VF1blog: Mayhem in Monte Carlo
Itís fair to say that the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix didnít disappoint. We had drama, overtaking, strategy and controversy to contend with on the tight and twisty streets of Monte Carlo.
It really was a thrilling race to watch and proved that you can overtake in Monaco (definitely in places that you wouldnít think to be possible). It also shut up the naysayers who were expecting ďanother processionalĒ race because it really was far from it. A few too many incidents for my liking but certainly an exciting race to watch and one that provided plenty of interesting talking points.
I want to start off with what emerged before the race. No, not Toro Rossoís deal to be powered by Renault engines in 2014. Iím talking about the storm that kicked off over Mercedes taking part in a private test with Pirelli on the week after the Spanish Grand Prix. I personally think that if Pirelli are aloud to do the test, then there is no problem. However I feel that Mercedes using a 2013 car and the test taking place without any notice to other teams was wrong.
Whilst we all know how secretive Formula 1 is, Pirelli admitted that the test was on tyre compounds for the future and not now so why shouldnít the other teams go and watch or look at the data? Although Ross Brawn said that they didnít know what tyres they were testing and Paul Hembery, Motorsport Director of Pirelli, said that all teams were asked and only some replied, I feel that completing the test in a car that is currently racing and the test not being accessible to other teams is the real problem. Itís a controversial topic (as tyres always seems to be) and I donít know all the details, so I will leave it to the FIA to sort it out.
Not to sing my own praises, but I did get both my qualifying and race predictions right. I went for Rosberg on both occasions and I proved to be correct! It was obvious though, the German had looked on it all weekend and seemed so comfortable and confident with the car. I must say congratulations to Nico for his stunning second career victory because he really did control it from the front, something only the best drivers in the world can do.
Moving on to the race itself and how it panned out, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the start. It was calm, largely incident free and clean. This is something that is not easy to do when 22 cars are filing through Ste Devote, but the likes of Grosjean and Maldonado obviously learned from last years first lap crashes. Hamilton got close to moving ahead of Rosberg but decided against it, meanwhile things got VERY close between the two McLarenís. I understand Buttonís frustration, Perez almost forced him into the wall after an ambitious move by the Brit around the outside at Mirabeau. He then proceeded to cut two chicanes to stay ahead of Jenson which frankly is not on, fortunately he gave him the place back in a mature fashion and went on to race (largely) well over the remaining time that he had in the race.
What made the opening few laps so exciting was also the close proximity of the cars, they were so close and the odd look to the outside or inside really made the first stint interesting to watch. By lap five, two cars had already made pit stops. Giedo van der Garde was one of the stars of qualifying but ran into the back of Maldonado at the Grand Hotel Hairpin on lap one. Maldonado had already lost part of his front wing (I donít have a clue where) and pitted for repairs too.
I have to get this in the column somewhere, but I couldnít help chuckling at David Croft on the Sky Sports F1 commentary after he mistook a replay for the real thing and got hugely excited at basically re-watching part of the first lap. Calm down David, it was a replay!
Lap nine saw the first of many yellow flags due to an on-fire Caterham CT03. Itís driver, Charles Pic, had been going well and it was a shame for the Leafield based team. I think the marshals dealt with it brilliantly though and they managed to extinguish the fire and get the car away in quick succession. Di Resta pitted to preempt a safety car, it failed to be deployed and the Force India was left with plenty of work to do. Thankfully, he was fast all the way through the race and had a storming second stint (not many people can say that they overtook two cars around the outside at Ste Devote).
By lap 18 the two Mercedes cars had really started to pull out a gap, from that point on I knew that Rosberg would be unchallenged at the front. He was leaps and bounds faster than Hamilton and on a consistent basis too, he just looked so at ease and that is a challenge in itself around the Monte Carlo roads. It wasnít a big gap being extended to the Red Bullís, but it was certainly enough to control the pace.
The leaders started to pit at around lap 27, just before Felipe Massa had a scary accident that nearly mirrored his earlier crash from Free Practice 3 on Saturday. Ferrari revealed after the race that it was a technical failure to the left front corner of the car was to blame, completely different to the human error from Saturday morning. Massa was taken to hospital after complaining of neck pain but thankfully he was given the all clear.
