@F1theaj’s Race recap – Round 6 Monaco
‘Dan the Man can in Cannes’……. If only the Monaco GP had been held in Cannes and not Monte Carlo……… Well, it was certainly Daniel Ricciardo’s day on Saturday which, if the size of his smile was anything to go by, suggested he had moved on from the disappointment of the last race in Spain. How can we forget that he was totally overshadowed by his new team mate Max Verstappen, who romped to victory in a record breaking debut race with his new team Red Bull (having swapped places with Daniil Kvyat after the Russian GP.) Ricciardo may have found that particular pill a bit easier to swallow if he hadn’t been leading the race when his strategy was changed from a two to a three stopper, effectively handing the win to Max who stayed on the two stop strategy. Ricciardo had something to prove in Monaco and boy did he do it in qualifying. Big time.
Ricciardo had been given the updated Renault engine for the Monaco GP, with Max retaining the original. Not a big deal according to Max, as the Monaco circuit is not power-based and is one of the slower races in the competition. All through free practice Red Bull had been saying this was going to be their race, that they were finally in a position to challenge Mercedes and elbow Ferrari out of their way in the Constructors Standings, but did anyone believe them?
Q1 got off to a dramatic Red Flag after only two minutes when Naser’s 2016 Ferrari spec engine spewed smoke out of the back of his Sauber which then had to be air-lifted over the trees and away from the track.
The second rad flag came ten minutes later when spectacularly the boy wonder and man of the moment, Max Verstappen, glanced a barrier, clipped a bollard at the chicane and then barrelled into a rather inconveniently placed wall. Thankfully, Max was fine but the same can’t be said for his RB12. He will start the race from the pit lane on the Red Bull reserve chassis which will have to be reconfigured over night (which seeing as the forecast was for rain on race day, may not have been as bad as first thought.)
At the beginning of the weekend there were six ‘contenders’ for pole, the usual suspects (Ros, Ham, Vet) along with Rai, Ric and Ves. With Ves out and Rai having a five place grid penalty for premature replacement of a gear box, we were left with four likely pole sitters. (Let’s not forget, though this is Monaco, so anything could have happened).
The remaining six minutes saw Weh, Har, Pal and Eri eliminated. Vet had the fastest time of 1:14.610 with Daniil getting through to Q2 in P7 (+0.774) and Carlos in P8 (+0.857.)
No big surprises in Q2, with Mag, Gro, Mas, But, Gut and Bot being eliminated. (n.b Gut out qualified Gro for the first time this season.)
It seemed a bit strange that Ros, who was comfortably in P2, should go out and do another lap on fresh purple walled ultrasofts, until it transpired that he had glanced a wall and was concerned that he may have damaged a tyre (the drivers have to start the race using the set of tyres on which they set the fastest time in Q2.)
Then came the strategic coup of the day: Red Bull sent Ricciardo out on the red walled supersoft tyres and yes, he did get through to Q3. Boom!
Daniil made it through to Q3 in P6, with Carlos not far behind in P7.
And the excitement didn’t stop there. The top ten shootout saw Hamilton’s engineers pushing him back to his pit after he sent a radio message saying ‘something is wrong with the engine’ which turned out to be low fuel pressure.
Q3 was pretty much over with Ricciardo’s first flying lap. He set a spectacular 1:13.622. No one had gone below 1:14 all through free practice or qualifying and no one came close in the remainder of Q3. Ros gave it his best shot, as did Ham (eventually, after doing about three warm up laps) and Vet saw his times going backwards from Q2. Carlos out qualified Daniil this time, and moving up a place (due to Rai’s penalty) started from P6, with Daniil (also moving up a place) on P8. Double points for Toro Rosso again this weekend?
So, we had Ric on pole, starting on the more robust supersofts (so he could run much deeper into the race before having to pit for fresh tyres) on a track on which it is notoriously difficult to overtake and likely to be a one stopper. How would the race develop? Would it be a boring ‘procession’ of cars doing 78 formation laps, would there be a mad dash to try to gain position before turn 1, would a front runner have a momentary lapse of reason and have an unscheduled exit? Race day couldn’t come fast enough……….
As predicted it rained heavily on Sunday and the race started under safety car conditions. (So we were denied the excitement of a proper start and Red Bull’s coup came to naught) Kvyat’s season went from bad to worse as he dropped back through the field and by L2 was down ten places to P16 as his STR11 was stuck in pit limiter mode, unable to go above 60km/h. Changing the steering wheel (quick re-boot) didn’t work and by L4 he was back in the pit lane for a second time, this time as a drive through. This took him through a pit lane cycle and released the car from the pit lane restriction mode. He was further held up at the end of the pit lane, not being allowed to re-enter the race until the stream of cars following the safety car had passed.
