After leading from start to finish around the streets of Monaco, Nico Rosberg won the Monaco Grand Prix to regain the lead in the Drivers World Championship. Lewis Hamilton fought throughout the race to get past his team-mate but was never able to find his way past. Today’s race was a hard-fought battle throughout the field and will go down in history as the race that saw Marussia score their first points in Formula One.
As the formation lap got underway, Maldonado stalled on the grid. He would mark the first driver not to see the chequered flag after he didn’t take the start of the race. But as for the race start, Rosberg had a great launch that saw him lead into turn 1. Something that would prove pivotal in the result of the race. One of the best starters was Raikkonen, who was able to get his Ferrari up to fourth, ahead of Sebastian Vettel and his team-mate, Alonso. As it happens Alonso also had a good start but was unable to gain anything from it as he was faced with two Red Bull’s in front, a Ferrari to the left and the wall to his right.
As the first lap preceded the first racing retirement occurred with Sergio Perez seeing his race end and bring out the safety car. Which would end up venturing back out at a later time. Perez was forced to retire from the race after he didn’t leave enough room for ex-teammate Jenson Button to go past into Mirabeau, who tapped the rear of Perez forcing him into a spin. Grosjean and Sutil aimed to capitalise on the early safety car and opted to pit at the end of the lap.
At the restart Rosberg was unable to drop Hamilton, but kept the lead into turn 1 and ensure he didn’t have to see his team-mate gain the track advantage. Someone who did make the most of the re-start was Raikkonen as he was able to overtake the next Red Bull of Vettel and move up to third. As the lap continued, Vettel also continued to lose places, falling right down the order due to an engine issue giving him no power. Eventually he made it back to the pit-lane and was able to re-join the race, all be it a lap down to the lead cars. Including his team-mate.
A few laps after exiting the pits, Vettel was told to bring the car back into the pits as the team chose to retire from the race on lap 7. This is somewhat even more unfortunate for the current World Champion as the retirement came on Seb’s 100th race for Red Bull.
After pitting during the opening lap safety car, Sutil began gaining track positions after getting past Grosjean for 18th place after a nice move into Lowe’s Hairpin. He placed his Sauber on the inside of the hairpin and used the kerb to ensure he could get past. This overtake was very well placed as he used the kerb but he kept 2 of his wheels on track so he wouldn’t exceed track limits and receive a penalty.
Talking of penalties, the two Marussia’s of Chilton & Bianchi as well as Gutierrez were under investigation by race control for being out of position at the start. They were probably out of position at the start of the race after Maldonado’s absence from the grid.
Come lap 15, Hamilton had started to fall back from Rosberg a bit and now had a 1.5second gap between the two. Lewis then radioed in to say he could feel his rear tyres were starting to go. At the time, the track was half the temperature we saw during qualifying and this could have been affecting Hamilton’s tyre performance.
A few laps later Sutil gained another position on his charge back through the grid and moved up to 15th place. This time on Max Chilton under breaking into the Nouvelle chicane. This came around the same time that Chilton, Bianchi & Gutierrez all received a 5 Second stop/go pen for starting the race in the wrong place. The penalty could have been served before a pit stop so the driver does not have to do a full drive through penalty at the same time, yet the driver still has some punishment. This would later come to be a key talking point of the race, and I will be discussing it later on when the story truly unfolded.
But for now, we find ourself on lap 20 with Hamilton told he is in the pit stop window whilst pushing hard to catch Rosberg. He was able to get the gap down to 1.2s after the gap was getting nearer to the 2 second mark only a few laps before. However the team chose not to pit Hamilton just yet and stay out. Unfortunately for Lewis and his team this came at the same point as another retirement. This time Sutil was out of the race down at the Nouvelle Chicane after an accident at the exit of the tunnel.
Despite Sutil’s car being reasonably far of the racing line, the safety car came out once more. At the time Hamilton had caught up with Rosberg. This incident annoyed Hamilton as the team stacked their drivers in the pit lane. It’s understandable why Hamilton was annoyed as he had told the team his tyres were starting to go and he expected the safety car when he saw Sutil’s car parked up. But it’s the team who makes the call of who pits first and chose to let this stay with Nico as he was the car in front.
Also pitting under the safety car was Vergne and Magnussen. This pit stop also brought a penalty as Vergne was released by Toro Rosso into the path of the McLaren, forcing Magnussen to slam the brakes on and almost send him into the wall of the narrow pit lane.
Now under the safety car, Raikkonen had pitted but before the restart he was forced to put again. At the time Raikkonen was running in 3rd place but the pit forced him to drop right down the field and ended up in 13th. It was later revealed that Raikkonen suffered a puncture from the front wing of a Marussia under the safety car. So he was forced to pit twice, but meanwhile Massa hadn’t pit once throughout the race or under the safety car. And by not pitting yet he was running in 5th place at the time.
