Monaco Grand Prix: Rosberg Vs Hamilton

The Monaco Grand Prix went a full sixty seconds before the first of two safety cars deployed throughout the race. Nico Rosberg got his clean getaway from pole to take home the win for the second consecutive year. Lewis Hamilton fought to keep the pressure on his teammate until “something in his eye” affected his vision and lap times. Hamilton finished a very sulky second, just ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. At lights out, Rosberg was quick off the line, though arguably the best start was from Kimi Raikkonen. Raikkonen, from P6, slipped passed his teammate (who’d swerved to avoid the Red Bulls), and passed Sebastian Vettel on the exit St Devote. Further back on the grid, Kevin Magnussen had made it passed both the Toro Rossos before the first corner. The race was brought back a notch when Perez’s and Button’s cars kissed at Mirabeau, bringing out the safety car.

Mercedes continue to collect both drivers and constructors points. Though while the constructors lead lengthens, the battle for the drivers championship is becoming somewhat tense… After Rosberg was cleared of any wrong doing by the stewards for causing yellow flags in qualifying, the German went on to take the chequered flag, though not without pressure. Rosberg spent most of the race with his teammate closely visible in his mirrors. Clearly pushing hard to guard his lead, Rosberg could be seen locking his front tyres throughout the circuit. As the race progressed, things calmed down a little, only having to contend with lapping the back markers (and then the rest of the field…). Lewis made it painfully clear that he wasn’t happy with his second place finish, the feedback from his engineers, the temperature in his rear tyres, or really anything in the race. Despite the seemingly endless complaints and concerns being voiced over team radio, the former world champion kept close of the tail of his teammate until the final stages of the race when something in his eye affected his vision, causing the Mercedes to back off. Possibly Hamilton was running with the logic of “If I can’t see Rosberg take the lead in the championship, it didn’t happen”, but who knows.

Daniel Ricciardo was somewhat modest in his explanation of his third place finish, claiming that he inherited the position after his teammate’s retirement and Raikkonen’s puncture. This is just modesty. Though the Australian didn’t have the quickest getaway off the line, Ricciardo more than earned his podium finish. Ricciardo kept close on the tail of Raikkonen before the second safety car, laying a rather bold attempt for position on the Finn at Casino Square. He did eventually gain his position when Raikkonen pit again, though the Red Bull driver patiently waited, conserving his tyres, to put himself in the best position to challenge to Mercedes. Once Hamilton started to back away from Rosberg, Ricciardo quickly closed in, under his own improving lap times rather than Hamilton’s easing off. Given another few corners, the Australian may have been able to squeeze up to P2. Though for today, he seemed quite happy with P3. When it comes down to it, Ricciardo was also one of only four Renault engines to even finish the race. Sebastian Vettel only made it as far as lap 8. Once the safety car peeled away, the German fell from P3 to P20 within a lap. The RB10 had no power, limping back to the pits. On his exit, he was stuck in first gear. When he eventually found the rest of his gearbox, it was only to coast back to the garage to retire.

Fernando Alonso drove almost anonymously throughout the race, spending most of the race a healthy seven seconds behind Ricciardo, and half a lap in front of Hulkenberg. Eventually Alonso cruised home to finish P4. Kimi Raikkonen’s race was far from anonymous. Following his sneaky move up to P3 at lights out, his race was looking strong. The Finn demonstrated his balance of offensive and defensive driving skills to keep Ricciardo in his mirrors before Sutil brought out the second safety car. It was during the second safety car period that Raikkonen’s race really livened up. The Ferrari, having already made one visit to the pits during the SC, darted in for a second time after being hit by Marussia’s Max Chilton. The second stop pushed Kimi to the back end of the grid behind Kobayashi. After a failed attempt to pass the Caterham at the Nouvelle Chicane, the Finn eventually made it passed the Japanese driver to close in on Gutierrez. Though he didn’t overtake the Sauber, it required some very quick braking on Kimi’s part not to get caught up in a tangle with Gutierrez. After what was an impressive opening stint, and fight back for position, it all went a bit pear shaped for the Ferrari in the final laps after making contact with Magnussen at the hairpin. The contact saw Kimi drop back and finish P12.

Nico Hulkenberg delivered a very strong performance following what was a rather challenging qualifying. On lap 33, Hulkenberg executed a startlingly skilful move on Kevin Magnussen at Portier to take P4 on the entry to the tunnel. The Force India driver kept the car competitive with a 1-stop strategy, and making up 6 places to eventually finish P5. It was Sergio Perez’s shortest race of the season after being involved in an incident with Jensen Button at Mirabeau on the opening lap. The Mexican is notorious for being a little too eager on the streets of Monaco (Kimi vs. Perez 2013), and possibly didn’t leave enough room for the two of them to take the corner safely. Button clipped Perez, sending the VJM07 into the barriers.

