Monaco GP - Sunday - Race Report

When things go wrong

Lewis Hamilton, Monaco GP 2016

Lewis Hamilton, Monaco GP 2016 

 © The Cahier Archive

 

BY DAN KNUTSON IN MONACO

All sorts of things have been going wrong for Lewis Hamilton this season, including a fuel pressure problem during qualifying for Monaco which put him third on the grid. All sorts of things have been going wrong for Daniel Ricciardo such as the wrong strategy call by the Red Bull team that cost him the victory in Spain. Things went wrong for Ricciardo in the Monaco race as well as a botched pit stop by his team cost him the victory once again. The benefactor was Hamilton whose streak of bad luck ended with his 44th Formula 1 victory.

"Just when you feel it can't get worse, it gets better," Hamilton said. "I think the message to everybody is to just never give up."

A dejected Ricciardo finished second.

I don't even want to comment on the race," he said. "Two weekends in a row I have been screwed now. I was called into the pits...they should have been ready. It hurts. It hurts. I don't have anything else to say to be honest."

A delighted Sergio Perez took third place in this Force India.

"I am extremely happy," he said. "The team did an amazing job, and my third podium with this team. It's even more special at Monaco."

On Saturday, Ricciardo had earned his first ever F1 pole and set a new lap record to get it. Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg admitted he just did not have the speed to match Ricciardo and lined up second.

Hamilton might have had the speed but he did not have the reliability as fuel pressure problems hampered his running. Still, he posted the third fastest time.

Sebastian Vettel qualified fourth in his Ferrari, while his teammate Kimi Raikkonen was 11th on the grid after getting a five-place grid penalty for a new gearbox.

The Force Indias looked strong in qualifying, with Nico Hulkenberg fifth and Perez seventh. The Toro Rossos also looked strong, with Carlos Sainz sixth and Daniil Kvyat eighth. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) and Valtteri Bottas (Williams) rounded out the top 10 on the grid.

At the back of the grid were Max Verstappen, who had crashed his Red Bull in Q1, and Felipe Nasr, who had an engine blow up in his Sauber in the same qualifying session. Both elected to start from the pits.

It was raining lightly but steadily as the drivers did their reconnaissance laps. Had it been dry, Ricciardo was going to start on the super soft Pirelli slicks whereas the rest of the top 10 would have started on the ultra soft Pirelli compounds. But now it was extreme rain tires all around.

Ten minutes before the start, officials announced that the 78-lap race would begin behind the safety car. As per the rules, the lap leaving the grid counted as lap 1 of the race.

Even though the rain was easing off, the cars were kicking up plenty of spray as they continued to circulate behind the Safety Car.

Finally, at the end of lap 7, the Safety Car came into the pits and the racing got underway. Jolyon Palmer crashed his Renault on the main straight, and the Virtual Safety Car was deployed for three minutes.

At the end of lap 10, Ricciardo had a 3.3 lead over Rosberg who was being attacked by Hamilton. Then Raikkonen tangled with Romain Grosjean (Haas) after the Finn first hit the barriers at the hairpin.

Several of the drivers in the lower ranks had already pitted for intermediate tires, and Vettel did the same at the end of lap 13.

The key to this race was when to change from extreme wet tires to intermediate wet tires (or straight to slicks) and then which of the three - ultra soft, super soft and soft - compounds to choose.

Lap 15: Ricciardo led Rosberg by 13.1 seconds. And Rosberg had a string of drivers behind him: Hamilton, Hulkenberg (who pitted), Sainz, Perez, Bottas, Felipe Massa (Williams) and Vettel. But Hamilton had had enough and he passed Rosberg, who had been told to let him by, and quickly pulled away on the drying track.

Rosberg pitted at the end of lap 20 for the inters as did Massa. The sun was now shining as Magnussen and Kvyat crashed at Rascasse Hairpin, and more drivers were pitting.

Ricciardo pitted at the end of lap 23, giving Hamilton the lead. Hamilton stayed out on his extreme wet weather tires, but Ricciardo, on the intermediates, was lapping quicker. Rosberg was a distant third ahead of Vettel, Hulkenberg, Sainz, Alonso, Gutierrez and Verstappen.

By lap 26 Ricciardo was right behind Hamilton. The racing line was dry, but the rest of the track was slick, and so it was impossible for Ricciardo to overtake.

Marcus Ericsson pitted at the end of lap 30 for the ultra soft tires, becoming the first driver to change to slicks.

Hamilton stopped at the end of lap 31 for slicks. So did Rosberg, Vettel and many others.

Ricciardo pitted a lap later, but the crew did not have the tires out, and the long stop dropped him to second place behind Hamilton.

Having seen Hamilton go on to the ultra soft Pirellis, Red Bull decided to put Ricciardo on the super softs. But the set of super softs were at the back of the garage, and a miscommunication problem caused the mechanics to scramble to get the tires ready. What should have been an eight second lead for Ricciardo turned into second place.

"Two races in a row," a dejected Ricciardo said. "Two races in a row, that's all I can say. ... We had a healthy lead and then we went to inters that effectively put us into a race we didn't need to be in to. Then I was called into the pits for slicks and the tires weren't ready.

"I don't like being here being miserable, because I got a podium in Formula 1 so that should be a good day. But when it happens two weekends in a row it's tough to take."

Verstappen crashed on lap 35 and the Virtual Safety Car was deployed.

"It was pretty tricky especially in the beginning of the race it was a very slippery track," said Verstappen who had gone from 21st to ninth. "It got better and better, the track was drying, and I think from then on we had great pace and I was overtaking cars, charging through the field and everything felt well. Then we put the softs on and I locked up. Unfortunately I went a bit off-line and of course then you arrive in the wet area and I was a passenger from there on."

