2015 Monaco Grand Prix: Race Analysis

Strategic Error Gifts Rosberg Third Monaco Win

Monaco has been the venue for many a memorable story-line since 1950. 12 months ago, Hamilton and Rosberg’s qualifying battle wrote the back page headlines but in 2015, it was the race which sparked debate. Lewis Hamilton controlled proceedings before a late Safety Car was called. In response, Mercedes decided to fit the option tyre to Hamilton’s car in an attempt to strengthen his grip on the top spot, however, a misinterpretation of the timing screens meant that the Briton fell behind Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel – a third position from which he was unable to improve. The inquest has begun following a costly and uncharacteristic blunder by a usually slick Mercedes outfit.

Mercedes Mistake

“Why” has been a buzz-word in the hours immediately after the race. Why did Mercedes pit Hamilton? The answer is, ultimately, a simple one – the team wanted to take the opportunity that the Safety Car provided to pit Hamilton and fit the faster option tyre. With his eighteen second lead eradicated in the circumstances, they considered the fact that he would face pressure from Rosberg and Vettel behind. However, on new tyres, his lead would be unobtainable to the opposition in the final exchanges.

The issue arises in the fact that Mercedes misjudged the margin that Hamilton had over second and third before the stop. Had the Virtual Safety Car not been overwritten almost instantaneously for the standard Safety Car, he could have performed the stop and emerged in the lead, with Rosberg and Vettel’s speed restricted, to a greater extent, on the pit straight. Combine this with the fact that the stop took four seconds to complete, with Hamilton being held in his pit box due to Felipe Nasr cruising past, the reason why Hamilton lost out to his rivals is clear.

The real mistake was made in regards to the fact that Mercedes even considered pitting at the time. Track position is integral at Monaco. Even if Ferrari had opted to pull Vettel into the pits and equip him with the stickiest rubber, it is unlikely that he could have mounted an assault against either Mercedes. This assertion was partially proven when Hamilton was unable to dispatch Vettel in the closing stages. Being on worn tyres for the final laps would not have been an issue for the man who had lead the entire race.

In my opinion, Mercedes over-complicated a race which was a simple one-stop, regardless of the circumstances which arose during the 78 laps.

Vettel’s Chance

One of the day’s more understated narratives was that of how Sebastian Vettel should have won the race. Mercedes’ strategic call made headlines, but had Ferrari reacted when Vettel closed to just eight tenths of Rosberg, the undercut could have worked. Instead, he stopped when the margin had increased to over 1.5 seconds, leaving too much work for the German to manage on his out-lap.

Ferrari are of course, partial to more information than any of us interested observers, but I cannot help but consider this a race in which Vettel could have taken the spoils. Nevertheless, second is an excellent return for a team who are still focusing on recording regular podiums and re-asserting themselves as potential race winners.

Points For McLaren

After five races of woe, McLaren Honda have finally reacquainted themselves with life in the top ten, with Jenson Button securing their first points of the season with a solid eighth place finish. The Briton was unlucky not to earn a spot in Q3 on Saturday after he was wrong footed by the Rosberg lock-up induced yellow flag. Four points for McLaren mean that they leave Manor Marussia as the only team yet to score a point in 2015 and have purchased a ticket to the midfield battle which is fiercely competitive.

“It is a very good day,” Button said when speaking to Sky Sports F1. “We are not going to be patting ourselves on the back too much after eighth place, but it is a good day for us in terms of we got the maximum out of what we had and the pace in the race didn’t seem too bad to the cars in front.”

A double points scoring finish was certainly a possibility for the team, as Fernando Alonso was forecast to finish at a similar time to Button, until another technical issue curtailed his race. It marked the third mechanical problem of the weekend for the Spaniard and demonstrates that McLaren may be improving their pace, but reliability continues to be a chasm in their package.

Conclusions

Driver of the Day

Carlos Sainz

Missing the weigh-bridge on Saturday meant that the Spaniard was demoted to the pit-lane – the worst place to start and the worst track in which to start there at. From P20, he battled well in the opening stint before making an early stop and completing 64 laps on one set of the prime compound tyre, allowing him to secure a point. Albeit assisted by Max Verstappen and Romain Grosjean’s collision, Sainz made a rather audacious strategy work to good effect.

Overtake of the Day

VERSTAPPEN vs Maldonado

His second attempt at an overtake on a Lotus may have ended in disaster, but the first of the day will have given him the belief that overtaking cleanly at Monaco is in fact possible. Using the DRS, Max managed to move to the inside of Maldonado at Sainte Devote and while the Venezuelan stood firm on the outside line, the 17-year-old was not about to be intimidated.

Team of the Weekend

Red Bull

After a start to 2015 filled with trials and tribulations, Red Bull had a much better weekend in Monaco. With Williams failing to score a single point, the 22 point haul courtesy of a fourth for Daniil Kvyat and fifth for Daniel Ricciardo has made the championship picture look far more appealing for Red Bull fans. P4 also marked Kvyat’s best result in the sport and after taking just five points from the opening five rounds, the Russian was in need to a solid weekend, which he duly delivered.

Race Result

1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
4 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
7 Sergio Perez Force India
8 Jenson Button McLaren
9 Felipe Nasr Sauber
10 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India
12 Romain Grosjean Lotus
13 Marcus Ericsson Sauber
14 Valtteri Bottas Williams
15 Felipe Massa Williams
16 Roberto Merhi Manor
17 Will Stevens Manor

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