Jensen Button left it to the final laps to really start his race. Starting a rather uncompetitive P12, Button’s 1 stop strategy played well into the appearance of the safety cars and retirements from the race. Biding his time, the Brit moved in on his teammate from P7 until lap 74, overtaking Magnussen on the exit of St Devote. Kevin Magnussen got off to a strong start, initially gaining two places from the Toro Rossos, though his race became rather scrappy towards the end. During the second safety car, Magnussen prematurely overtook an unsuspecting Vergne before crossing the last safety car line. Magnussen was unable to give the position back because Hulkenberg soon passed him. After being passed by his teammate, Magnussen was involved in a collision with Raikkonen at the hairpin, holding up the rest of the field. Eventually the Dane made it home in one piece to finish P10.

Giving Williams something to celebrate for, Felipe Massa turned his luck around on the Monaco streets with one of his best drives of the season. Somehow the Brazilian maintained his super soft tyres through two-safety car, and 45 laps before eventually coming in to swap for the soft compound tyres. The strategy allowed Massa to move up to P4 before his stop, putting him back out in P11 when he re-entered the field. On fresher tyres, the Williams driver closed in quickly on Raikkonen’s Ferrari to challenge for position. Unfortunately, Felipe didn’t make it passed Raikkonen, though he did make up places to finish P7. Valtteri Bottas closed the gap for the second half of the field, as his FW36 became to lose pace. The Finn created a train behind him of Gutierrez, Raikkonen and Massa. On lap 57, Bottas’ engine had had enough, and he limped back to the pit to retire.

Romain Grosjean is becoming rather experienced at becoming the sole points scorer for the Lotus team. The Frenchman, starting from P14, put in a good drive, keeping the E22 on track until the chequered flag (as mentioned earlier, one of only four Renault cars to do so). Grosjean, on a two-stop strategy with the safety cars, maintained his competitive pace to finish inside the points in P8. Pastor Maldonado couldn’t get his E22 off the grid for the formation lap, and never made it out of the pit to start the race. Maldonado’s failure to start has been put down to a suspected fuel-system issue. Disappointment for the team, though given the Venezuelan’s history at the circuit, probably safer for the rest of the field.

Jules Bianchi scored Marussia’s first ever Formula 1 World Championship point, and he even collected two of them finishing P9. Besides staying out of trouble with the barriers and the rest of the field, Bianchi made a confident move on Kobayashi at La Rascasse to move up to P12. The Frenchman also served two penalties throughout the race, firstly for being out of position on the starting grid, and a second 5-second penalty for serving the first one under the safety car period. Following the retirements, Bianchi eventually moved in to the points. Max Chilton was more involved in the action than we’re used to seeing. Though he still finished last in P14.

Marcus Ericsson briefly looked as though he might too, finish inside the points, though Kimi and Magnussen’s traffic jam at the hairpin put Caterham’s hopes of a point to finish. Ericsson crossed the line P11. Kobayashi, like Alonso, raced quietly at Monaco. The Japanese driver found stability in his CT05, though lacked the pace to finish anywhere other than P13.

An impressive race for Esteban Gutierrez came to an end of lap 61. Throughout the race, Gutierrez in the Sauber had made up 8 places, running on a one stop. The safety car for Perez and Sutil certainly played well into his hands for tyre wear, though the issues to keep heat in the tyres that plagued the team in qualifying seemingly disappeared. In the final stages of the race, the Mexican clipped his right rear at La Rascasse while on the tail of Kimi Raikkonen. Gutierrez put his C33 in a spin, and became the final retirement of the race. One of the most debonair drivers at the Circuit de Monaco, Adrian Sutil executed some pretty ballsy overtakes* before meeting with the barriers on lap 25. Sutil, channelling his karting days, got up on the kerbs at the hairpin to take P16 from Grosjean. The move was a little messy, but extremely opportunistic (which as it happens is a prerequisite for any overtaking attempt in Monaco). A few laps later, Sutil out broke the Marussia of Max Chilton on the entry to the Nouvelle Chicane, moving up to P15. It came to an end for the Sauber driver on lap 25 when the C33 lost traction over the bumps on the exit of the tunnel, kissing the barrier and losing the front wing. Sutil’s retirement brought out the second and final safety car.

Jean-Eric Vergne’s race went from bad to worse following the second appearance of the safety car. The Frenchman was handed a drive through penalty for an unsafe release on Magnussen during the safety car period, which nearly saw the STR9 remove the McLaren’s front wing. Vergne held P7 upon the race resume, and until he served his penalty on lap 38. His race went a little sour from here, clipping the back of Bianchi’s MR03 losing from front wing, only to retire lap 53 with engine problems. Daniil Kvyat’s first visit to Monaco can only be described as brief, but impressive. After a difficult qualifying, the Russian rookie retired lap 13 with a loss of power and a very ill sounding STR9.

True to form, the Monaco Grand Prix was littered with excitement (and debris), with the action carrying through until the final moments. Though Ricciardo didn’t quite make it to the top step of the podium, he was still up there, which is always nice to see. The next round of the championship takes place at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Canada. A rather hard act to follow from Monaco, but who knows, maybe something will happen this year… Until then, bonne nuit.

– Alex

* Yes, that is the technical term.

Qualifying Pole Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
Podium Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull Racing)
Fastest Lap 1:18.479 Kimi Raikkonen (Scuderia Ferrari)
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