The Grand Prix of Monaco is a race that every driver wants to win, not just because its one of the oldest and the most glamorous Grand Prix events, but because when you win around the streets of Monaco your stock as a driver goes way up, for the single reason that you have to be inch perfect everywhere for every lap. Here’s what I am liking … and also not liking for the top ten drivers and their teams after the Monaco Grand Prix.
Petronas Mercedes AMG – Nico Rosberg 1st, Lewis Hamilton 2nd
In a race that nine of the last ten times has been won by the driver that started on pole, the real story of Monaco took place the day prior to the race. I am referring to the all-important qualifying session on Saturday. In what might be the beginning of an all-out war between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg locked up and caused a yellow flag while both drivers were on hot laps in the final part of qualifying (Q3), which in turn forced Hamilton to abort his lap and any chance at pole position.
At this point of the session Rosberg had provisional pole and this is how it stayed since the clock ran out under the yellow flag. The stewards and the FIA immediately scrutinized Rosberg’s actions for several hours; they ended up clearing Rosberg of any wrongdoing and thus his pole allowed to stand.
This conclusion did not convince his teammate and after the session Hamilton’s body language said it all. Cold as ice is how I would describe the Briton’s demeanor and the comments Hamilton made to the press had a subtext that bordered on threatening.
This was a completely different Lewis Hamilton. Gone were the smiles that categorized the last four races in which Hamilton has come out on top. I don’t think anyone was expecting Hamilton to deliberately compromise Rosberg’s race, but this is Monaco and only the slightest mistake can be catastrophic for a driver and the drivers around him.
On Sunday the two Merc boys line up, lights go out and thankfully there are no incidents into the first turn insofar as the our two leaders are concerned. Rosberg and Hamilton go into St. Devote, one and two and nose to tail and that is how they came out. And that is how it was to stay for the entire race.
The only real opportunity for Hamilton to pass Rosberg was in the pit stop rotation but due to Adrian Sutil’s accident on lap twenty-five that didn’t happen since the team called in both drivers to be serviced at that time.
Just a few words about Rosberg and his driving on Sunday. It was perfect in every way. There was no sense of urgency; there was no over-driving the car. Rosberg looked calm and relaxed and did not let the specter of anyone behind him, including his teammate, force him into any errors. This was the kind of drive that sets you apart from everyone else.
For Hamilton’s part, his fate was sealed the day before and second place was what he had to settle for, although in the final ten laps or so he fell into the clutches of Daniel Ricciardo and looked like he was about to lose the position. It will be a very long two weeks for Hamilton, and my guess is he will be chomping at the bit to get back in the car and put the visor down (something in his eye or not) and I can’t wait to see it either.
Red Bull Renault – Daniel Ricciardo 3rd, Sebastian Vettel DNF
This is starting to be a regular thing isn’t it? Daniel Ricciardo on the podium and Sebastian Vettel, not. In fact, not only was Vettel not on the podium he was not even in the race after lap five. This is shaping up to be one difficult and frustrating season for the four-time world champ.
This year just keeps getting better for the young Aussie though; his stock is going up and up. While the Red Bull number one, oops, I mean number two, did not have the best of starts (he lost positions to both Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel) he more than made up for it with the drive he put in and almost had a go at Hamilton for the second step of the podium.
I floated this idea earlier in the season — could it actually come to pass that Ricciardo will finish ahead of Vettel come year’s end? That would raise a few eyebrows and provide anyone with a computer plenty to write about ;-)
According to C. Horner, Vettel got his mojo back before this race, and that was the way it looked after the start and the first lap. Vettel gained a position on his teammate and had he stayed in the race he likely would have been on the podium. But instead a faulty turbo unit put an end to the wunderkid’s day and will raise doubts for future races as to whether or not all the reliability issues have truly been sorted out for the RB10.
