Monaco GP: Race Report

Drama, drama, drama

The Race:

Even Alan Webber is mystified

The race around the streets of Monaco is usually considered a processional, but it’s one we make an exception for. But let’s be honest Monaco is much more than a F1 race, it a massive excuse for the great and the good (and the questionable) turn up. Amongst the questionable was a rather unhealthy dose of Geri Halliwell who was supporting whoever ‘won’ the race, and a sub-standard Adrian Brody lookalike. But no matter, the lack of celebrity spotting paved the way for something more magical, more breathtaking, more dramatic than overly botoxed faces. This weekend was all about the roar of the engine and rubber on the track than anything else, for once the setting faded into the background and the sport took centre stage.

The Sebastian Vettel show…sorry…the race gets underway in Monaco and drivers are already trading places and getting a bit touchy feely. Webber swaps a position with Alonso as the Spaniard gets another cracking start under his belt, and Schumacher collides with Hamilton on the Hairpin. Button, who was complaining a heavy steering on the warm-up lap, slips in behind Vettel who by lap 3 is 3.7 seconds ahead. And it only takes him until lap 15 to lap his first car of the day, Karthikeyan’s Hispania. Tyre preservation was the task of the day for the world leader, and boy did he do that, an early (and very nearly disastrous) pit stop nearly cost him a chance at the win. Red Bull reacted to Button’s pit on lap 15, but a mass miscommunication leaves Vettel in a pits too long (sticky Velcro) which has a knock on effect on Webber who immediately follows. The Aussie was subsequently dumped into p14, but battled long and hard to warrant a P4 and Red Bull gained the best collective result for a team on these hallowed streets.

Button closing in on Vettel

“Fortune favours the brave”, and here Button was the epitome of bravery, plundering the misfortune of others he is silky smooth on the options as he glides ahead of the nearest competition. One McLaren driver is having a great day, the other is not. Hamilton suffers a Red Bull style pit stop when his crew seemed unsure as to whether he was coming in, more fuel for the fire (read more about Hamilton’s weekend in the awards section below). But the other Brit is just getting the job done, he extends his lead on Vettel but Alonso begins to creep up, a reminder that you can’t count him out. Ridiculous head wear or not. It should be falling into place for a win, a good idea to cover a maybe safety car (Glock’s suspension failure) turned into a mistake when Massa bashed into the tunnel barrier. Schumacher soon follows by a premature stop after La Rascasse. Vettel having used both compounds and Button only the prime, gave way to the distant sound of the German national anthem.

Hope burbles throughout the paddock like Chinese whispers, Vettel has to go 60 laps on a single set of tyres to win this. Surely those super-degradable Pirelli’s can’t manage that! The German has faith, he stays out and leaves Button grasping for an explanation, he’s told if he wants to win he has to overtake. All eyes are on Alonso now, he is our single beacon of hope to have a podium without that wagging index finger. He’s running ragged, a few subtle mistakes get Button back into play but the safety car is out once more to taunt the Brit. A look back to the rest of the field proves worthwhile, both Williams drivers are having a fantastic race, so too are Sutil and Kobayashi. Mercedes struggled thoughout, Schumacher’s early stop is compounded by Rosberg struggling with his rear tyres, Renault are also finding their set up hard to overcome.

Was it really going to be any different?

Sutil, who had been running in an impressive 6th gets wide and hits the barriers out of Tabac, a puncture forces his hand and he dives back into the traffic. Alguersuari runs into the back of Hamilton who is awarded a scuppered rear wing, Petrov’s avoidance manoeuvres land him in the armco and stops the race. The race has hit the magical 75% but they line up on the grid again anyway, teams swarm around and chaos ensues. Tyres are changes, rear wings repaired and tyre warmers are back on, calls from the yachts demand an explanation (we were doing it too, but they had proximity and cash on their side). One eyebrow higher than the other, the race begins again and the only one to capitalise is Webber, with new tyres Vettel is untouchable. Again. Alonso gets close, but not quite enough to mount a challenge. Dominance is easy to categorise as boring, but his effortless style and performance under pressure earns him these wins, and piloting a truly world class car doesn’t hurt either. It’s up to the rest of the grid to stop him…and for one of them to figure out a way to have a finger-less weekend.

