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The Crown Prince: Monaco Race Review

Monaco lived up to its reputation, despite the tyres that tried to spoil the game. History was made and once again, F1 came alive on the streets of this beautiful, historic city. Of course, it couldn’t have been made possible without the Grinch, Cheeky Checo, Kimster and good old Nico, says Nikki Grubb-Clarke

Football. A game of 2 halves where, if the first half is a bit pants, there’s always hope for an improved 2nd half. In the beautiful Mediterranean Square Mile of Monaco, we couldn’t have known how appropriate that analogy was going to be, with the dawn of a beautiful Sunday.

Pre-race, there was controversy, as it emerged that Mercedes had carried out a tyre test for Pirelli after Barcelona. Ross Brawn confirmed that Pirelli, in their agreement with the FIA, have the right to ask any team to do this. They approached Mercedes who, because of rules banning teams from in season testing, ran it passed the FIA and received approval from them. The test went ahead post-race in Barcelona. Red Bull and Ferrari are livid! How dare Mercedes be offered a rubber sweetie! How dare Big Momma FIA say yes they can have the sweetie, and how dare they not get offered a sweetie! They have spat the dummy big time! An official protest has been lodged by the 2 teams, although one has to assume that if the FIA-approved the test in the first place, no action will be taken. There there, Christian and Stefano. You’ve had your fair share of sweeties in the past, now haven’t you?

All the signs of history repeating itself were there right from the get-go. Image courtesy Mercedes AMG Petronas (for editorial use only)

All the signs of history repeating itself were there right from the get-go. Image courtesy Mercedes AMG Petronas (for editorial use only)

As the lights went out at this most special of tracks and we were able to focus on the race, we were mindful that history could be made. Keke and Nico could become the first Father and Son to both win Monaco. Apt isn’t it, since this is the 30th anniversary of Keke’s win. On a weekend when Hollywood and F1 tend to collide, you couldn’t have scripted it any better.

Off the grid, Rosberg got a great start, and on the shortest first corner run of the season, he held the lead from Lewis Hamilton and immediately began to try and scamper away. Lew-Lew held second and focused on keeping everyone behind him – the team game tactics that Mercedes knew they would have to employ to take the win. To make me super happy 6 times out of 6 this year, everyone got through the first corner with all their bits and bobs intact. Hoorah.

Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were one racy pair. Wasn't that simply brilliant? Image courtesy Vodafone McLaren Mercedes (for editorial use only)

Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were one racy pair. Wasn’t that simply brilliant? Image courtesy Vodafone McLaren Mercedes (for editorial use only)

The McLarens were racy from the off, at least with each other. Perez was on FIRE throughout, going for every little gap he could find. This didn’t quite work out against his teammate and he was forced to take to the escape road and maintain position. “He’s gotta stop turning into me, guys!’ yelped Grinchy, alerting the FIA to view the action Perez had taken, and prompting the FIA to tell McLaren to let Button retake the position. And it warmed the cockles of my heart to hear it. 2 team mates, fighting one another as hard as they would any other driver on the grid. Go McLaren! Although, it would be nice if just Jenson could, for once, get through a race without a ‘My Team Mate’s Too Racy’ moan.

Felipe Massa has not had a good weekend. Starting in the penultimate grid spot after failing to set a time in Qualifying, things were not about to improve for the popular Brazilian. In a massive moment of Deja Vu, Massa had the exact same accident he’d had on Saturday properly smacking the barrier at Sainte Devote. The poor lovely didn’t fair too well and while he was confirmed as being fine, he was taken to hospital for a check over. We hope he feels better soon, and are sure that along with Daddy Massa, Rob Smedley will have run all the way to the Hospital to hug it out with Felipe Baby. Lucky Felipe Baby.

With Massa’s car embedded in the barrier and debris across the track, there was a high chance we would see the first Safety Car session of the season so far.  Time to rethink strategy? I was hopeful. NOTHING was happening, on track. As Vettel would go on to observe, the Mercedes were lapping ‘like buses’ and keeping everyone behind them. Why? Tyres. *sigh* It’s quickly becoming my least favourite word!

Both the McLarens and Finger Boy thought it worth the risk, and pulled into the pits to take their stop. Mercedes stayed out under double yellows…and the Safety Car was launched. FINALLY we’d see a car pushing itself to the limit.

Poor Lew-Lew was left hung out to dry! Image courtesy Mercedes AMG Petronas (for editorial use only)

Lew-Lew was left hung out to dry! Image courtesy Mercedes AMG Petronas (editorial use only)

Nico Rosberg pitted under the safety car and maintained the lead, but poor Lew-Lew got hung out to dry! The RBRs were released by the safety car and by the time Lew-Lew got through the pits, the time differential on that 1 lap was enough for BOTH Red Bull’s to jump him. I sulked. Finger Boy was now sitting second. Harumph.

With the restart, we had Lew-Lew right up Webber’s chuff with the prospect of a wonderful tussle! Sure enough, on lap 41 Lewis tried a gorgeous little move going into Rasse Casse chucking it up the inside. Both he and Webber drove brilliantly, each leaving just enough room for the other, with Webber coming out on top. This could have gotten juicy! Or not. Because I was forgetting – they had to maintain their tyres. Lew-Lew received a wonderfully diplomatically worded reminder, while jostling for position that he needed his tyres at the end of the race. Bah!

