Brought to you by TheJudge13 ‘on track correspondent’: James Parker
Rosberg triumphs in Monaco
Nico Rosberg claimed an impressive victory in the Principality to win his and Mercedes first Grand Prix of the season. At a circuit that was considered Mercedes’ best chance of victory, the German made no mistake on his way to the win. Fighting off three safety cars, a red flag and a constant challenge from the chasing pack, it was very much a “champions” drive under intense pressure.
Rounding off the podium were the two Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber, the former extending his championship lead to 21 points over a disappointed Kimi Raikkonen – but there is still a lot of controversy over the alledged “secret” Mercedes test post race which is currently being investigated by the FIA.
Monaco has never been famous for blistering starts, and it was very much follow the leader going into Turn 1 – Vettel having an exceptional start but simply had nowhere to go and held station in 3rd behind the Mercedes duo. Lowes hairpin was where the carnage ensued, firstly with Sutil tapping Button and losing part of his front wing end fence, followed by a collision between Gio Van Der Garde and Pastor Maldonado who both lost nose cones.
The two McLaren’s were exceptionally close on track, and Perez seized his opportunity to slide past Button for 7th, only to overshoot the chicane – but hold position in front of the latter. This prompted Button to get on the radio to the pitwall and ask what exactly was going on resulting Perez let his team-mate back past for 7th place.
The early laps calmed down, until the Caterham of Charles Pic grounded to a halt at the Rascasse hairpin. A seized gearbox was the cause which was followed by a fire. Sift action from the marshals averted a safety car.
Upfront, both Mercedes cars were only 1.5 seconds apart, with the top 10 only covered by just over 10 seconds, with two stops out of the question due to the lack of field spread – the whole paddock was staring down the barrel of a 1 stop race.
Pitstops Come And Go
The first pit stops for the front runners came on lap 26 with Mark Webber lighting the fuse after a gap emerged between the Sauber of Hulkenberg and the Williams of Bottas. Raikkonen followed Webber, the former responding to Webber while the latter was trying to undercut his team mate Vettel.
The next 5 laps then erupted into a pitstop frenzy. Hulkenberg pitted on lap 28 with Alonso to go on to the more durable softer compound, and the Spaniard emerged behind both Webber and Raikkonen once again in a provisional 6th place – running longer in clean air for 3 laps was not enough for the Ferrari man.
Perez and Jean Eric Vergne were next on lap 30 with both of them choosing the soft compound tyre. Vettel, who had opted to run longer with the Mercedes duo pitted on lap 31, also on to the soft tyre, and emerged ahead of Webber and Raikkonen.
But drama was to come. After getting passed at turn 1 on lap 26 by Paul Di Resta, Felipe Massa had a nasty accident at the exact same location on lap 31, triggering the first safety car of both the race and the 2013 F1 season. Almost identical to the incident he suffered in FP3 only 1 day earlier, the Brazilian was taken off to hospital for compulsory checks.
The timing of the safety car could not have worked out better for Mercedes however. They were already half way through the lap when Bernd Maylander picked up the leading Redbull of Sebastian Vettel, who had just made his pitstop.
Rosberg drove to the required delta, came in for his stop on lap 31 and rejoined ahead of the RedBulls, who had both been waved through with the rest of the field so the safety car could pick up the leading Mercedes.
However Hamilton, who was travelling directly behind Rosberg on the road, was far too slow in the final sector of the in lap compared to his team-mate – almost crawling around Rascasse. Instead of stacking behind Rosberg, Hamilton came in some 7-8 seconds behind and therefore when he emerged from his stop it was behind the Red Bull duo of Vettel and Webber. The rest of the pack behind remained static.
Mid Race Developments
The safety car came in on lap 39 to release the field after 8 laps with no more scheduled stops needed by the top 10.
A lot of drivers, most notably Raikkonen and Webber, were struggling to get the soft compound tyre up to temperature again after the restart. Webber enjoyed the attention of a racy Hamilton for 3rd while the Raikkonen was getting harried by Alonso behind for 5th.
Sergio Perez in the McLaren pulled off what could be the overtake of the race on lap 42. After his earlier failed excursion into the chicane, the Mexican made no mistake second time round – coming from a long way back to overtake Button for 7th.
This was then followed up a lap later by an almost identical attempt by Perez, on Alonso this time, shoving his nose up the inside of the Ferrari. Alonso however tried to hold his line but was forced to cut the chicane in order to avoid an accident and hold position – unfairly in the opinion of both the McLaren pitwall and race director Charlie Whiting.
As always with Monaco, the pack calmed down for several laps, but that all changed on lap 46 when Pastor Maldonado was hurtled into the barriers at Tabac by the Marussia of Max Chilton.
The young Brit did not see the Williams on his outside and contact was made when he inevitably moved across to take the racing line. The Williams was left stranded in the middle of the race track with the crash barriers wrapped around his car. With the track partially blocked the decision was made to red flag the race.