I am not sure what is being said behind closed doors at Red Bull, maybe Vettel is throwing tantrums or calling out the staff for the continued problems with his race car, (and who could blame him) but I will say this about: Vettel is taking it quite well in public and giving his younger teammate props for the job that he is doing thus far. I am impressed he has not lost his head.
Scuderia Ferrari – Fernando Alonso 4th, Kimi Raikkonen 12th + 1 lap
In case you are not keeping score, I am. Fernando Alonso (6) Kimi Raikkonen (0). That is the count as far as who has the better results now that the first third of the season is in the record books.
As usual Alonso found a way past his teammate, but it is important to know this was not necessarily due to his driving (not this time) instead Raikkonen was the victim of a puncture from the Marussia of Max Chilton on the track which caused the Finn an extra pit stop.
It’s a shame because Raikkonen had a brilliant start and was in P3 after the first turn. As with Vettel, if Kimi had stayed in the race a podium was a real possibility. It would have been a much-needed result for the Finn and real boost for the team as far as constructor points are concerned.
One last note on Alonso vs. Raikkonen. Over the race weekend the Spaniard was faster in all three practice sessions, qualified almost seven-tenths up on his teammate and had he not been blocked by a slow-starting Daniel Ricciardo, probably would have been the one in P3 going into the race’s only pit stops. So in a roundabout way, Alonso finishing in front of Raikkonen is the correct outcome, irrespective of other factors.
Sahara Force India Mercedes – Nico Hulkenberg 5th, Sergio Perez DNF
With this Monaco finish, the other Nico moves ahead of Sebastian Vettel and into fifth in the drivers’ standings. Hulkenberg continues to race well, drive error-free and bring home points for the team, which I am liking.
I was hoping for a bit more from Force India at this track based on some early season outings where the white, black, green and orange cars looked truly fast, but now it seems like that was due to the other cars around them not quite being up to speed, mainly Ferrari.
In Canada, Force India should enjoy a good speed advantage so Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez will be closer to the cars in front of them and in the case of the Ferraris possibly in front, which for personal reasons I’m not liking. Lol…
McLaren Mercedes – Jenson Button 6th, Kevin Magnussen 10th
World champion Jenson Button must be asking himself, “What the hell happened? What happened to my next championship, to McLaren, to me winning with one of the most successful racing organizations in the known universe?”
Beyond all logic, Ron Dennis’s team that he built with his own blood, sweat and tears is yet again going to have a year to forget. At least that’s the way it looks right now. McLaren have had one and only one good race. It was all the way back in March. Do you remember it? It was the first one of the season, when young Kevin Magnussen finished third and was promoted to second and Jenson Button finished third, also a result of being moved up a position.
For both drivers, Monaco yielded a top ten finish, but when your car is a McLaren top ten is where all the other guys finish. When your car is a McLaren, top three is where you’re supposed to be if history is anything to go by.
McLaren need to do something and they need to do it in a hurry and I am not referring to the prize money at the end of the season. I am referring to saving face; it’s McLaren for chrissake…
Martini Williams Racing – Felipe Massa 7th, Valtteri Bottas DNF
Felipe Massa finished a respectable seventh. He stayed out during the safety car period that fell right in the pit window for a one-stopper. Considering that the Brazilian started in sixteenth, it was a well-driven race. Had any of the cars in front of Daniel, Alonso, the Hulk or Button encountered even the slightest hiccup, Massa would have been in the catbird seat. Well done to bring home important points.
In regards to the third winningest team in F1, their season so far has not been the start that I was expecting but they are steadily making progress.
What I am liking is that Williams have finished with at least one car in the top ten in every race and fifty percent of the time both cars have been in the top ten, commonly right around the seventh and eighth spot. This is a vast improvement over the results of last year.
If we are to be honest about Williams and 2013 it was quite possibly one on the worst seasons the team has ever had to endure. It most certainly was the worst I can remember since I have been following F1 in a serious manner.