But once the safety car was back in, Hulkenberg certainly was back racing and took Magnussen into Portier. It was a great move down the inside of Magnussen and ensured the German got past. This all came in the same lap that Magnussen had got past Vergne into Rascasse but as it was before the 2nd safety car line he was forced to give back the position to Vergne.
Now up to lap 35, Raikkonen was able to get past Kobayashi into Rascasse and was followed through by Bianchi. Earlier on in that lap Kobayashi was able to stay in front of Raikkonen into the Nouvelle chicane, after getting out of shape and locking up the rear. Three laps later Bianchi got his Marussia ahead of Vergne once the Toro Rosso served his drive through penalty. At this time Marussia and Caterham were in a fight for 12th, a position neither have finished in so far this season.
Moving on to lap 41 there was a glimmer of hope for Hamilton to get the lead after Rosberg was warned by team that if he doesn’t start using longer gears he will start to face critically low levels of fuel. Mercedes were either choosing to fuel the car light or Rosberg was using a lot more of his fuel at the time, especially as there had been two safety cars so far in the race.
Eventually, on lap 46 Massa finally pitted from 5th place and came out of the pits in 11th place, ahead of Bianchi & Vergne.
Moving on six laps to lap 52, Vergne began to appear to have some form of an engine issue. Later on in the lap it was clear his race was over after blue smoke was billowing out the back of his car and he was forced to slow down exiting the swimming pool chicane. Before pulling into the pits to retire
Jumping ahead another four laps to lap 56 there began to be a queue forming behind the Williams of Bottas. With Gutierrez, Raikkonen and Massa all within 1.2seconds of Bottas. Fortunately for the queue, but not for Bottas on lap 57 he was forced out of the race with an engine issue. Bottas had stopped at Lowe’s hairpin when his engine developed a serious failure. But as they craned the car away quickly they were able to prevent another safety car situation.
Now in lap 60, and approaching the end of the race, Bianchi was confirmed to be under investigation. This is the part that was linked to his penalty earlier on the race as he was given the 5 second penalty but as he served it under the safety car the stewards were unhappy. The result of the investigation was to add the 5 seconds to his overall race time and this could have seen Marussia not score their first points in F1.
But at least Bianchi was still in the race as on lap 61 we had another retirement. This time the Sauber of Gutierrez was out of the race after he caught the rear left tyre on the wall on exit of Rascasse. This contact gave him a puncture and span the car.
Now onto lap 66 we rejoin the battle for the lead as Lewis radios the team to say he has some dirt in his eye and is struggling to see out of it. This brought the end of the battle for the lead as he had fallen to over four seconds behind Nico. At the time of the radio message he still had a large lead over Ricciardo, 3rd, but due to his sight issue he would soon be right behind him.
Four laps later, Hamilton was back on the radio to team, this time asking about the gap to Rosberg ahead. When on the radio he sounded anxious and annoyed when responding to the team about gap back to Ricciardo. The team were informing him to the gap back to Ricciardo as he was gaining quickly on Lewis with just 7 laps remaining. But as for Lewis his priority was Nico and he didn’t care about Ricciardo.
“I don’t care about Ricciardo, I want to know the gap between me and Nico”
The next key incident of the race came on lap 74 as Hamilton and Ricciardo closed in to lap Button. This came at a bad moment for the Mercedes driver as the McLaren drivers where having a battle of their own with Button making a move to get past Magnussen into Sainte Devote. Later on in the lap, and going into Lowe’s hairpin, Raikkonen and Magnussen stopped out on track after the pair went into the wall. This came after Raikkonen sent his Ferrari down the inside of Magnussen but couldn’t slow it down in time and make the turn. This incident was handy for Bianchi as it moved his Marussia into the points. But with the 5 second time penalty still there he knew he would need to pull away to get into a solid position.
Over the final few laps of the Monaco Grand Prix, Ricciardo was unable to get past the Mercedes of Hamilton. Who went on to finish 2nd and 3rd behind the eventual race winner of Nico Rosberg. Who lead the race from start to finish to regain the championship lead.
Driver of the day is a hard award to give today for me. Rosberg has his name attached to it after his hard work to stay in the lead from green light to chequered flag but at the same time I want to give it to Bianchi as he had to work hard to get through the field without having an incident and he had to deal with effectively a 10 second penalty after serving it in the race and after the race. So all in all, I think I’ll give driver of the day to Bianchi as he did drive a fantastic race and was in 8th place before the after race time penalty. But now it’s over to you, who was your driver of the day?
Oh and one last final note on the race. I’ve mentioned most of the lead drivers and some from across the pack but one who hasn’t featured often in today’s review is Alonso. He finished the race in 4th place after driving a decent race. He was barely involved in any action today and spent most of the race on his own but is that always a bad thing? Especially with the amount of retirements we saw today.