Monaco Grand Prix

Ricciardo vs Hamilton and the fine margins of motorsport

In Spain, Mercedes’ mistake afforded Red Bull the opportunity to snatch victory. Just two weeks later it was Red Bull who, having dominated the weekend, made a costly error to allow Lewis Hamilton the opportunity to take his 44th race win.

Such is the speed at which fortunes can change in motorsport, pole sitter Daniel Ricciardo saw his maiden win at the Principality slip away, when a miscommunication between pit wall and garage saw him arrive in his pit-box, while his mechanics were still fumbling over which compound of slick tyres to fit.

Elation on Saturday became heartbreak on Sunday for the Aussie.

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Image Credit: Rachel Clarke (via Flickr) [CC-BY-NC-2.0]

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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.

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2015 Monaco Grand Prix: Saturday Analysis

It is quite remarkable that the driver billed to be the most naturally talented of his generation by many analysts, had never taken a pole position around F1’s most iconic circuit. However, Lewis Hamilton has addressed this oversight today, claiming a maiden Monaco pole position in style, recording two laps which were both good enough for top spot. Nico Rosberg seemed the favorite to win this particular act in the Mercedes inter-team scrap, as Lewis struggled through the opening two segments, but the German could not match his teammate in Q3, with his final attempt to usurp him scuppered by a lock-up into Sainte Devote. In the most important qualifying session of the year, it was Hamilton who hit the jackpot.

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2015 Monaco Grand Prix: Thursday Analysis

Not only on account of the fact that both FP1 and FP2 took place in the unique-to-Monaco spot of Thursday, but the track action itself made for a rather peculiar first day of running. The weekend in Monaco is a story of unrelenting track evolution, but the rubber laid down in today’s opening session was soon replaced by puddles, as FP2 was riddled by showers which kept the majority of drivers in the confines of the garage for a full hour. Rain, therefore, doing the work which is usually done by Thursday and Friday evening’s parties at Monaco’s social hotspots. Just like those enjoying the perks of attending this particular weekend, Lewis Hamilton will be sporting a smile heading into the heart of the weekend, as the Briton topped the timesheet’s in both of today’s sessions.

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2015 Monaco Grand Prix: Weekend Preview

Not just in the context of F1, but sport as a whole, the Monaco Grand Prix is a truly special event. The marquee race within the exclusive club of blue-ribbon venues. It is a huge challenge for drivers as they look to thread their cars in-between the famous barriers which punish the smallest of mistakes. With Nico Rosberg having won the previous two Monaco Grand Prix, he will bid to become only the fourth driver to win three consecutive races, following in the footsteps of Graham Hill, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. However, Lewis Hamilton will look to halt his teammate’s momentum and secure his fourth victory of the campaign, on the back of the confirmation of his contract extension.

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Grosjean’s Monaco Issues Dismissed

Following a truly shambolic weekend in Monaco, Eric Boullier has dismissed speculation that Romain Grosjean is beginning to devolve into the reckless driver he was just 12 months ago. His hideous misjudgment which ended Daniel Ricciardo’s race yesterday is yet another addition to the long list of incidents which have previously earned Grosjean the unsavory title of “Mr.Nutcase”.
His clumsy accident in yesterday’s race was dubbed a “misjudgment” by the unfortunate Ricciardo, yet Grosjean’s mistakes happen all too frequently. In a season which has been confirmed as his second and last chance, he is yet to repay Lotus for the faith they have shown in him. His ten-place grid penalty for causing the nasty collision will significantly hamper his Canadian Grand Prix weekend.
The impressive pace he displayed throughout practice is soon forgotten and talk of his accidents continues to steal the headlines. While Eric Boullier may feel apprehensive regarding the team’s decision to keep Grosjean for another season, he is not allowing the press to gauge his insecurities. Today, the Team Principal evaluated, “We will sit down with him and go through the weekend. It’s always the same story, especially in Monaco. He had the pace, we could see it. It’s even more frustrating because of that. Thursday’s accident didn’t help but it happens. The rest of the story went worse on Saturday morning. I think building up his frustration was Ricciardo who didn’t allow him to complete the Q2 like he should have done and being 13th on the grid just finishes the frustration. I think we just need to cool him down and have a proper discussion when we are back in the factory.” With Davide Valsecchi waiting in the wings, it is unsurprising that Romain is beginning to feel the pressure. If he wants to return to Monaco in a Lotus next season, the Frenchman needs to improve and seize his evident potential.  

Monaco Grand Prix: Race Analysis

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.