After claiming his third successive pole position, Nico Rosberg finally converted pole into victory around he streets of Monaco. It was a highly eventful race, with several major talking points, one of which is sure to rumble on. The secret tyre test instigated by Pirelli has supposedly benefited Mercedes, contravening the sporting regulations. Consequently, Red Bull are leading the appeal against Mercedes’ positive result on the streets of Monte-Carlo.
Tyre testing aside, Nico Rosberg dominated the weekend from start to finish. The German never relinquished his lead in the race, throughout all 78 laps, following on from his timesheet topping times in FP1, FP2, FP3 and his stunning pole lap in qualifying. Vettel and Red Bull were hotly tipped for success on Sunday, yet Vettel never really challenged Rosberg, who was able to control the pace.
For Rosberg, Monaco is the equivalent of a home race. After living in Monaco for the majority of his life, this win will undoubtedly top his first career victory in China last year. An elated Rosberg emphasized his feeling of achievement after the race, stating, “Monaco is such a special place to win and it just feels amazing today. It was my childhood dream to win this race and to do it in a Silver Arrow on the streets where I have lived all of my life is fantastic. I can’t quite believe it has happened yet and it will probably take a while to sink in. Thank you to the team for the car that we had this weekend and it’s good to have been able to show the same level of performance on Sunday and convert our pole position. The whole weekend went pretty much to plan, even though qualifying was tough with the weather conditions. I didn’t have the best start today which meant Lewis and Seb got pretty close but after the first corner, I was able to set my own pace. Then it was just a case of keeping a cool head through all the incidents and the team did a great job of keeping me in touch with what was happening. Thank you to everyone here today and back at the factories in Brackley and Brixworth. I hope this win today is the first of many more to come for us.”
Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton’s weekend did not follow a similar script. After being cast in the shadow of his teammate throughout Thursday and Saturday, Sunday was his time to shine. However, a promising first stint was derailed by pit stop confusion during the first safety car phase. Mercedes wanted to avoid staking in the pit lane and asked Hamilton to drop back from his teammate. This meant that the team were able to get both drivers in and out without losing precious second in the pit lane. While Rosberg emerged in first, Hamilton was less fortunate and was jumped by both Red Bull’s who had been released by the safety car. While it appeared to be a miscalculation by the pit wall, Hamilton later revealed that he did not execute the plan correctly. “It wasn’t the team’s fault, it was my own fault,” he told Sky Sports F1. “I was told to have a six-second gap and I had more than six seconds and I lost out massively. That’s motor racing. I just wasn’t good enough this weekend.” Hamilton has struggled throughout the weekend, despite being a previous winner of the Monaco Grand Prix in 2008. The disenchanted Hamilton evaluated, “To be honest it’s been since the first race – actually even in winter testing I was struggling. Even in the first few races, but particularly the last three have been pretty poor, but this weekend was one of the toughest for me so far.” Rosberg’s experience at Mercedes seems to be worth more than Hamilton’s supposed expertise. While he holds the high ground in the championship, Rosberg is quickly closing in.
Following an underwhelming Thursday, Red Bull made a good recovery during Saturday and Sunday, with both cars finishing on the podium. Sebastian Vettel finished in a strong second place and with his close rivals experiencing dismal afternoon’s, the German has stolen a 21 point lead in the championship. Sebastian said, “Overall I’m happy and pleased with the result, we know that it’s very difficult to overtake here. Congratulations to Nico, he did a very good job and had a very controlled race; I think he had the pace and the tyres to respond whenever we tried to get a little bit closer to him. I had a fantastic start, but there was no room! I think I could have gone past both Mercedes, but there was no space and I had to lift.” Reiterating the words of Team Principal, Christian Horner, Vettel acknowledged; “Congratulations to everyone and thanks to all our partners – two cars on the podium is very good.” Sebastian’s consistency has given him a strong foothold in the championship lead. Raikkonen and Alonso have been unable to show a similar level of performance at each and every race. While Raikkonen is currently challenging Micheal Schumacher’s record of consecutive points finishes, collecting minor points do not amount to a title challenge. Lotus need to find a formula where they can challenge for victory on each and every circuit, as Red Bull threaten to dominate this championship.
