There isn’t much of a strategy to go over, as Monaco is very limiting in that area, but the race did throw out some surprises primarily in the form of Mercedes’ tire wear, Mclaren’s improved form, Kimi Raikkonen’s crazy day and Ferrari’s rather subdued performance.
We all knew going into the race that Mercedes had a great chance of winning the race, but there was a nagging suspicion that Red Bull, particularly Sebastian Vettel, might just have enough to pull off an upset. In the end, Nico Rosberg was untouchable. In true Vettel style, the Mercedes driver made a lightning start, coming under slight pressure from teammate, Lewis Hamilton, and then pulling away to get out of DRS range. It’s a strategy that works brilliantly in Monaco where track position is at a premium. Once safely in the lead, Nico never looked back. At least until the first safety car.
The race itself was rather disjointed, with two safety cars and a red flag ruining the all-important groove in which one must immerse themselves to succeed in Monaco. Nevertheless, Nico’s confidence in his car was all he needed to take home a well-deserved home win. Leading every lap, just as his father did 30 years ago, was also a pleasant tonic to what has been a very rough start to the season.
Mclaren was keeping its hopes up before the race. The disappointing result in qualifying put the team in a powerless mindset, and both drivers expected to have hard days on Sunday. Their competitiveness in the race was a relief, with both drivers making up places at the start. Sergio continued his newfound aggressiveness throughout the race, as he hounded Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and his teammate for position. Most of these moves ended with the Mexican cutting the chicane at the exit of the tunnel, thus requiring him to give the place back, that is if he had completed the pass. Some of his moves were much less than perfect, though. He got himself squeezed into the barrier out of the tunnel by Raikkonen, taking off significant parts of his front wing. Previous moves on Fernando and Jenson were messy to say the least, with the former resulting in Fernando having to cut the chicane himself.
After he lost most of his front wing in the closing laps, Sergio was significantly off the pace. The train that developed behind him was a smorgasbord action, with Jenson getting past Fernando and Adrian Sutil snatching a top-5 position. Sergio eventually had to retire from the race, as the lack of grip resulting from his knocks put him in a bad way. Button eventually came home in 6th, salvaging some of the points Sergio lost for the team in his overzealous driving.
Kimi Raikkonen was in the mix for most of the race, but was taken out of contention by the aforementioned Mclaren driver who made contact with the back of the Lotus in his attempt to overtake. Kimi was relegated back to the pits for a tire change. When he emerged, he let rip a blinding streak of fast laps; enough, actually, to elevate him from 14th to 10th by the flag. This is not the result he was hoping for when, in reality, he was in the fight for the podium. Nevertheless, he was able to keep his points-scoring streak alive, and now lies only one race away from tying Michael Schumacher’s record of 24 races in the points.
For his teammate, Romain Grosjean, things were even worse. His unfortunate situation in qualifying which left him in 13th was out of his control, but left him on the back foot for the race. He never really showed any signs of forward progress, that is until he attempted to pass Daniel Ricciardo. He was right on the Toro Rosso driver’s gearbox coming out of the tunnel, but got his braking all wrong and speared the back of the car violently, taking them both immediately out of the race. This was a poor showing from a driver who desperately needs to revive his reputation. What a difference two races makes.
Ferrari and Fernando Alosno were also in contention for a decent amount of points, but a relative lack of pace in the race saw the two time champion lose ground to the two Mclarens and the Force India of Adrian Sutil. Fernando was at a loss to explain why the Ferrari was less competitive in the race, as practice suggested they would be in the hunt on Sunday. Regardless of this disappointment, the team’s day was really ruined when Fernando had to give back a place to Sergio Perez at the conclusion of the Red Flag period. This was a result of a poor pass by the Mexican on Fernando that resulted in the latter having to cut the chicane at the exit of the tunnel. The stewards deemed the Spaniard had gained an advantage, thus requiring him to concede the position.
Some honorable mentions go to Paul di Resta for finishing 9th after starting 18th and Jean Eric Vergne, who backed up his qualifying pace to take home solid points.
It was an action-packed procession, if there ever was one, and it proved that while Mercedes may have found their mojo this weekend, there is nothing to suggest it should stay.
Look out for “Monaco: The Aftermath” over the next couple of days, where I take a look at the implications of the Monaco Grand Prix and what they hold for the race ahead in Canada.