Mercedes attempted to use the safety carís deployment to their advantage and double stacked their cars. However, it didnít quite play out like that due to Hamilton backing off more than he should. This, I believe, cost him a podium finish as he dropped behind the two Red Bull cars. A poor and costly error for the Brit and one that could not happen at a worse track. It was a bit of a mess trying to catch the leaders, it was the first time that the safety car had been deployed in 2013, but when the Mercedes safety car did, it released the Mercedes Formula 1 car and we were back racing. Rosberg was simply stunning off the restarts and played all of them very well.
On lap 42 Button clumsily tapped Alonso at the Grand Hotel Hairpin, momentarily losing his concentration. His team-mate Sergio Perez capitalised on that with a frankly superb move under braking for the Nouvelle Chicane, aggressive but perfectly timed and Button gave him the appropriate space. He managed to sneak up the inside of Fernando Alonso and would have made the move stick had Alonso not cut the chicane, Perez was rightfully given the move later on during the red flag period.
This was caused by a poor judgement of error by Max Chilton, he squeezed Maldonado into the wall on the run to Tabac. The resulting high speed crash for the Venezuelan destroyed his car and the barrier which actually detached itself from the wall, rebounding into the track and being collected by Jules Bianchi. It was a hefty accident and thankfully Maldonado was deemed okay after a trip to the medical center, a 25 minute break saw the race neutralise with tyres being changed and Rosbergís lead being wiped out yet again.
The race restarted and we got a really nice sprint to the flag. One star moment from that final dash to the line was Adrian Sutilís stunning overtake on Fernando Alonso at the Grand Hotel Hairpin, he succeeded where Button failed (Jenson even admitted he didnít think it was possible). Shortly after Jules Bianchi suffered a brake problem and hit the wall at Ste Devote, not the way he wanted to end his race.
The incidents kept on coming, up next was Grosjean running into the back of Ricciardo. Itís a shame for Romain as I really think he has the speed and is a nice person, but these incidents keep cropping up and it is not good enough. It was his fourth crash of the weekend and another one that was completely his fault, not much more to say on that one. This brought out another safety car to recover the debris but the stint was short lived and the cars soon restarted.
Then came the clash with Perez and Raikkonen. Itís a hotly disputed one and resulted in Raikkonen calling Sergio ďstupidĒ but here is my view on it. Yes, the McLaren went for a small gap that was ambitious but he had committed and Raikkonen knew that he was there (shown by the squeezing). Perez saw it was too late and tried to back out of it at the last minute but Kimi left him no room at all, so in my view they both caused the crash and it was a Ďracing incidentí. That then gave Perez brake problems which caused his retirement and Raikkonen received a puncture for his troubles.
All the chaos behind Raikkonenís recovering Lotus enabled Button to nab Alonso in an opportunistic and clean move at La Rascasse. The bunched up field provided us with some fantastic and close racing towards the end of the race, but out front it was a clear victory for Rosberg. He crossed the line to become the second Rosberg to win in Monaco, 30 years after his father won the prestigious event. I was hugely impressed with his driving, especially due to it being such a drivers circuit. A well deserved and popular victory.
Vettel and Webber both drove well and benefited from Mercedes woes, Hamilton mysteriously dropped away from the leading cars towards the end (probably tyre related) and Sutil was fantastic in fifth. Button and Alonso scored some welcome points but the latter was somewhat underwhelming on race-day. Vergne picked his way through the chaos but had a rather anonymous race (I donít recall seeing him onceÖ), ahead of a recovering Di Resta and Kimi Raikkonenís Lotus.
The Finn had been 16th after his late pit stop but managed to displace the two back markers. In two laps he picked up three places with some brilliant overtakes and fresh rubber, keeping up his near record breaking run of points scoring finishes. Unfortunately, as well as ironically, Lotus failed to match their race hashtag which was inspired by their collaboration with Daft Punk (#GetLucky). Meanwhile Hulkenberg lost 10th late on due to the charging Lotus driver, with Bottas in 12th (his first race in Monaco), Gutierrez in 13th, Chilton in 14th Ė a good weekend apart from the Maldonado clash Ė and van der Garde rounding out the finishers.
I must also mention the GP2 races which were equally manic. The feature race saw a 14 car pile-up at the first corner but Sam Bird went on to take a controlled victory for RUSSIAN TIME. Stefano Colleti won the sprint race on home turf after a fantastic start and some impressively consistent lap times, alongside good tyre maintenance.
Monaco in 2013 was a truly fascinating and dramatic spectacle and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Next up, we head to one of my favourite tracks on the calendar; the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada.
Author: Jack Leslie
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