Sergio Perez’s first F1 Monaco GP victory, the third Grand Prix win of his career, was almost curtailed by a late charge from the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, who believes he did “everything I could” on the narrow Monaco streets.

Rather ironically, Perez and Sainz had been the pair involved in a bizarre crash in the closing stages of qualifying where the former pushed the limits into Portier and spun into the wall. Only for the latter to arrive on the scene too soon afterwards to slow down in time, spinning his Ferrari into the front-right of the Red Bull and blocking the track.

The ensuing red flag prevented the majority of the front-runners from finishing their final flying laps, including Perez’s teammate Max Verstappen. The grid was therefore set as Leclerc, Sainz, Perez, Verstappen and Lando Norris as the top five.

A rain delayed race on Sunday eventually got underway with Leclerc leading until lap 18 when he pitted for intermediate tyres, a lap after Perez, with the Mexican ending up ahead of the home hero thanks to the one-lap undercut. Sainz meanwhile stuck it out on wet tyres until a suitable dry line had formed to make the switch onto hard tyres.

Ferrari called Leclerc in to double stack behind Sainz, but changed their minds too late as Leclerc pitted and changed his five lap old intermediates for slicks. Both Perez and Verstappen overcut Leclerc, who struggled to get his slick tyres up to temperature on the damp surface. The red flag for Mick Schumacher’s accident handed everyone a free tyre change, but one in which Red Bull opted for the medium rubber and Ferrari the hard for each of their cars.

In the last half hour of the now-timed race, Perez managed to keep Sainz behind who at that stage was reaping the rewards of the longer lasting hard tyres. The now-three-time Formula 1 race winner conceded that he felt everything was going to plan before his gamble on the medium tyres began to backfire when the tyres grained.

“I felt we had the race under control pretty, pretty easy,” admitted Perez on the part of the race following the last red flag. “I felt like I was not really pushing, and then all of a sudden I started to have a lot of understeer into [Turns] 3 and 4, lap after lap, and I could see that Carlos just was next to me.

“I was like, well…  I still had very good traction out of Turn 8, so I was still a bit comfortable with it. But going into Turn 10 I knew that it was very important to not make a mistake because if you cut the chicane then you have [to give back the] position, so Carlos was putting [me under] a lot of pressure. But then towards the end, I managed to clear up the graining a bit, and it was mainly Turns 3 and 4.

“And then once I managed to open a bit of a gap, I could do my normal line through 3, 4, 5, which already brought some lap time with it and we managed to bring it home a bit safer,” summed up Perez. The hunting Sainz believes it was “almost impossible” for him to have made an overtake on Perez, even with the pace advantage he felt he had at the point where Perez’s tyres weren’t delivering.

“It was tempting [to try an overtake on Perez],” said Sainz. “It was tempting into the chicane but unfortunately the track was still a bit wet on the inside. So if I go and brake late in there, it would have been a bit of a mess and I probably would have taken Checo out with me.

“Tempting in a couple of other places but realistically, with these big wide cars, the spaces are really narrow and even on a drying track, where there’s damp patches offline, it’s almost impossible. And I tried everything I could to nearly launch a move, but even when I did, I nearly took him with me. So yeah, I think I did everything I could,” summed up Sainz.

Earlier on in the fight at the front, Sainz dipped a wheel onto the wet part of the track coming out of the final corner, remarkably pulling off what many are heralding as the ‘save of the season’ by keeping his Ferrari out of the barriers on the pit straight. Asked whether he was at all scared by the “moment” in Perez’s wake, Sainz happily admitted it.

“Yeah, I was,” said Sainz. “Actually when you tell me this, I’m in a good mood, because the race should have ended there. But, I think we [Perez and I] were both lapping lapped cars? Right before the VSC. I think they were obviously staying in the dry line, and if you wanted to pass them you had to go on the wet, on a hard tyre, on a cold hard tyre.

“And the main straight turns right a little bit. So I went on the damp patch and suddenly the car gave me a massive oversteer moment that nearly made me… I think I did three or four counter-steers to control the car and I thought I was gonna crash in the middle of the straight.

“It just shows how on the limit Monaco is, with this kind of thing, especially in a race like this. You need maximum concentration, like Checo said, because any little mistake, any little off-line moment, you’re in the wall, or you’re on a damp patch and you’re off,” summed up Sainz.

Here’s Carlos Sainz with a save:

Here’s Alexander Albon on holding up Charles Leclerc, Ferrari being upset

Here’s why FIA rejected Ferrari’s protest