Monaco GP | Strategy jumps Vettel into victory, ahead of Raikkonen

Sebastian Vettel wins the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix, from Kimi Raikkonen.

The Principality of Monaco, home to the glitz and glamour and the jewel in Formula One’s crown. The race every driver dreams of winning, leading the field through the narrow streets and standing atop the podium alongside royalty. Today, that man was Sebastian Vettel after leaping ahead of Raikkonen in the pits and laying down unmatchable pace. Even maintaining a dominant win despite a late safety car when Button pitched Wehlrein into a roll at Portier.

From his first pole position since the 2008 French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, Kimi Raikkonen led the field off the line having edged his championship-leading team-mate, Vettel, to the top spot following a close-fought qualifying battle.

A qualifying battle that saw Valtteri Bottas narrowly miss the front row despite being in a Silver Arrow almost forever off the Prancing Horse’s pace throughout practice. Meanwhile his team-mate, the three-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton, struggled further as he was only able to qualify down in a torrid 13th.

Lewis would gain one place on the opening lap, as he dispatched Stoffel Vandoorne in the McLaren. But with the team unable to change his set-up under Parc Ferme, the issues from qualifying remained and he struggled for pace to the cars ahead.

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Kimi Raikkonen braking for the Nouvelle Chicane while leading the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix. Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari.

One car not struggling for pace was the race-leading Kimi Raikkonen. For a great launch when the lights went out and the Monaco Grand Prix was underway saw the Finn fend off Vettel with ease. Forcing his title-chasing team-mate to tuck in behind while Bottas looked to pull alongside.

Alongside, though, Bottas could not reach and he too tucked in behind but ahead of the Red Bull’s, who made minor contact with each other on the exit of Sainte Devote.

With the first corner done with, the Ferrari’s set off towards Casino Square. Laying down unmatchable pace around the harbour and opening a gap to Bottas with ease. Even more so to Hamilton, for the Briton was losing on average two seconds per lap as he looped stuck in traffic.

Hamilton did at least gain two further places during this stage of the race despite falling away from 11th placed Daniil Kvyat. For as the Russian put pressure on Hulkenberg ahead, the German’s gearbox suffered a serious failure that left the Renault blowing smoke from Sainte Devote to Portier, where Hulkenberg eventually parked to retire.

With yellow flags out for Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez opted to pit, allowing Force India to take the chance to also swap his front wing after damage to his left winglets.

On fresh tyres, Sergio was clearly running quicker than Lance Stroll while now down in 16th place. Yet despite being the only driver to be running within a second of the car ahead, the Mexican was unable to see an opening that would allow him to make a move.

By now, traffic was becoming a key player in the fight for the lead as Raikkonen began catching Jenson Button in last place. Button was running behind Pascal Wehlrein having begun the race from the pit lane and returned soon after to make a quick change of tyres.

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Jenson Button completing his second pit stop of the day during the Monaco Grand Prix. Photo credit: McLaren.

But when Button stopped, Pascal did too and the briefly returning Button could at no stage overtake the Sauber. Meaning when Raikkonen caught the pair, Vettel could close to within one second and bring Bottas into play too.

Clean air, however, regained the Ferrari’s lead over Bottas once past the McLaren and Sauber. Ensuring both Raikkonen and Vettel had an advantage over the Silver Arrow as the pit-window approached.

Having also gained on Bottas when traffic came into play, Verstappen became the first lead driver to hit the pit lane for a fresh set of supersoft tyres. Swapping out the ultrasofts as he emerged just ahead of Grosjean and looked at an undercut.

Something not unfortunately on the cards as Mercedes immediately replied to offsite Verstappen’s fast out-lap to remain just ahead through a faster stop.

Faster, now, was going Daniel Ricciardo though. The man who had been running behind Bottas and Verstappen was setting flying lap times as he and Vettel flew with clean air. Flying to fastest laps of the race as Ricciardo completed an overcut on the pair to leap ahead by seven seconds.

As for Vettel, his endlessly improving lap times saw the German emerge just half a second ahead of Raikkonen when Ferrari brought him into the pits. A move that left Vettel in the lead of the race, and a lead he immediately began to stretch.

Max Verstappen told Ricciardo had completed the overcut on both him and Bottas: “What a ****** joke!”

