Monaco GP - Sunday - Race Report
The last two times Nico Rosberg started from the pole position, in Bahrain and Spain, he faded back to finish ninth and sixth respectively as the rear tires on his Mercedes overheated and lost grip. In Monaco, however, he was able to pole vault away from the prime grid spot and led all 78 laps of Formula One’s most prestigious race.
His victory came 30 years after his father Keke Rosberg won the 1983 Monaco Grand Prix.
“It is special to hear that, yes,” Rosberg said, “but honestly that’s not what I was thinking about when I was crossing the finishing line, definitely not. Just extremely happy to win this race. Also, we’ve had again such a difficult time behind us. In the last couple of races pole position and dropping back so much. There was always that a little bit in the back of my mind today in the race: ‘I hope that it’s going to last and I’ll be able to pull it off today and not drop back again.’ Because it’s not nice when you’re starting in front and dropping back.
“And then today the team gave me a great car. It’s really fantastic to see how they’ve been able to improve in such a short space of time. Little improvement here and there but on this track – this track suited us anyway – and so it was enough to make it happen.”
It was controversial win as well because Mercedes and Pirelli had conducted 620 miles of private tire testing at the Barcelona track after the Spanish Grand Prix. They said the test was legal, but rival teams said it was not. Red Bull and Ferrari have filed a protest, not against the results of the race but over the legality of the test. The FIA is investigating.
When the red lights went off to start the race, Rosberg and teammate Lewis Hamilton, who had qualified second, led ahead of Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber who had gridded third and fourth. It quickly became obvious that Mercedes was planning on a one pit stop strategy as both drivers were going very slowly to conserve their super soft compound Pirelli slicks.
“Congratulations to Nico,” Vettel said. “He did a very good job, a very controlled race. I think he had the pace and the tires to respond whenever we tried to get a little bit closer, yeah. The start of the race…fantastic start but no room. I think I could have gone past both Mercedes but didn’t have the room, had to lift. Then Mark (Webber) came and it was tight into the first corner. And after that I was a bit surprised by the slow pace in the opening laps. Usually you expect two Silver Arrows in front of you and there were two buses today going for a cruise – at least in the first couple of laps. But obviously the strategy was clear and they did a very good job.”
The whole field bunched up because of the slow pace, and that meant most teams then decided also to pit their drivers only once because they would lose too many positions by stopping early on a two stop strategy. And as it is so difficult to pass on the narrow track, a typical Monaco stalemate set in.
Felipe Massa broke the stalemate when he crashed after something broke on his Ferrari at the start of lap 29.
“My race ended after an accident at the Ste. Devote corner, just as happened yesterday morning in the third free practice session,” he said. “I was taken to hospital for all the precautionary checks and luckily everything is in order. I’m alright. I’ve just got a slight pain in my neck, but nothing serious.”
That brought out the Safety Car for the first time this year, and just about everybody headed for the pits. Mercedes wanted both its drivers in on the same lap, so told Hamilton to hang back a bit as Rosberg was coming in first. Hamilton hung back just a tad too much, and that allowed the Red Bulls to get ahead of him.
And that set the picture for the top four for the rest of the race with Rosberg leading ahead of Vettel, Webber and Hamilton.
“It was completely predictable that if the race was going to stack up then the two-stop was not really an option to come back into traffic,” Webber said. “So we had to go very long, all the drivers were nursing the cars very aggressively and as you say, it was nice to get Lewis. Obviously it’s never nice to lose positions around the stop so I’m sure he’s not too pleased with it but in the end we’ll take that position. It was difficult to get the restarts going on the primes but in general just really driving around, saving the tires and waiting for the checkered flag.”
Hamilton admitted he had not had a very good weekend.
“We didn’t make the most of the opportunity for a one-two finish today,” he said. “When the Safety Car came out, I needed to maintain a gap so we didn’t get delayed with the double pit stop but unfortunately the gap was too big and we lost out to the two Red Bulls. That’s motor racing and these things happen sometimes. It’s the tightest track in the world here and virtually impossible to overtake unless you are much quicker than the car in front so there was nothing I could do to improve my position.”
Further back there were some good scraps in the heavy traffic. Sergio Perez was being especially feisty in the McLaren and barging past cars even if it meant knocking off a few bits of bodywork. Adrian Sutil was also pulling off some passes in his Force India.
On lap 44, Pastor Maldonado’s Williams got launched into the air by Max Chilton’s Marussia. The Williams clobbered the barriers at Tabac corner so hard that they became dislodged. The race had to be red flagged while repairs were made.
