Monaco GP Ė The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Pure opinion. None of this is said with any malice, although Iím sure there are some who will take it as such! Enjoy it for what it is, and by all means, let me know your thoughts and opinions as to why I am right or wrong. The Good:
A performance where Mark Webber did exactly what he needed to and no more. He drove a great lap in Q3 on Saturday to ensure he started from the front of the grid, and from then on, just ensured that he made no mistakes. Mercedesí suspicions that Webber was backing the pack up mid race so that Red Bull could secure a one-two finish were unfounded Ė Webber was just making sure he didnít overstress his tyres when there was absolutely no need to. In the latter stages of the race, Webber felt confident enough to slow down and lead home a train of cars as he knew he always had more speed should he need it, and also itís not as if anyone was going to overtake him if he just concentrated on keeping the car on the road. Winning at Monaco presents a totally different challenge to winning anywhere else and, by becoming a multi-Monaco-winner, Webber proved once again that he has the concentration, the control, the nous and the coolness under pressure to compete with the best of them.
This year more than any, and particularly in Monaco, strategy is king. The Milton Keynes team had a great weekend, picking up 37 points by picking the correct strategy for both their drivers. Their happiness at a job well done was exacerbated by the relative non performance of their closest rival in the race for the Constructors title. For the first time this season, a nice little gap has opened up for Red Bull, which must be particularly satisfying when it is clear that they do not have the best car on the grid. As Webber said after the race: ďthis is the weakest car weíve won withĒÖ and yet they sit proudly atop the table. Worrying times for their rivals.
Well that worked bloody well, didnít it. Vettels decision not to run in Q3 on Saturday meant that he could choose the tyres he started the race with, a loophole that surely needs closing. However, it currently remains open and Vettel exploited it superbly. Starting the race on the harder soft tyre, Vettel worked hard in the opening laps to retain his position and gradually reaped the benefits as his tyres came to him. A certain McLaren driver known for his tyre preservation also started on the harder tyre, and even he needed to pit for supersofts on Lap 39. Vettel finally pitted a further 8 laps later, and during that time, there were questions as to whether he was pulling himself into podium contention, such was his race pace. However, he will no doubt take a 4th place finish and 12 points in a season where consistency is proving to be a valuable commodity.
Well thatís more like it. Massaís struggles this season have generated more column inches than almost anything else, but an excellent performance in Saturday Qualifying was backed up in Sundays race. Never far away from his teammate all weekend, the most out of form driver on the grid looked like a man in form. The frustration with Massa is we all remember what a driver he can be. Quick, aggressive and capable. If this is to be his last season in the red colours of Ferrari, then I hope we can see a few more performances reminiscent of the Massa that the Scuderia first paid for 6 years ago.
Di Resta started 14th and Hulkenberg 10th. At the end of the race, Force India were celebrating 7th and 8th place respectively, and a 10 point haul at Formula Ones showpiece event. Vijay will be hoping that that will secure a few more pounds of the sponsorship that Force India so desperately need.
Although not even a third the way through the season, Heikki Kovaleinens result should secure that vital 10th spot for his team. Although Iím sure that at one point, Caterhams sights were set higher for this season. The Bad:
Although McLaren didnít make any big mistakes over the weekend, nothing seemed to work out as planned for them. Jenson Buttons strategy of starting on the harder tyre didnít seem to work as well as it did for Vettel, and as for Lewis Hamiltons weekend Ė well it started off so promisingly in practice and then gradually slipped down from there. It was the first time this season that he had not qualified in the top two, and with his McLaren pit crew understandably nervy during the stops, he was overtaken in them first by Fernando Alonso, and then by Vettel. And then if this wasnít bad enough, someone started throwing things at him from the pit wall. Fortunately, McLarens record in Canada is superb, so the intervening fortnight canít pass quick enough for them.
