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Red Bull driver Sergio Perez of Mexico steers his car after winning the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix, at the Monaco racetrack, in Monaco. Image Credit: AP

Monaco: Sergio Perez rebounded from Red Bull team orders that denied him a chance to race for the win one week ago to pick up his first Formula One win of the season in the rain-marred Monaco Grand Prix.

Perez earned his third career F1 victory on the slick city streets of Monaco after a questionable strategy call by Ferrari cost pole-sitter Charles Leclerc a win on his home circuit.

Although Leclerc finished the race for the first time in four tries, he finished fourth and allowed reigning world champion Max Verstappen to extend his lead in the points standings. Carlos Sainz Jr. finished second for Ferrari and Verstappen was third for Red Bull.

Nine points

Verstappen now leads Leclerc by nine points in the standings” Leclerc has two wins this season, Verstappen and Perez have combined for five victories as Red Bull and Ferrari have claimed all seven races.

But the win went to Verstappen’s teammate just one week after Perez was ordered to cede the lead to Verstappen during the Spanish Grand Prix. Leclerc had dropped out of the race with an engine failure and Red Bull chose to capitalize by manipulating the finish to get Verstappen the win in Spain.

The team promised Perez he’d be allowed to race for wins and held its word today.

“You dream of winning this, and after your home race, there is no place more special to win,” Perez said after waving the Mexican flag.

Leclerc led from the pole and screamed in rage when told to pit for a second tire change on Lap 22 - at the same time as Sainz. His engineer realized the mistake and yelled “stay out!” but it was too late and Leclerc came back out on track in fourth place.

“What are you doing?” Leclerc shouted.

After the race, he lectured Ferrari again.

“No words, no words. We cannot do that,” he radioed.

Leclerc also won the pole a year ago but never got to start because he crashed at the end of qualifying, and the car’s gearbox failed moments before the start. In 2018 and 2019, Leclerc had retired from the race with crash damage.

Race delayed

The race was delayed by 70 minutes for heavy rain and began from a rolling start behind a safety car. It was then red-flagged on Lap 30 after Mick Schumacher’s heavy crash three laps earlier sliced his Haas car in two. He escaped unharmed.

“I’m fine, very, very upset not to finish the race,” Schumacher said. “I don’t know why the car split in two.”

George Russell finished fifth for Mercedes ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and the Alpine of Fernando Alonso. Seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton was eighth for Mercedes - extending his winless run with the Silver Arrows to eight races - while Valtteri Bottas was ninth for Alfa Romeo and Sebastian Vettel 10th for Aston Martin.

The restart after Schumacher’s crash was again a rolling start behind the safety car. But the long delay and red flag shortened the race from 77 laps into a timed race so that it would end by local curfew.