The safety car came in on L7 and the race proper started. But not for long as half a lap later Palmer’s Renault ended up in the barrier at St Devote, activating a VSC from L8-10. By L11 Gro, Rai and Mas had all made contact resulting in Rai entering the tunnel with his front wing under his front wheels. Rai retired and was promptly called to the stewards office.
Ros had been holding up the rest of the pack (due to brake problems) but (on team orders) let Ham past at St Devode on L16. Ham promptly started chasing down Riciardo who by this time had a 12s lead. As the track dried out most drivers changed from blue walled full wets to green walled intermediate tyres. Lap21 saw a collision between Mag and Kvy (more woe for Daniil as he received a three position grid penalty for Canada and two penalty points on his licence) Ric came in from the lead on L23, changed to inters and emerged behind Hamilton.
Hamilton was the only driver who did not change onto intermediates tyres but instead stayed on full wets until L31 when he came in to change onto a new set of ultrasoft (purple) tyres. Red Bull apparently had him covered and immediately called Ric into the pits for a new set of supersoft (red) tyres. Then came one gigantic blunder by Red Bull: Ric pulled into his pit AND STAYED THERE FOR OVER 13 (YES THIRTEEN) SECONDS as the team fumbled around trying to locate the new tyres. They weren’t ready for him. Why not? What went wrong? (Let’s not forget Red Bull hold the world record for the fastest pit stop at 1.923s) An aerial shot of Ric emerging from the pit lane neck and neck with Hamilton captured the drama beautifully. Ric was going to come out in front and would have done ….. just…. if it hadn’t been for that extra kink at the end of the pit lane, which gave Ham the edge and he retook the lead. Red Bull had apparently snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on a mammoth scale.
So, how would the race pan out? Ric on SS, Ham in US, Per, who had managed to get into 3rd was on softs (as was Vettel in 4th). Any one of the four front runners could lift the winners’ trophy. Per and Vet had the rest of the race covered on softs but how would the SS or US fare? Would the two front runners have to pit again? 46 laps on a set of US tyres predicted to last 20; a tall order for Ham, would Ric have the edge and be able to cover the distance on SS?
A series of incidents (and virtual safety cars) helped the two front runners, as on L33 Mag lost a front wing, Ves crashed at Massenet on L35 and L50 saw Nas and Eri collide after a clumsy attempted overtake by Eri after Nas had repeatedly ignored instructions to let his team mate pass. Ric made a daring lunge on Ham on the exit to the tunnel; Ham defended well but cut a corner (stewards investigated but no action was taken) On L66 Vet almost glanced a barrier at Massenet but made a good recovery, but overall, the order remained pretty constant until the end of the race. Except of course, for the cheeky move by Hul on Ros in the final few metres of the race, snatching sixth place and reducing Rosberg’s lead over Hamilton by a further two points.
So, Hamilton lifted the winner’s trophy, Ricciardo didn’t win (again) and Perez came a surprising third. Well, that’s Monaco for ya!
Suffice to say, Ricciardo was not pleased with second place. At the end of the race he told the team ‘Nothing you could say would make that any better. Save it’. In his podium interview he said ‘Two weeks in a row now I have been screwed. It sucks. I didn’t make the call, I got called, so they should have been ready. It hurts.’ Trouble at’d mill, I’d say.
It wasn’t the best of races for Toro Rosso. As we’ve seen Daniil retired with penalties. He was quoted as saying ‘This is racing and unfortunately sometimes things like this happen. It’s definitely a missed opportunity, as here in Monaco we had been looking strong all weekend, but all we can do now is to keep on working hard for the next races, starting with Canada in two weeks’ time.’
Carlos won 4 points by finishing 8th and had some good racing throughout, but he was a little disappointed overall. His first pit-stop was slow so he was passed by Perez, Vettel and Hulkenberg. Commenting on his first race in Monaco in the wet he said ‘it’s the most difficult thing I’ve done in my life!’
Mercedes are still top of the league, followed by Ferrari, Red Bull and Williams. Excellent results from Perez and Hulkenberg allowed Force India to overtake Toro Rosso who are now in sixth place. McLaren have overtaken Hass who are still ahead of Renault, Sauber and Manor.
Rosberg’s lead over Hamilton is now down to 24 points, Hamilton is second ahead of Ricciardo who has overtaken Raikkonen an Vettel, Verstappen is in sixth followed by Massa Bottas and Perez with Kvyat in tenth place on 22 points with Carlos in 13th place on 16 points.
Canada next. Will reliability reduce Rosberg’s lead even further; have we seen the beginnings of a Hamilton resurgence; will Ricciardo win again in Canada or will Vettel take his first victory of the year for Ferrari? We’ll just have to wait a little while longer to get an answer to that one.
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