What I do not like about the year so far in regards to Martini Williams Racing is that the team has just not put it all together over the race weekend. I am going to give them until the summer break. They have two fast and capable drivers, the team knows how to win, and there is a Merc PU in the boot. Are you hearing what I’m saying Williams? No more excuses, it is time to step up and convert all of these assets into a podium. The time is now, people!
Lotus Renault – Romain Grosjean 8th, Pastor Maldonado DNF 0 laps
I am quoting right from the Lotus F1 website, “After a dramatic and event fueled race, Romain Grosjean took the checkered flag for his first time in the Monaco Grand Prix with a gritty drive to eighth in the final classification. Bad luck saw Romain hit from behind on the first lap, damaging a wheel rim that necessitated an early pit stop, however he gradually worked his way up the order and into the points. Pastor Maldonado experienced a fuel supply issue with his E22 on the grid and was unable to make the race start.”
I am not sure, but is that to say Grosjean has never finished a Monaco GP as an F1 driver? If so then one concludes this was a fantastic result, the only problem is, it’s for eighth. However, I suppose taking into account where this team was just a few races ago, any finish is a very positive sign. And the further good news is, there are plenty of races left to bring home good points for the all important constructors race.
I recently watched Peter Windsor’s Racer’s Edge where he gives an analysis of some of the drivers and their cars on Saturday morning practice via pictures taken at Casino Square corner. Based on this analysis, Windsor has no doubt the E22 is a fast car. Encouraging words if you ask me. Hopefully we can actually see that for ourselves as the seaseon progresses.
Marussia Ferrari – Jules Bianchi 9th, Max Chilton 14th (last)
Here are some of the headlines after the surprise result for the little team that is commonly fighting for the last places of a Grand Prix: “Marussia: A Fantastic Reward For All The Hard Work And Determination,” and Marussia Points Success Puts Pressure On Sauber,” or Bianchi: It Felt Like A Victory To Me.” Somewhere I also read that the two points they scored for eighth could be worth 30 million dollars come the end of the year. I am most definitely liking that for a team that is just fighting to stay on the grid week-in and week-out.
The driver that whom brought these two valuable home was Jules Bianchi, a Ferrari backed driver who’s last few outings yielded him a pair of eighteen place finishes, will be buoyed by this result and can hopefully build upon it in the upcoming races. That is not to say he will reach the top ten with the same kind of ease, remember Monaco is a very particular circuit and most definitely played its part in Bianchi’s result. However, look to the young gun to take this confidence builder and put the small team ahead of Caterham for the next few races.
Last year Marussia finished in front of Caterham so as of right now they are where they were last year. The next closest team is Toro Rosso with eight points to their credit. In terms of points on offer for the constructors’ championship those four points are a big gap considering the resources of both organizations. If Marussia wants to go one better this year, there is still quite a bit of work to be done.
The 72nd running of the Monaco Grand Prix, the Grandest Grand Prix of them all was more or less exactly the same as always. Not that much passing, some carnage, wealth that can only be imagined for most of us, actors, sexy woman and some Drama F1 style. I don’t think the results surprised anyone considering the W05’s win streak this season and how far it has been in front of the competition.
I don’t even think the falling apart of Mercedes duo Rosberg and Hamilton, friends or otherwise was that much of a surprise. Many have been predicting this would happen and it was just a question of when. That question has now been answered.
As of the writing of this post, about a week after the incident of qualifying and the race itself, Niki Lauda has inserted himself into the conversation (to calm everyone down presumably), Rosberg has maintained that he and Lewis are still friends and Hamilton has both escalated and his comments and then softened his comments in the press even going so far as to tweet, “We’re cool, still friends, #noproblem.”
Canada is up next and this is Lewis Hamilton’s race if history is anything to go by. Hamilton has won here three times in the past and my money is on him to do it again. What kind of backdrop will the weekend provide for these two drivers that have now dug in and will not give an inch? I can’t wait to find out…