“The impact was quite big,” Maldonado said. “Fortunately I am okay and the stewards took immediate action. We need to move on from a disappointing weekend but I’m looking forward to the next race in Canada, where we will be continuing to demonstrate the improvements in the car.”
The stewards declared that Chilton had caused the accident and gave him a drive through the pits penalty.
“Esteban Gutierrez made a late lunge into the chicane,” Chilton said, “and I could see he was locked up so I had to take action to avoid him, which meant missing the chicane. I rejoined coming out of Turn 11 and the apex to Turn 12 was fast approaching. I was aware that someone was behind me but not alongside me. The stewards determined a drive-through penalty for me and I accept that decision. After the race I went to see Pastor to check he was okay.”
The rules permit new tires to be fitted if a race is stopped, and that was good news as most of the drivers doing a one stopper were very marginal on their worn tires.
The restart changed nothing as the top four held their positions for the rest of the race.
Further back, Perez’s aggressive passes came to an end when he tried to pass Kimi Raikkonen at the chicane and ended up squeezed between the Lotus and the barrier. Raikkonen got a flat tire, which dropped him to 16th place with eight laps to go. He stormed back to finish 10th.
“It was a really disappointing day,” Raikkonen said. “Because of one stupid move from Sergio (Perez) we’ve lost a lot of points to Sebastian (Vettel) in the championship and you can’t afford to lose ground like that. He hit me from behind and that’s about all there is to it. If he thinks it’s my fault that he came into the corner too fast then he obviously has no idea what he’s talking about. It’s not the first time he’s hit someone in the race; he seems to expect people to be always looking at what he might do, then move over or go straight on if he comes into the corner too quick and isn’t going to make it without running into someone.”
Perez eventually pulled off the track.
“I’d overtaken both Jenson and Fernando there, and Jenson had overtaken me there too, but I couldn’t have avoided the crash with Kimi,” Perez said. “Of course, any passing maneuver at Monaco is risky, but, at the end of the day, you have to leave each other a little room. As a result of our contact, my car’s brake ducts were affected and my front brakes overheated – in fact I basically ran out of brakes. It’s particularly frustrating to retire from a grand prix in which you’ve driven hard and fast, especially when you’re so near to the finish. So, all in all, I’m extremely disappointed.”
Sutil drove a much cleaner race to finish fifth.
“It’s just the result we needed and I’m very happy right now,” he said. “The car felt very good and we made the most of the chances that came our way. It was difficult to move forward in the first half of the race when I was stuck in the train of cars, but the red flag opened up some more opportunities. It meant that everybody was on the same sprint strategy until the end of the race. I noticed that the hairpin was an area where there was a chance to overtake so I tried it with Jenson and it worked. Then I did the same with Fernando and it worked once again. So I think I showed that overtaking is possible in Monaco.”
The last big accident in the race happened when Romain Grosjean ran into the back of Daniel Ricciardo heading into the chicane.
“Daniel seemed to be really struggling with his rear tires and they looked to have a lot of graining,” Grosjean said. I’d been following him for almost all of the 61 laps but I was caught out by him braking early in the middle of the circuit and there was nowhere for me to go.”
Jenson Button rounded out the top six in his McLaren.
“Things weren’t looking very good initially,” he said, “but the Monaco Grand Prix is one of those races where you need to hang in there until the very end, because anything can happen – and today it did. My opening laps were good – I overtook Adrian (Sutil) and tried to have a go at Fernando (Alonso) at the hairpin. I tapped his rear wheel, so I wasn’t really paying attention when Checo (Perez) put a really good move on me out of the tunnel under braking for the Harbor Chicane.
“After the restart, Adrian also made a really good move on me into the hairpin – I didn’t actually think it would be possible because I’d tried it on Fernando earlier and it didn’t work. Then, in the last few laps, Checo and Kimi (Raikkonen) tangled, and suddenly there was a battle behind them because they were circulating slowly in their damaged cars. So I took the opportunity to jump up the inside of Fernando at Rascasse, which was quite fun, and came home sixth.”
But happiest of all, of course, was Rosberg.
“Amazing!” he said. “This is my home; I’ve grown up here lived all my life here. I’ve gone to school here. So now to win at home is very special; a very special day for me. The whole weekend really went perfectly, qualifying (everything). The start was very close. I had a terrible start! I was close to Sebastian and then with Lewis also, but then that worked out well. After that I could control the pace. The car was really good, the tires held on ok, so that was really the key to the victory. So massive thanks to the team for having improved from Barcelona and I’m just ecstatic.”