By F1 correspondent Michael Butterworth
BEIJING, May 28 (Xinhua) -- Max Verstappen mastered tricky conditions to win Sunday's Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix and extend his commanding lead in the Drivers' Championship.
Starting from pole position after a stunning qualifying lap on Saturday, Red Bull's Verstappen headed off the threat from the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso at the start, and set about building an advantage.
With Verstappen on Medium compound rubber and Alonso on Hard tyres, the race became an intriguing tactical battle to see if Verstappen could eke out his tyre life long enough to match Alonso.
However, all that became academic when some long-anticipated rain began to fall around Lap 53. Alonso elected to make his planned stop on Lap 55 and bolted on a set of Medium tyres, but the rapidly intensifying rain forced him to come straight back in the following lap to fit Intermediate tyres.
Verstappen then stopped on Lap 56 to change straight onto Inters, which proved to be the correct call as he emerged with a lead of over 20 seconds over Alonso, whose extra stop ruined any chance he had of challenging for victory.
Verstappen then managed both the gap to Alonso and the slippery conditions over the remaining laps to take his fourth win of the 2023 F1 season.
"It was quite a difficult one because we were on the Medium and Fernando was on the Hard [tyres]," said Verstappen afterwards.
"We didn't want to go that long, but we had to stay out with the rain coming.
"The tyres were graining and then the pace picked up a little bit but it was still very tricky to drive. Then it started to rain and we had to make the call to go onto the Inters.
"It was incredibly slippery and when you are that far in the lead you don't want to push too hard, but also you don't want to lose too much time, so it's quite difficult in that scenario.
"It's super nice to win Monaco, and it's super nice to win it in the way we did today with the weather and everything, to stay calm and bring it home."
Behind the top two, Esteban Ocon completed the podium places after an excellent drive from third on the grid.
The twin Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell took fourth and fifth places, ahead of local hero Charles Leclerc in his Ferrari.
Ocon's teammate Pierre Gasly took seventh ahead of an unhappy Carlos Sainz in the second Ferrari, who dropped from fourth on the grid after some questionable strategy calls and a spin.
Rounding out the top ten were the two McLarens of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri.
Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez failed to score after finishing down in 17th place, following a crash in qualifying which condemned him to start the race from 20th and last place on a circuit where overtaking is notoriously difficult.
Verstappen's win puts him on 144 points in the Drivers' Championship, with the non-scoring Perez still second on 105, and Alonso closing rapidly on 93 points.
In the Constructors' Championship, Red Bull retain their commanding lead and now have 249. Aston Martin remain second on 120, but a double points finish for Mercedes means the Silver Arrows are just one point behind on 119.
The seventh round of the 2023 F1 World Championship takes place next weekend in Spain, at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. ■