Monaco, May 29 (IANS): Dutch driver Max Verstappen kept Red Bull's 2023 winning record intact by finishing ahead of Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin and Esteban Ocon of Alpine in a chaotic finish caused by rain shower in the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday.
Defending Drivers' champion Verstappen made a clean getaway when the race began to maintain his pole position advantage over Alonso into the first corner on the street circuit.
But as the race developed and the planned one-and-only stops approached, a rain shower hit the track to turn the encounter on its head, causing a flurry of off-track excursions, brushes with the barriers and pit lane activity.
Alonso pitted while only a portion of the track was damp and initially took on mediums, but intensifying rainfall meant he was forced back in for intermediates, which the rest of the field clambered for as well.
Verstappen then survived a contact with the wall before pitting, got back into a rhythm in the mixed conditions and controlled proceedings to the chequered flag.
Despite that extra stop, Alonso had enough in hand to retain second position and score Aston Martin's best result of the season so far, with Ocon converting his eye-catching qualifying performance into the final podium spot.
Mercedes' updated W14s racked up a solid haul of points as Lewis Hamilton and George Russell took fourth and fifth positions, respectively, the latter's five-second time penalty for clashing with Sergio Perez when he rejoined the track from an off in the slippery conditions not affecting his finishing position.
Home favourite Charles Leclerc crossed the line where he started in sixth, having been given a three-place grid penalty for impeding Lando Norris in qualifying, followed by the other Alpine of Pierre Gasly and Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz.
Just as the dust was settling on a frenetic qualifying hour around Monaco's tight and twisty streets, the stewards dropped a communication that would see Leclerc fall from third on the grid to sixth position for his home race, having impeded Norris in the Q3 phase. Ocon, his teammate Sainz and Hamilton all gladly accepted a gained grid spot at a venue where track position is vital.
But all eyes were on the front row of the grid and whether Verstappen or Alonso would make the better start.
As the lights went out, pole-sitter Verstappen put his softer tyres to good use by charging away from his grid spot and maintaining his advantage over Alonso into the first corner, with Ocon holding third from Sainz, Hamilton, Leclerc, Gasly, Russell, Tsunoda and Norris.
There was a series of incidents which resulted in the Stewards handing Hulkenberg a five-second time penalty.
Up front, Verstappen got into a rhythm and edged away from Alonso, bringing his lead just over the two-second mark as Lap 10 of 78 approached, with Ocon some 10 seconds adrift, followed by Sainz, Hamilton and Leclerc - all circulating nose to tail.
A series of incidents, pit stops and tactical moves later, Verstappen extended his advantage over Alonso to almost 10 seconds by Lap 40, with Leclerc, Gasly and Russell also stretching out their first stints as more radio messages pointed to approaching rain.
Rain showers arrived soon and added further drama to the already incident-filled race.
A flurry of pit lane activity followed as most drivers went for a change of tyres, opting for intermediates. After the stops, Verstappen led Alonso by more than 15 seconds, with Ocon sitting third ahead of the Mercedes pair of Hamilton and Russell, Leclerc in sixth, Gasly seventh, Sainz eighth, Tsunoda ninth and Norris rounding out the top 10 positions.
Amid all the tyre changes, Russell was given a five-second penalty for rejoining the track in an unsafe manner while Hulkenberg was hit with a 10-second time penalty due to his initial five-second sanction not being served correctly.
As the conditions stabilised, Verstappen continued to pull clear of Alonso, building up his margin to almost 30 seconds by the chequered flag.
It was a statement win from the championship leader, who is now 39 points clear of Perez in the drivers' standings, his teammate unable to climb higher than 16th after starting from the back as a result of his costly qualifying shunt.