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Being Bullish in Monaco

If there is one circuit where a racer must set or break a record, it’s Monaco.

If there is one circuit a racer must win, it’s Monaco.

If there is one circuit, we the fans, absolutely must visit, it’s Monaco.

If there is one circuit that continues to astound and confound, it’s Monaco.

These are the facts, plain and straight. So why am I still so surprised post the Monaco Grand Prix? After all, this unforgiveable track simply did what it always does best. Throw chaos into order, and create order in complete chaos.

Crash, boom, bang, eep and Monaco Grand Prix 2012 begins. Image courtesy Chris White; Used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

So, the lights turned green, Michael Schumacher jumped ahead, trying hard to get past the melee. But this twisty, narrow circuit doesn’t like fancy shenanigans. No sirree. The six-time world champion and Romain Grosjean brushed against each other, spinning the Lotus around the circuit. That was it for Grosjean. Spanish GP winner Pastor Maldonado who damaged his Williams’ front wing also fell victim and retired. The commentators, though, were a tad mean. They kept saying that poor Maldonado had gone from hero to zero. The Williams driver has however faced an equally cruel weekend. He was shunted down 15 places: 10 places for a collision with Sergio Perez during final practice and five places for changing his gearbox.

The pleasure and pain that is Michael Schumacher. Celebrating his pole position during the Qualifying at Monaco 2012. By Wackywace Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

(Schumacher too faced disappointment. He clocked in a neat time that placed him squarely at pole. But then, his Spanish GP tactics came back to haunt him. A five-place grid penalty for an encounter with Bruno Senna the previous race placed him at sixth.)

Anyway, back to the race. Monaco kept up its DNF reputation. By the end of the race, 9 of our superheroes failed to complete the race. One of them, of course, was Jenson Button (heartbreak!). Daniel Ricciardo suffered steering damage; Vitaly Petrov and Charles Pic faced electrical issues, while Kamui Kobayashi went air-borne at the start of the race only to retire later, like Pedro de la Rosa, with a car damaged from the accident. Schumacher too retired after 63 laps. He later told, “What can I say? It was simply a pity to end the race in this way. In any case, the fuel pressure problem had nothing to do with the incident at the start. But it made it doubly disappointing because I had secretly been hoping for a podium finish today.”

The importance of being Mark Webber. Image by Gregory Moine. Some rights reserved. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

That’s Monaco for you, unpredictable to the last. As always, there was practically zero overtaking. Though, the race boiled down largely to pit stop and tire strategy. It’s something Red Bull played to the T, as did Ferrari and Mercedes. The best men did win this race. Mark Webber took home his second Monaco trophy, a well-deserved trophy for a man who has always been underestimated. Post-race, he said in a Red Bull press release: “An incredible day; this place gives you such amazing memories. There were different parts of the race where I had to be incredibly focused and make sure we really capitalized on the positioning we had… we had composure and experience and great teamwork on the pit wall. It’s a tough nut to crack this race, but we did it again. I had both hands on it today and I wasn’t going to let go.”

He didn’t let go and he broke a record. Six different winners in six different races this season; that’s unheard of in F1 history.

But for me, the man of the moment was most definitely Fernando Alonso. I have never been a Ferrari fan, nor an Alonso one at that. But more and more, I find myself admiring the man. His keen determination and sense for a race are all but stunning. It can’t be easy. The Ferrari currently isn’t the easiest car to be in. But look at him race. He has had three podium finishes out of six races and currently leads the Drivers Championship with 76 points! Post-race he told, “I’m very happy with the way things have gone this weekend. We leave Monaco heading the Championship: if I’d been offered that after the Mugello test at the beginning of the month, I’d have signed for it there and then, but if I’d been told that after Melbourne, I would never have believed it!

That was Monaco then with Webber, Nico Rosberg, and Alonso on the podium.

Bruno Senna. World Copyright: Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic; ref: Digital Image _Q0C9712. Image as presented in a press kit.

Bruno Senna drove a keen race too, staying true to the 10th position, hanging in there and bringing in 1 point for the Williams. It was probably disappointing for a team that saw such an incredible rise last race. But consistency is often the key. Especially given that this season seems to be largely a points race. What will Montreal bring? There is bound to be a few uh-oh and aha moments. There are world champions who haven’t brought home a singly trophy and are now determined to break their jinx. As a fan, I hope not. This is the most fun I have had in years!

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