Perez briefly out front, and in clear air he leapfrogged from eighth to fourth after making his pitstop.
Sainz rejoined 5s in arrears of Verstappen, and trimmed his lead down under 3s at one point, but had nothing to truly challenge for victory and fell away by almost 10s when he suffered tyre graining.
Behind the distant Norris, who also struggled on his second set of tyres, Perez chased him home in fourth, ahead of Vettel, Gasly, Hamilton (who was furious about his race strategy but took the extra point for fastest lap), Stroll (who jumped up to eighth from 11th by running a long first stint), Ocon and Giovinazzi.