The Sprint To The Finish
25 minutes passed before the race got underway once again. With a tyre change being allowed under red flag conditions, all drivers except for Raikkonen, Hulkenberg and Chilton opted for a used set of super softs with a lightening fuel load, deciding to stick with soft compound tyres.
Di Resta in 11th gained the most with the safety car as he pitted on lap 9 for fresh rubber and his tyres were critical on wear rates.
The race was restarted with the safety car leading the pack, and it gave the opportunity for Alonso to exchange places with Perez – as was requested by the FIA due to their earlier incident at the chicane.
The safety car peeled off on lap 48 with 30 lapes to go. Numerous drivers were looking quite feisty; Adrian Sutil was definitely a man on the move. On lap 52, he seized his opportunity to take 8th off Button with a fantastic move into Lowes Hairpin.
He then followed it up with an identical pass on Alonso 5 laps later to take 7th behind Raikkonen and Perez and had his sights firmly on a potential 5th place finish.
Monaco was not finished in terms of drama however. Firstly on lap 61, Bianchi made a similar mistake to Massa, locking up his front right wheel and crashed heavily into turn 1. But it only remained a sub plot to two big incidents further up the field.
A 3rd safety car of the day was triggered on lap 63, when Grosjean decided to climb over the back of Ricciardo after he missed his brake point for the Nouvelle chicane, causing a lot of debris to scatter across the track and forcing both to retire.
The safety car period lasted 2 laps, and the pack was once again released with Rosberg controlling the pace at the front beautifully.
On lap 71 Perez, who had looked punchy all race going into the downhill Nouvelle chicane, tried to get his McLaren’s nose up the inside of Raikkonen. The Lotus man closed the door and, with Perez committed, contact became inevitable as the Mexican could not get it slowed down in time. Raikkonen forced Perez’s McLaren into the barrier resulting in both front wing and suspension damage.
Raikkonen was in trouble though, suffering a left rear puncture from the contact he limped back to the pits – rejoining in 16th place. In the mayhem caused immediately behind, Button saw his chance to jump Alonso into Rascasse for 8th place. Perez trooped on for 3 more laps before eventually retiring on lap 74 releasing Sutil for 5th place.
Nothing deterred Rosberg up front though. The German controlled the final 4 laps to claim his and the team’s first victory of the season. Hamilton could not get past Webber and had to settle for 4th, whilst Sutil capped off a strong drive for Force India in 5th.
Button with the misfortune of others found himself in 6th, with Alonso capping off a frustrating afternoon in 7th. 8th was a solid Jean Eric Vergne, with a strong recovery drive from Paul Di Resta saw him capture 9th.
But it was 10th place man Raikkonen who was centre of much talk. Making up 6 places in the final 7 laps was a monumental achievement, and provided an incredible last lap with the Finn passing and stretching out 6 seconds on Nico Hulkenberg over the course of 2.1 miles.
Vettel must be feeling satisfied with a fastest lap of the race and 2nd place – whilst his rivals in the championship floundered. But the weekend was all about Rosberg, who dominated from start to finish. His confidence is through the roof and Canada is set to be a circuit that once again may favour Mercedes in terms of being rear limited with no long radius corners.
Perez is doing well although Martin Whitmarsh may need to remind him that ‘in order to finish first, you first have to finish’. The move he did on Alonso and Button worked but you can only do it so many times and it was neve going to work on Raikkonen, at least not when he tried. Are we seeing another driver that have the ‘red mist’ problem?
Another driver that will be looking over his shoulder is Grosjean. Monaco is a race he will want to forget very soon. If Raikkonen gets paid per point perhaps Lotus should dock him points for crashing. He is a fast driver but at times seem to suffer from brain fade. Time will tell but his seat at Lotus does not look as secure as he would like.
Who says Monaco is boring?
1 ROSBERG MERCEDES 2:17:52.056 25
2 VETTEL RED BULL +3.800 18
3 WEBBER RED BULL +6.300 15
4 HAMILTON MERCEDES +13.800 12
5 SUTIL FORCE INDIA +21.400 10
6 BUTTON MCLAREN +23.100 8
7 ALONSO FERRARI +26.700 6
8 VERGNE TORO ROSSO +27.200 4
9 DI RESTA FORCE INDIA +27.600 2
10 RAIKKONEN LOTUS +36.500 1
11 HULKENBERG SAUBER +42.500
12 BOTTAS WILLIAMS +42.600
13 GUTIERREZ SAUBER +43.200
14 CHILTON MARUSSIA +49.800
15 VAN DER GARDE CATERHAM +62.500
RET PEREZ MCLAREN
RET GROSJEAN LOTUS
RET RICCIARDO TORO ROSSO
RET BIANCHI MARUSSIA
RET MALDONADO WILLIAMS
RET MASSA FERRARI
RET PIC CATERHAM
Radio Message of the day
In response to Rocky coming on the radio to tell Vettel to calm down (after posting the fastest lap of the race on lap 77) and that he will not get any more points for the feat, The RedBull man replied with “but satisfaction”.
This leaves the standings looking like this: