This was possibly the most exciting Monaco GP in many years. It was certainly up there alongside all the classics – 1992 with Senna and Mansell, 1996 when nobody could win, 2003 with Montoya and Raikkonen.
We saw passing moves in places we wouldn’t normally expect them. At Monaco we normally see passes just at the chicane and that’s all. This time they didn’t really try it at the chicane (not on TV anyway), understandably so given the accidents of Rosberg and Perez this weekend. Instead the attempts were made at the hairpin and at Sainte Devote. Amazingly enough some of them worked!
I always thought a hairpin pass was a fluke, on the rare times I see it happen the move more often than not fails. This time it was successful maybe half the time – the other half causing damage and penalties (see Massa/Hamilton as well as Di Resta’s wars). It was good to see that a supposed “no-no” could be made to work when both parties co-operate, and it did need the leading car to concede he’d lost the corner and leave space. My read of the Massa and Hamilton collision at the hairpin was that it was a racing incident, neither to blame. Hamilton went for a move just as he had with Schumacher, but it just so happened that Massa at the same instant decided to try the same on the Toro Rosso in front of him.
It was interesting to see Schumacher back off against Hamilton, something I really didn’t expect when the move started. Memories of banging wheels with Alex Wurz in ’97?
However, the move in the tunnel was all Hamilton. You can’t pass in the tunnel without it going wrong for one or other of the parties, and that’s nothing new. Where was Massa supposed to go? The better option would’ve been to draft behind Massa and get him into the chicane just a few hundred meters up the road. The tunnel is just wide enough for two cars but the outside is always covered in marbles, that’s why Massa skated into the barrier.
It was good to see Hamilton in battling mood though, if he’d just kept his head a little he’d have been seen completely differently in this race, as the swashbuckling hero fighting through the field. Instead he looked hot-headed, crashing into people and then getting out of the car to complain about it.
The top three drivers put in excellent drives, solid smart performances from the champions they are. Before the red flag they were nearly a minute up on the chasing group. They ran different strategies and speeds all day, yet had converged with less than ten laps to go, we were set for a fantastic battle for the lead in the closing stages and not for the first time this year! Who says F1 in 2011 is boring? Far better than having all the racing done by 1/3rd distance – the first pit stop – and then watching a parade.
Vettel made his one-stop strategy work despite some very old tyres. Alonso was on him for several laps and couldn’t get by – we’ll never know if he would’ve made it or if Vettel’s tyres would’ve dropped off even more. Button put in flawless laps to reel in this pair on his newer tyres, closing in a decent gap to start battling Alonso. The BBC commentary was talking up a Button win, or at least a second-place. I’m not so sure that would’ve happened but I was on the edge of my seat hoping either driver would take the win from Vettel! Nothing against Seb, he’s just been winning too much lately and the others need the points.
I use the Softpauer iPad app during F1 races and qualifying sessions and I could see on the map that the lead trio were catching a massive group of cars, there must have been 6 or 7 of them there! This group was being led by an Adrian Sutil trying valiantly to make his tyres last to the end of the race. Webber and Kobayashi had fallen behind through the stops but both made it past him, and the group behind him included Hamilton, Petrov, Alguersuari and Rosberg (some of those a lap behind Sutil but now running faster on fresher tyres).
Now it was always going to be fraught but I thought they’d be sensible and pull over one at a time to let the leaders through. Instead Sutil under pressure from Hamilton slid into the marbles after Tabac, into the barrier causing a puncture. Hamilton had to lift off in avoidance, surprising Alguersuari who rode up over the McLaren’s rear wing. Poor Vitaly Petrov was following Alguersuari just as closely, he had nowhere to go when he was confronted with this accident and hit the barrier. Petrov said in post-race quotes that he chose to hit the barrier rather than another car, but he can’t have known he’d hit so hard and cause himself minor injury.
The red flags came out and I was sure it was just a race suspension whilst others were saying it was over, though of course it would come at the discretion of the organisers if they couldn’t get the track cleared or if the barrier was damaged. Restart they did, but what nobody reckoned on was the teams being allowed to repair accident damage and fit new tyres. Most people (including me) expected neither tyre changes nor repairs except in the pitlane, and maybe then only once the field was moving again.
A great way to suck out the tension of the race. However, I can understand the rule exists for safety reasons, if there has been an accident you don’t want to leave people out there on damaged tyres after running over carbon fibre shards, so it is a difficult one. It is very hard to argue for a reduction in safety, so I think we should chalk this one up as something that just happens in racing sometimes.
Good to see Williams finally get some points, it would have been even more had the collision not occurred between Maldonado and, yes him again, Hamilton. Also a shout out to Kamui Kobayashi and the Sauber team, who played the strategies and Safety Cars to perfection to record a strong 5th ahead of all the melee.
I hope some of this isn’t just my blinkered glasses since I’m a huge fan of the Monaco Grand Prix, I really do think this was an excellent race in its own right, not even “by Monaco standards”, and the red flag doesn’t detract from that at all.
- Vettel 143 (winner)
- Hamilton 85 (6th)
- Webber 79 (4th)
- Button 76 (3rd)
- Alonso 69 (2nd)
- Heidfeld 29 (8th)
Vettel is already looking unbeatable. Can he wrap this up as early as the Hungaroring in July, as Schumacher once did?
- Red Bull 222 (1st & 4th)
- McLaren 161 (3rd & 6th)
- Ferrari 93 (2nd & DNF)
- Renault 50 (8th & DNF)
- Mercedes 40 (11th & DNF)
- Sauber 21 (5th & DNS)
Red Bull are in charge. McLaren could yet fight back though, they have a chance in this fight.
The next race is the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal in two weeks.