Red Bull dominated the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix, with pole sitter and race winner Mark Webber getting a great start. Nico Rosberg slotted into second behind Webber at the start and would essentially remain second through the entire race. Pit strategy allowed Sebastian Vettel to hold the lead as earlier stoppers shuffled behind him until his first and only late pit stop. The German would finish the race in fourth, close behind Fernando Alonso and ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
Sixth place starter Alonso had moved up at the start despite some contact with Romain Grosjean, who crashed into the first turn after contact with Michael Schumacher. That brought out a Safety Car. Despite a lack of forecast rain, tyre strategy and late wet conditions brought drama to the streets of Monaco, with Michael Schumacher forced to retire with just over ten laps remaining, and Kimi Raikkonen finishing ninth. The final ten laps were nail-biting ones, as light rain began to fall, and Webber stacked up the top six to be covered by just five seconds as the final lap began.
Though Schumacher (1:14.301) set the fastest lap time at the end of Q3 in Saturday’s qualifying session, Webber (1:14.381) started the race on pole. The German lost his first place grid position due to a five-place penalty imposed after the Spanish Grand Prix two weeks ago when Schumacher ran into the back of Bruno Senna early in that race. That moved third fastest qualifier Rosberg up to the front row, allowing Hamilton and Grosjean to complete the second row, and dropping Schumacher back to start alongside Alonso on row three.
Qualifying was itself eventful, with a red flag in Q1 for an incident by Perez, Button getting knocked out in Q2 as Raikkonen moved forward by the skin of his teeth, and multiple drivers holding pole in the final seconds after the flag fell to end Q3. Sunday morning, Perez also received a five-place penalty for a gearbox change, putting he and Maldonado together on the final row. Massa, Raikkonen, Vettel, and Hulkenberg completed the top ten starters for the race.
The three practice sessions might not have been as eventful, but the certainly held promise. Alonso (1:16.265) took first blood by leading the Thursday morning session over Grosjean, Perez, Hamilton, and Maldonado under the sunny skies of Monaco. The heavens opened only slightly for the afternoon practice, which Button (1:15.746) led.
There was rain enough only to dampen and further add to the typical slipperiness of the streets, leading to fast times set in the first fifteen minutes of the practice. That session also ended early, after Kovalainen caused a red flag by spewing oil through the tunnel as the engine on his Caterham let go in the final ten minutes of practice. Grosjean, Massa, Alonso, and Maldonado completed the fastest five that afternoon, continuing to show the fast pace of the Lotus as well as a seriously committed Massa at Monaco.
The rails came off for Maldonado in the final practice Saturday morning. The most recent race winner of 2012 ended the session early for everyone after smashing into the barriers at Casino Square and losing a wheel. His behavior before the incident made things more difficult for the Venezuelan. A few turns earlier, Maldonado went around Perez in the typical Monaco traffic, only to seemingly deliberately turn into the Mexican in retribution for holding him up.
Though Maldonado later claimed it was purely an accident, the stewards gave him a ten-place grid penalty for this weekend’s race, for causing a collision. He would later move back another five positions for a gearbox change between quali and the race. Rosberg (1:15.159) set the fastest lap in the latter half of that practice session, leading Massa, Vettel, Alonso, and Grosjean at the end.
Final Positions, 2012 Monaco Grand Prix:
Driver Team Gap Pit 1. Mark Webber Red Bull 0.6 1 2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 0.9 1 3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1.3 1 4. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 4.1 1 5. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 6.1 1 6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 41.5 1 7. Paul Di Resta Force India 42.5 1 8. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 44.0 1 9. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 44.5 1 10. Bruno Senna Williams 1 Lap 1 11. Sergio Perez Sauber 1 Lap 2 12. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1 Lap 2 13. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1 Lap 2 14. Timo Glock Marussia 1 Lap 2 15. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 2 Laps 2 Jenson Button McLaren 8 Laps 1 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 13 Laps 2 Chrles Pic Marussia 14 Laps 1 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 15 Laps 2 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 63 Laps 2 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 73 Laps 2 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1 Pastor Maldonado Williams Romain Grosjean Lotus