Retirements: T Glock, suspension (30); M Schumacher, airbox fire (32); F Massa, accident (32); J Alguersuari, accident (66), V Petrov, accident (67)

Results:

Position Driver Team Time
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 2:09:38.373
2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 2:09:39.511
3 Jenson Button McLaren 2:09:40.751
Fastest Lap Mark Webber Red Bull 1:16.234

Best Driver:

Jenson Button had a fantastic race from start to finish, and his 3rd place on the podium didn’t reflect his achievement in the race, and what could have been a truly shocking result. But it could have all gone so wrong, the first radio transmission to be aired was a worrying one from the McLaren driver, complaining about excessively heavy steering, it seem that other might be able to make the jump on him, but it didn’t seem to affect him. From the outset he was a constant threat to Vettel’s dominance, especially during the 17 lap stint he had in the lead. However he fell foul of both safety cars which made for a disappointing Sunday, although it shows he has the pace and ability to challenge Vettel.

Special mention: Kamui Kobayashi and Fernando Alonso

Best Team:

I’m going left field on this one, McLaren may have showed their hand and proved they had the pace to get within touching distance of Red Bull on race day, and so have Ferrari. But today, for me, Sauber had shown us was a fantastic car they have designed for their drivers. We can always think ‘what if’, but what if Perez had not have had that crash? Kobayashi earned his career best 5th position with excellent control and strategy, the car showing enough pace to hold back the Red Bull piloted by Webber. Rightly earning ‘Rookie of the Year’ in 2010, Sauber were right to retain him and he’s one that can get them pushing ever forward. So what if Perez had raced? He squeezed into Q3 for the first time, and was showing excellent evolution of pace across the weekend, so who knows? One thing to consider though, if Sauber can keep providing a car at this level, there will be more points on the horizon. One to watch for sure.

Special mention: Williams and Ferrari

Eddie Jordan moment of inappropriateness:

Lewis Hamilton wins this one on many fronts today, from blaming his team for his qualifying blunder to his ill-conceived ‘joke’ in the post race interview with the BBC. Of all the platforms to make a gaff on, the BBC channel is one to avoid if you don’t want your opinions broadcast worldwide. Honesty in the paddock it hard to come by and we can’t be aggrieved by it’s appearance, but using the great modern philosopher Ali G to explain why the stewards keep calling you in is pretty darn stupid. Joke or not, bringing in the race card is just another way to shift the blame elsewhere, especially when the rules are apparent and equal to everyone on the track. So honesty is great, but just remember a little bit more of that PR training next time.

So why the frustration?

  • Poor qualifying result
  • Collision with Schumacher on lap 1
  • Messy pit stop
  • Drive through penalty
  • Damaged rear wing when Alguersuari ran up the back of him
  • Being called in front of the stewards twice
  • Your girlfriend successfully knocking someone off the top spot

Woah…quite the weekend to forget.

Rookie mistake:

Lewis Hamilton takes this one home today as well, hope he’s got enough space in his suitcase. Starting from 9th he was visible frustrated from the outset, and the streak of aggression we are used to seeing fighting for position near the front was embattled with traffic. So what did he get up today:

  • Contact with Massa around the Hairpin, “I went up the inside and [Massa] turned in on me, on purpose!” < drive through penalty for Hamilton.
  • Knocks Maldonado out of the race at Sainte Devote by going up the inside. < 20 second post-race penalty, Hamilton retains his positions and points.

Rookie of the Race:

Pastor Maldonado proved his ability around this track today as he kept his head down and got the beleaguered Williams car around the track. His teammate Rubens Barrichello was behind but managed to get the first points on the board this season. Hamilton’s contact with Maldonado struck a chord as Williams were on track for a much needed, and well deserved double points score. However injury was thankfully avoided, and he’ll no doubt use this as a confidence boost for the rest of the year.

Special mention: Paul di Resta for exhibiting maturity beyond his years and admitting that the cause of his drive though penalty was his fault.

Banzaiiiii!!!!:

Last year were were treated to a massive 4 overtakes by Alonso as he made up for a bad grid position, but today commentators were struggling to keep up the volume here. We’ll leave Hamilton’s aside and focus on the less controversial one shall we? One that really made me smile was Barrichello’s overtake on Schumacher (lap 12 at Mirabeau), after the gut-wrenching one in Hungary (still have to watch that from behind my hands), it was cause for a few whoops as the Williams passed Mercedes. Glorious. Another one was after the restart as Webber finally got the move on Kobayashi, it was clean, much needed and showed his pace in the latter stages.

The 1000 word picture:

#EJinthepool

Say what?:

“There’s seven in there son, find one of them.” – Martin Brundle on Petrov’s pit stop getaway.

“Maybe it’s because I’m black. That’s what Ali G says. I don’t know.” – Yeah Lewis Hamilton actually said that to BBC reporter Lee Mackenzie following another appearance in front of the stewards.

“Vettel, it sounds like a bottle of water.” The unending wisdom of Geri Halliwell.

“He went for red and got black.” – Nice casino analogy from Jake Humphrey about Button’s strategy, shame it was made after Hamilton’s little outburst.

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