Round 8 of the Formula One Grand Prix was held in the Principality of Monaco and boy oh boy! it was one helluva race weekend. The Saturday Qualifying threw up lotsa controversies as Michael Schumacher – who had set the fastest time until then – inexplicably stalled on the Rascasse hairpin turn with only few minutes to go; thus robbing late runners such as world champion Fernando Alonso to set a lap time. The accusations flew thick and fast that Michael had deliberately cheated to gain pole position as it is a known fact that overtaking on the racetrack was well-nigh impossible at Monaco. After a lengthy inquiry into the incident, FIA stripped Michael off his pole position and demoted him to the back of the grid. Thus, Fernando Alonso started the Monaco Grand Prix from pole…and went onto win the race!
Alonso lead from the front and drove an impeccable race to finish atop the podium for the first time at Monaco. In what turned out to be a topsy-turvy race, McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya took second position and David Coulthard took the third position to secure the first-ever podium place for the Red Bull team. Though I missed the initial parts o the race, the highlights conveyed to me well enough as to who was the initial pace-setter. Kimi Raikkonen showed remarkable pace as he scorched through the field, setting fastest lap on lap 19 before ill-luck struck the finn and he had to retire with his car ablaze, on lap 50. His teammate, however, had no such problems and took over the second position and stayed there till the end, so not a bad weekend for McLaren, I must say. Other retirements included Toyoya's Jarno Trulli who was gunning for 3rd place when his engine failed on lap 73 ,Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg, amongst others. Trulli's retirement played into the hands of Honda's Rubens Barrichello as he had lost that place due to a drive-through-penalty. But the real advantage went to Red Bull's David Coulthard whose one-stop strategy saw him clinch the 3rd position, in what is an important result for Red Bull. Particularly when they were promoting the hollywood blockbuster Superman Returns. In fact, DC wore the Superman cape at the presentation ceremony!
And what of Michael Schumacher? Well, after the race stewards handed him the punishment of starting from last, he changed engines -as did his teammate Felipe Massa – and started from the pits with a loaded fuel tank. He was able to storm his way upto fifth and also set the fastest lap of the race and for a few nerve-wrenching moments, was even threatening ex-teammate Barrichello for the 4th position! The big gainers this weekend were DC & Red Bull, Juan Pablo Montoya, Rubens and no doubt Renault, whose other driver, Ginacarlo Fisichella finished 6th thus increasing their lead in the Constructor's Championship to 28 points over Ferrari while Alonso's lead over second-placed Michael Schumacher increased to 21 points. They look good for a double, I say!