For a team that have consistently shown pace, and that many people thought could become the 6th team to win in 6 races this season, this was a disappointment. Roamin Grosjean did manage to qualify in 4th, but had yet another spectacular brainstorm on the opening lap, putting paid to his race chances. Kimi Raikkonen did not look capable of unlocking the E20s pace throughout the weekend and also seemed to struggle on the tyres. Lotus are another team that will look to put the weekend behind them and remember all the good things they have achieved so far this season.
I have put Schumacher in this section, but it is no fault of his own. On Saturday, the seven time champion rolled back the years with a vintage qualifying display, however due to his transgression in Spain started the race in 6th place. He then proceeded to make a wonderful start around the outside, before a veering Lotus drove over his right front wheel, forcing him wider and wider into Sainte Devote. By the time the safety car came out to clear the stricken cars, Schumacher found himself in 8th position, yet he had done nothing except drive well. His mixed bag of a weekend ended when on Lap 60 he reported a problem to his pit crew. He had no choice but to let a stream of cars overtake him before peeling off into the pits and into the garage. Barring his obvious mistake in Spain, has any driver had an unluckier start to a season?
The Monaco Grand Prix is a showpiece. It is an event where the rich and famous come to see the fastest cars in the world. And yet, at no point can these cars show off what they are able to do. The sponsorship that Monaco brings into Formula One cannot be replaced, and neither can the history of the circuit. However, it has never been a race that excites for its racing. If the circuit was anywhere in the world, it would be ridiculed and derided as a waste of time and a waste of a spot on the calendar. However, Monaco has always survived due to its prestige and the uniqueness of the event. Until now. The sport is moving, teams are moving and new tracks are surfacing outside of Europe. Bernie Ecclestone has been quite open in the fact that he sees the sports future away from Europe, and with the rich and famous swilling around the likes of Singapore and Abu Dhabi, is Formula Ones most iconic venue under a previously unheard of threat?
The Toro Rosso gamble
With only 7 laps to go, Vergnes tyres were noticeably losing him time. Toro Rosso brought him in from 7th place and gambled on fitting intermediate tyres. Had they just put on normal tyres, Vergne would probably have only finished in 10th so in real terms, Toro Rosso only gambled with a point. However, with Monaco being notoriously difficult to overtake, would it have been a better gamble to leave Vergne out and see whether he could have kept the likes of the Force Indias behind him? The Ugly:
A lesson to all young drivers. You can go from hero to villain very quickly in the pressure cooker that is professional sport. Last time out, Maldonado drove a great race leading many to say that they had previously been wrong about him. And then we came round to Monaco weekend, and the hot headed attitude of Maldonado surfaced again. What he thought he was doing in the practice incident with Perez is anyones guess, and how he managed to drive so ferociously into the back of De La Rosa that he took the HRTs entire rear wing off is madness. I have used the words Ďconsistentí and Ďconsistentlyí numerous times already this season, but you cannot possibly attribute them to Maldonado at the moment. If he wants to be taken seriously, these are attributes he will need to develop.
Another first lap incident for Grosjean. Itís not good enough, especially when your car has pace and is expected to compete in races. It is difficult to do this when your car is sat in the garage while the race is going on around you. The first couple of incidents Grosjean had this season could be put down to a bit of rustiness, but no more. That car is good enough to win races and I donít want to be hearing more excuses about why it, or its drivers, keep failing.
I wrote after the last race that Button had lost a certain something and needed to find it again quickly. The need is becoming more pressing. His frustration at staring at the rear end of a Caterham boiled over when he attempted to make a pass where there was no room, and worse still, we saw a downbeat and despondent Button this weekend. I know Monaco is a different proposition, but what a difference to Hamiltons attitude in Spain. Hopefully the memories of his superb drive in Canada last year will galvanise Button into the fighting spirit that we are used to seeing from him.
Wrong, wrong and more helpings of wrong. The abject nature of the teams weather forecasting caused all sorts of problems as many of them took their eye off the ball when it came to pit stops, and instead waited for the downpours that never came. Want to be a guest writer on VitalF1.com?
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