The mystery of the day came courtesy of a lackluster performance from Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard dropped to P7 and while many viewed his poor pace early on as a tyre preservation tactic, Fernando later suggested that his slow times were representative of a “lack of pace” shown by the F138. Undoubtedly, this is uncharacteristic of Ferrari, who have a tendency of turn a poor Saturday performance into strong points of Sunday. A disillusioned Alonso acknowledged, “With a bit of Perez’s car in our front-wing we lost a bit of aerodynamic performance in the last part of the race, but even in the first part of the race, when everything was normal, we just didn’t have the pace. We need to understand why it happened and when we are back to Canada then I hope that everything will be back to normal.” Ferrari’s dismal day was not abetted when Felipe Massa suffered an almost identical accident to the one he experienced in FP3. The Brazilian locked up into Ste. Devote, hitting the outside wall before sliding into the wall on the exit of the corner. The incident brought out the first safety car of the race and Felipe was taken to the medical center after complaining of “slight pains in the neck”.
After a weekend littered with accidents and incidents, Romain Grosjean has once again summoned his doubters following a clumsy accident which ended Daniel Ricciardo’s race and brought out the second safety car of the afternoon. As Ricciardo explained after the race, “I could see he got a good run out of Turn 8, just out of the tunnel. I could see he was close. From what I recall, I defended my line and the next thing I knew he was over the back of me. I don’t know if there’s anything I could have done differently but at the moment I see it as a misjudgment from him and obviously quite a costly one. It was quite dangerous. We’re both okay but it could have ended worse than it did. But it was already bad enough.” Consequently, Romain Grosjean has received a ten place grid penalty for the Canadian Grand Prix, perhaps with past discrepancies being taken into account. After crashing three times prior to the race, Grosjean was evidently under pressure. Considering that this season has been marked by Lotus as his last chance to succeed, the Frenchman has work to do if he is to redeem himself.
Meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen experienced a disappointing conclusion to a race which promised more than it delivered. Raikkonen ran for the majority of the race in a commendable P5, yet an incident with Sergio Perez curtailed his and the Mexican’s progress. Kimi had to return to the pits on lap 74 following a left rear puncture. After emerging in P13, he miraculously recovered to score a solitary point. Following the race, Kimi expressed his frustration at Sergio Perez’s uncontrolled aggression. “It was a really disappointing day. Because of one stupid move from Sergio Perez we’ve lost a lot of points to Sebastian Vettel in the Championship and you can’t afford to lose ground like that. He hit me from behind and that’s about all there is to it. If he thinks it’s my fault that he came into the corner too fast then he obviously has no idea what he’s talking about. It’s not the first time he’s hit someone in the race; he seems to expect people to be always looking at what he might do, then move over or go straight on if he comes into the corner too quick and isn’t going to make it without running into someone. Not the ideal weekend but there’s nothing we can do about it. At least we got one point back at the end.” Perez performed punchy overtakes throughout the race, passing both Button and Alonso at the nouvelle chicane. However, his attempt on Raikkonen was a step to far. It was a move which required commitment, yet the Mexican misjudged what was capable.
In-between the two safety car periods was a brief Red Flag delay for an accident involving Pastor Maldonado and Max Chilton at Tabac. The Williams challenged the Marussia on the outside heading into the corner. However, Max failed to spot Pastor’s position alongside and consequently the two tangled, with Maldonado skidding straight into the tecpro barrier once his wind detached in spectacular fashion. The incident forced the race to be stopped as the barrier had almost blocked the entire circuit. Fortunately, the repairs required were simple, as the collision had not damaged the armco barrier. Max Chilton received a drive through penalty once the race restarted.
A disappointed, but unharmed Maldonado stated, “It was an unfortunate incident today with the Marussia car and the impact was quite big. Fortunately I am ok and the stewards took immediate action. We need to move on from a disappointing weekend but I’m looking forward to the next race in Canada, where we will be continuing to demonstrate the improvements in the car.” Meanwhile, Chilton acknowledged his responsibility for the accident; “I rejoined coming out of Turn 11 and the apex to Turn 12 was fast approaching. I was aware that someone was behind me but not alongside me. The stewards determined a drive-through penalty for me and I accept that decision. After the race I went to see Pastor to check he was okay. The incident made for a difficult rest of the race but all I could do was concentrate on the best result for the Team and, problems aside, I think we have to be pleased with the end result.” His finishing position of P14 is a career high and demonstrates what is possible around the streets of Monaco for the smaller teams.
Mercedes along with Pirelli have work to do to redeem their reputation within the paddock. However, the “tyre-test gate” will not deter Nico Rosberg from his celebrations.after his triumph at the principality.