The order was now: Hamilton, Ricciardo, Perez, Vettel, Alonso, Rosberg, Hulkenberg, Sainz, Button and Gutierrez.

Hamilton was on ultras, Ricciardo on super softs. Ricciardo attacked and Hamilton defended ferociously. And then Hamilton pulled out a slight cushion.

"I didn't make a move into the chicane, Lewis defended," Ricciardo said. "But I forced him into defense and by doing so he made a mistake and cut the chicane. I went on the radio and said 'What's going to happen here?' He made a mistake in the lead and it was maybe a chance to maybe get the lead for me, so that's why I questioned it."

Now the sun was shining and the skies were blue as Hamilton led Ricciardo by 0.7 of a second at the end of lap 47. It was a Monaco stalemate.

On lap 62 Hamilton was 1.3 seconds ahead of Ricciardo. Perez, Vettel, Alonso, Rosberg, Hulkenberg, Sainz, Button, Massa, Gutierrez and Bottas rounded out the top dozen.

The Virtual Safety Car came out briefly on lap 67/68 for debris on the track.

On lap 71 Hamilton posted the fastest lap of the race and led Ricciardo by 3.1 seconds. Vettel was closing in on Perez.

Hamilton continued to widen his lead, sealing his win ahead of Ricciardo.

"Yesterday didn't go well," Hamilton said, "and of course I could only come here today hoping for the best and just making sure I was focused. But as soon as it rained it just opened up all the doors of opportunity. Fortunately I was quick enough in the wet, as I usually am here. I think with the strategy it was really just about that the track was drying so quick, but unevenly across the lap, so the first and middle sector were drying up really quick and the last sector was going quite slowly."

Perez said his pit stops were the key to the podium.

"It's one of my best ever races, especially when you see how difficult the conditions were today: you had to concentrate so hard and it was easy to make a mistake," he explained. "The key to my race was the strategy and we got things just about perfect today. The first difficult decision was when to fit the intermediate tire and we delayed this as long as possible. The team said it was my call when to come in and it paid off because we managed to jump a couple of cars, including my teammate.

"The switch to dry tires was another key moment because I pitted early, a lap before Rosberg and Vettel, and managed to jump ahead of them. The soft tires worked really well, but I knew I needed to look after them and it wasn't easy because there was pressure behind from Vettel for most of the race."

Vettel got tangled in traffic and that cost him a chance at the podium.

"We were aggressive on the first stop which was the right call," the Ferrari driver said. "But at that point I needed to find a way past Felipe (Massa) which I didn't and that cost us quite a lot. It cost us all the momentum to the leaders, and that is the reason why we were then all tangled up with that group around the pit stop for dry tires."

McLaren had its best finish of the season with Alonso coming home fifth and Button ninth.

"When we swapped for the intermediate tires we had done zero laps on them the whole weekend and it was new territory for everyone," Alonso said. "And when we switched for the dry there was a very narrow racing line, as only one meter of the track was dry. So you're half a centimeter of that dry line you crash, as there's no room for mistake. It was a tough race but in the end we got the result with both cars in the points, so we have to be happy."

Button concurred.

"There as definitively more to come today," he said. "I pitted probably at the right time, but the problem was that as soon as I pitted, everyone else pitted. I'm pretty good at making calls, but I'm not that good but as everyone copied what I did, it was a bit of a pain and I was also stuck behind the Manors."

On the last lap Hulkenberg passed Rosberg to claim sixth place.

"It was ultimately a disappointing race for me, despite getting back to scoring points," Hulkenberg said. "I feel the timing of our first pit stop was wrong and that cost me track position and put me straight into traffic. This effectively ruined my race, as I spent the rest of the afternoon stuck there. It's very frustrating as I had the pace to be on the podium today, but this is racing and it's just the way it often is in Monaco.

"I was able to finally get past Rosberg with a good move on the exit of the final corner: we were on worn out tires, it started to drizzle and it was very tricky to keep the car facing in the right direction. I got a better exit out of the corner and I think I got him by just a car's length. All in all, I still feel it's a huge missed opportunity for me."

A missed opportunity for Rosberg as well as he went from second to seventh.

"In racing you have good days and bad day," Rosberg said. "Today was a bad day for me. I didn't have the pace to fight for the win and we need to understand why. It was possibly a brake issue - but I don't know for sure yet. I didn't feel like I could push to the limit at the beginning of the race on the wet tires.

"It was a simple decision to accept the request from the team to let Lewis past - even if it hurt very much in that moment. I was very far off the pace and Lewis quite clearly had the speed to win for the team. We've always had that rule - if you're ahead and the other guy has a chance to win, you give him that chance.

"From there it just didn't go my way. I had a tricky pit stop and was held in the box because there was traffic in pit lane. So the cars were just streaming by and suddenly I was down to sixth. Once you're behind in Monaco that's it - you're stuck."

Sainz came home in eighth place.

"I'm not that happy finishing in P8 if I say the truth," he said, "because I felt that today there were some big points on the table for us and we lost the opportunity of making them ours. From my side, I kept the car away from the walls and was fast on all three compounds, so I'm happy with that, but it's disappointing to have lost positions during our pit-stops.

"We definitely need to analyze why this happened, as we threw away many points because of this. Anyway, P8 means 4 points, which is not that bad - I would've been happy with this if you had told me before coming to Monaco, but after starting from P6 and seeing how chaotic the race was, I'm sure we could've done better. I have to say that this was my first time ever driving in the wet through the streets of Monaco and it's the most difficult thing I've done in my life!"

Massa rounded out the top 10.

Hamilton is now only 24 points behind Rosberg. If things go wrong for Rosberg in the next race and Hamilton wins, then Hamilton will take the points lead in the championship.


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