Thoughts on the Monaco Grand Prix

I love the Monaco Grand Prix. Always have.  The history, tradition, colour, spectacle and test of driver challenge are rivalled by no other race on the Formula 1 calendar and that includes the other classics at Monza, Spa and Silverstone. Despite this we all know it can produce processional races. Many people would prefer to drop Monaco completely because of this – I say no to that. I can put up with the odd procession because Monaco can, now and then, produce utter classics. It might have 50 laps of tedium out of the 78 but when something happens in Monaco it happens in a big way. Countless races in the past have taught us this. Not every year can be a classic and that’s why classics are remembered.

At least.. this is the theory I’ve subscribed to for years. With that being the case, why is it then that when a processional race rolled around this year I was so turned off by it? In the first 20-30 laps there was a lot of promise of action caused either by rain or tyre degradation and that held my attention, I was sitting there expectantly waiting the action that would surely follow. Has F1 been so good this year that a ‘traditional’ Monaco isn’t good enough any more?

Even if there wasn’t passing I expected to see attempts at passing, cars darting this way and that as the drivers tried to force their way by. Didn’t happen. Even when the pack condensed in the latter laps and we had six cars covered by just six seconds, none of them ever really seriously looked like trying to overtake the guy in front. That’s why it was boring. If I can see people attempting to pass but failing, that’s fine, that’s still racing, it just means the guy in front did a better job. To seemingly not even try… that’s no fun.

Holding Back

Why did this happen? Tyre preservation. The soft and supersoft tyres brought by Pirelli were being nursed by the drivers. Rather than go balls-to-the-wall in the quest for speed, burning up the tyres in the process, every one of the top runners was content to sit back in order to preserve the rubber to reduce the number of stops they would have to make. In all fairness I hadn’t clocked this until Sergio Perez, delayed after contact, pitted and emerged in 17th place nearly a lap behind the leaders, and with a clear track promptly set a Fastest Lap on yellow soft tyres a clear 1.5 seconds (and I have a feeling nearer 2 seconds) faster than the frontrunners were going – I have in my mind that these guys were on the faster red supersofts by this point but I could be wrong. According to the official FL list he was still 1.2sec faster than the nearest driver all race.

Okay, conservation is a valid way to win a race. We saw later in the day the Ganassi team won the Indy 500 by holding back to save fuel and tyres for the final run. Not a problem. Perhaps I expected this strategy to be run against someone else doing the opposite – running hot, burning up the tyres and pitting. Like the classic Senna v Mansell race here when Senna ran long and Mansell pitted, caught up, tried to pass… drama, intrigue, could he do it before his tyres go off too? We didn’t really see that.

Vettel and Hamilton tried. They went off-sequence with tyres which was interesting, even if it was a bit dull to see Vettel driving around by himself for a while. Perhaps we blame the TV crew here for not showing us more from the field. Once they slotted into the field I expected them to use the reds to fight past the cars around them. Again, it didn’t happen. Seems as though they pitted too early for the reds and had to conserve them – which begs the question, why do it? Surely the point of using that strategy was to make use of the extra grip. Don’t squander it by telling your guy to go slowly to nurse them.

Highs and Lows

Despite the boredom I was pleased Mark Webber took the win. I always like it when Webber wins, he’s a good guy and I’ve been a fan for ages. Good also to see Rosberg hitting form this season.

Alonso was 3rd, since he joined Twitter I’ve taken to him a lot more, he’s showing personality we arguably haven’t seen properly since his days in blue and yellow at Renault when he was the breath of fresh air ending Schumi’s reign. Since he’s effectively fighting the lone fight in a Ferrari which is not the class of the field he’s almost an underdog, which means it is okay to root for him too!

The alternate strategy only netted Vettel and Hamilton 4th and 5th. The result says Massa was 6th but I don’t remember seeing him. Force Indias took 7th and 8th, again largely missing from the screens.

Perhaps the real mystery was the whereabouts of Kimi Räikkönen. After running so well in Spain I really expected Kimi to run well here and even win it. The form was repeated on Thursday practice. Then Kimi started struggling for reasons not explained fully. Romain Grosjean qualified well but was taken out before turn one, frustratingtly as he also looked set for a good run. I still think one of them will win this year.

Bruno Senna took the final point in 10th, largely unseen by us. Perez made it to 11th by the flag but he was helped for three of those places when Button hit Kovalainen and Vergne made a stupid gamble to take intermediate wets (from inside the top 8!) when the track was still dry.

History

You absolutely have to watch this video found from British Pathe at Sidepodcast (via Joe Saward). Precious little footage exists from 1929 of the first ever Monaco Grand Prix, I certainly have never seen any before now. It is just under 2 minutes in length and is a must-see for any fan of the history of racing. You can tell even then it was almost impossible to overtake at this place!

Race Result

1. Webber – Red Bull
2. Rosberg – Mercedes
3. Alonso – Ferrari
4. Vettel – Red Bull
5. Hamilton – McLaren
6. Massa – Ferrari
7. di Resta – Force India
8. Hülkenberg – Force India
9. Räikkönen – Lotus
10. Senna – Williams
11. Perez – Sauber  +1 lap
12. Vergne – Toro Rosso +1 lap
13. Kovalainen – Caterham +1 lap
14. Glock – Marussia +1 lap
15. Karthikeyan – HRT +1 lap
16. Button – McLaren +8 laps
DNF:
Ricciardo, Pic, Schumacher, Petrov, Kobayashi, de la Rosa, Maldonado, Grosjean

Points

76 – Alonso (1 win)
73 – Vettel (1)
73 – Webber (1)
63 – Hamilton
59 – Rosberg (1)
51 – Räikkönen
45 – Button (1)
35 – Grosjean
29 – Maldonado (1)
22 – Perez
etc.

Red Bull drivers tied on points, Vettel breaks the tie on countback. Button is amazingly low in the standings considering the car he is driving.

146 – Red Bull
108 – McLaren
86 – Ferrari
86 – Lotus
61 – Mercedes
44 – Williams
41 – Sauber
28 – Force India
6 – Toro Rosso

Next Race

Canadian Grand Prix, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Ille Notre-Dame, Montreal.

Always a race worth watching as the circuit is heavy on brakes, and the walls and bumps catch the drivers out. Expect Safety Cars.

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Filed under 2012, F1, Race Review

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