It was at the end a predictable yet incident packed race at the principality of Monte Carlo as Nico Rosberg took a lights-to-flag victory at the Monaco Grand Prix, followed by the two Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. Predictable, because the pole-sitter eventually won and much of the race was a procession of sorts. Incident packed, as it saw two safety car periods and a red flag stoppage for around 25 minutes.
Mercedes could not convert their one-two start into a one-two victory as Lewis Hamilton could only finish fourth, ahead of the Force India of Adrian Sutil and McLaren of Jenson Button. Fernando Alonso finished seventh – finishing lower than he started for the first time in 2 years barring accidents & retirements – ahead of the Toro Ross of Jean Eric-Vergne in eighth, Paul Di Resta in ninth and Kimi Raikkonen in tenth, thus continuing his continuous points scoring finishes to 23 races! That almost didn’t happen as Kimi was forced into a late pit-stop with five laps to go after a collision with the McLaren of Sergio Perez and dropped to the back of the pack. But with fresher tyres, he stormed up the pack to claim the solitary point for tenth place.
As Rosberg controlled the race from the lead with good restarts after each of the safety car periods, it was Perez who was making most of the moves as he put one over world champions Button and Alonso in daring passing manoeuvres out of the tunnel into the chicane, out-braking his rivals and gaining positions. But whilst he tried to repeat the same move on Kimi, the Lotus didn’t yield as much as the McLaren or Ferrari earlier, causing both of them to touch and resulting in the puncture to the Lotus. Perez retired soon after with brake issues.
But the most talked about topic on race day was the revelation that Mercedes had conducted a ‘secret’ tyre test with supplier Pirelli after the race in Spain, against which Red Bull and Ferrari lodged a formal protest with the FIA. It later emerged that Ferrari also did a similar ‘test’ with Pirelli but whilst they used the 2011 car, Mercedes’ test was done with this season’s car. Needless to say, most of the other teams saw this as an unfair advantage to Mercedes, particularly after their well-documented struggles to maintain tyre stability over the race length – any sort of testing would enable them to fix those gaps. I’m sure we shall be hearing more about this issue in the coming weeks.
The poor results for Alonso and Raikkonen meant Vettel now increases his advantage in the drivers’ standings to 21 points over Raikkonen, with Alonso a further 8 points behind. Red Bull maintain their lead in the constructors’ championship ahead of Ferrari & Lotus. Worryingly, both of Red Bull’s & Mercedes’ drivers seem to score points more consistently than either the Lotus’ or Ferrari’s do, which might lead to a two-way race for the constructors’ before long. The season now shifts to North America with the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal in two weeks time. Alonso and Raikkonen both need a win in order to reel in Vettel, here’s hoping that happens!