While others took to the pits, Hamilton remained the only driver on track with his starting tyres still on the cars. Running in sixth place, and upping his pace with clean air to leap ahead of Grosjean and Kvyat once he stopped – only falling down to seventh as Sainz crept by.

But with fresh tyres, Hamilton remained on the pace. Running close behind Sainz as he looked to gain one more spot.

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Lewis Hamilton turning into the second swimming pool chicane during the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix. Photo credit: Puma Motorsport.

Drama though prevented Hamilton’s attack as the safety car rolled out of the pits to allow marshalls to rush to the aid of Wehrlein.

Pascal had been running ahead of Button all race. But when a slight opening presented itself at Portier, Jenson pointed his McLaren at the apex. Looking to get ahead, but in a closing window that left the McLaren pitching Wehrlein’s Sauber onto its side. Only unable to complete a full roll thanks to the barrier catching Wehrlein’s car.

With a safety car now out, the field was forced to bunch together. Taking away Vettel’s 11-second strong lead – while Verstappen took the opportunity to complete a free pit stop and remain in fifth place.

Under the safety car, lapped cars were also allowed to unlap themselves. Moving out of the way of the fighting pack. But for Ericsson, unfortunately taking himself out of the race as he went straight on at Sainte Devote with cold brakes and tyres. Added with the marbles produced as the track began to break up on the opening bend.

With the Sauber cleared, racing could get underway once more. And with fresher tyres, Red Bull gave Max a shot of encouragement to get after Bottas upon the restart.

But it was not Verstappen attacking Bottas at first. Instead, Bottas had his sights on Ricciardo as the Red Bull overrun the first corner and hit the barrier with his front left tyres. Hampering his speed up the hill as Bottas and Verstappen hounded the gearbox ahead.

Daniel Ricciardo breezes past the shops and into Massenet during the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix. Photo credit: Red Bull Racing.

Despite the brush with the barrier, Ricciardo continued on his way in third place. Which was not the case for Stoffel Vandoorne while the Belgian found Sergio Perez diving down his inside at the first corner.

The overtake alone would have demoted the Belgian from McLaren’s first point-scoring finish of the year. But as Vandoorne looked to hold on around the outside, he simply ran out of room and found himself nosing into the barrier.

Back in the points having stopped under the safety car, Sergio Perez continued to push upon the restart and having got ahead of the McLaren. But while he looked to make a move on Kvyat, the team were on the radio asking him to make further changes to his settings. Something that Perez was not happy about.

“Guys, you want me to crash? I need two hundred percent focus,” Perez groaned over the radio.

Little did Perez know, his words would soon come back to bite him as he lunged down Kvyat’s inside at Rascasse. Making contact with the Toro Rosso, that soon retired in the barrier at Casino.

Once more, Perez returned to the pits and plummeted back out of the points. Taking on fresh tyres one last time as the team checked the car. Re-emerging and posting a new race-lap record for the streets of Monte Carlo on a 1:14.820.

Out in front, Vettel was setting the pace to his rivals, too. Stretching his margin over Raikkonen to claim his second victory in Monaco – Ferrari’s first since 2001, ending a 16-year wait.

Vettel’s win also comes with Hamilton only able to finish in seventh place. Handing the German a sizeable 19-point haul over his title rival.

Monaco GP 2017 podium ferrari

Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo stand atop the new Monaco Grand Prix podium. Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari.

Pos. Driver Chassis Time Gap Points
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:44’44.340  WINNER 25
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:44’47.485 3.145 18
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:44’48.085 3.745 15
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:44’49.857 5.517 12
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:44’50.539 6.199 10
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 1:44’56.378 12.038 8
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:45’00.141 15.801 6
8 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:45’02.490 18.15 4
9 Felipe Massa Williams 1:45’03.785 19.445 2
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:45’05.783 21.443 1
11 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:45’07.077 22.737
12 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:45’08.065 23.725
13 Sergio Perez Force India 1:45’23.429 39.089
14 Lance Stroll Williams  Stopped
15 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso  Stopped
Ret Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren
Ret Marcus Ericsson Sauber
Ret Jenson Button McLaren
Ret Pascal Wehrlein Sauber
Ret Nico Hulkenberg Renault