Cheeky Checo had many moments in the sun - albeit controversial ones. Image courtesy Vodafone McLaren Mercedes (for editorial use only)

Cheeky Checo had many moments in the sun – albeit controversial ones. Image courtesy Vodafone McLaren Mercedes (for editorial use only)

The following lap saw a simply AWESOME move from Cheeky Checo take Button going into the Nouvelle Chicane! The single best overtake I have seen on this track in years! Totally uncharacteristically, I was speechless! (I’ve recovered now though. This would be a scarily short review elseways) On lap 43, he tried the same move in the same place on Alonso – who took to the escape road to maintain the position. McLaren got on the radios, yelping that Alonso had been a bad boy and gone straight on, while Ferrari got on the radios, yelping that Perez had been a bad boy and MADE Alonso go straight on. The FIA agreed with McLaren and told Ferrari to be good boys and give up the position to Checo.

On lap 46, Max Chilton had a ‘moment’ in the chicane and decided that the centre of the road would be the safest place to be following that. Shame that while there, he didn’t notice the big Williams-shaped car in his mirrors. Wallet managed to knock the nose off Maldonado’s Williams, putting it under the car, and putting Pastor into ‘Take Off’ mode. Thankfully he landed, but hit the barrier hard. So hard in fact that the barrier decided to give him a huge hug, and wrapped itself around the car, covering half the track. A horrible accident for Maldonado, which thankfully only resulted in cuts and bruises. See, I can be nice!

The damage to the barrier, and the fact that it was staging a pitch invasion brought out the red flag. Half Time!

Crucially, during the half-hour stop, the teams are able to make changes to the car, including the tyres. With this free tyre stop, would we see some of the action we are so desperate for on the restart?

Yes and no. Vettel had already been told on lap 40 to hold station, and he continued to do this with Lew-Lew doing likewise behind Mark Webber. Thank goodness then for Adrian Sutil. He found a sweet spot going into the hairpin, and not once, but twice made beautiful moves to pass first Button and then Alonso and get up behind Perez. A great and exciting display that led to an excellent 5th place finish. See what can happen when you let people push?

On lap 63, Romain Grosjean seemed to decide to mate his Lotus with the Torro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo, by trying to mount it going into the Nouvelle chicane. All he succeeded in doing was to lop off his own nose, put debris all over the track and prompt another Safety Car period. Given he is on his last chance with Lotus, you have to wonder what they will make of the excuse suggested by Martin Brundle of, “I didn’t see my braking point as there was a car in the way”.

Kimi lost his cool... for a change. Seen here with Daft Punk. Image courtesy Lotus F1 team (for editorial use only)

Kimi lost his cool… for a change. Seen here with Daft Punk. Image courtesy Lotus F1 team (for editorial use only)

The real race was between Kimi Raikkenon and man on a mission Checo Perez. He was absolutely on it in a way that no other driver had been throughout the race. He was pushing for position every chance he had, really giving us as spectators and race lovers something to watch. Having had wonderful success coming into the Nouvelle Chicane, this was Checo’s ‘Spot of Choice’. He was pushing every time, and pushed a little hard when, outbreaking himself, he forced both himself and Raikkenon to take to the escape road. Next time round, learning from the error, Kimi didn’t leave as much of a gap, but there was still a gap, and having already committed to a punt up the inside, the two collided. It was enough to give Kimi a rear left puncture, and remove the end plates from the McLaren front wing. A racing incident in my very humble opinion – there was no way Perez could have backed out of the move, and Kimi was always going to position himself so that he could more easily close the gap this time. It was no one’s fault, just 2 drivers doing what they’re paid to do: Race. Not that either of them agree with me. Perez felt Kimi put him in the wall by not leaving enough room, and Kimi, in the way only Kimi can, blamed Perez saying ‘Maybe someone should punch him in the face!’ Not so ice cool today then, Kimster.

Kimi was able to pit, and came out in 16th. He drove the stint of the race over those last few laps to make up position after position, and finish in 10th. His run of Points Finishes is now up to 23 – one short of Michael Schumacher’s record.

Perez didn’t fare so well, and a lap later had to retire his car with brake issues. It is a real shame for a driver who was my Driver of the Day, and is really showing what he’s capable of to all the naysayers who queried his signing.

A brilliant well-deserved victory for Nico who ended up scripting a great story. Image courtesy Mercedes AMG Petronas (for editorial use only)

A brilliant well-deserved victory for Nico who ended up scripting a great story. Image courtesy Mercedes AMG Petronas (for editorial use only)

As we hurtled ever closer to the flag, a status quo descended, and 2 and a half hours after the race had started, an absolutely elated Nico Rosberg took a tremendously well deserved victory, with Finger Boy 2nd and Mark Webber 3rd. Fernando Alonso ended in 7th, which is great news for Finger Boy’s hopes of a 4th title in a row. And yes, I said that through teeth that couldn’t be more gritted if they tried.

The Top 10

  1. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes
  2. Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull
  3. Mark Webber – Red Bull
  4. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
  5. Adrian Sutil – Force India
  6. Jenson Button – McLaren Mercedes
  7. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari
  8. Jean-Eric Vergne – Torro Rosso
  9. Paul Di Resta – Force India
  10. Kimi Raikkenon – Lotus

Today’s race was all about tyre management. Again. Monaco is a track that is usually the best of the season, to observe drivers’ skills coming to the fore; to watch them throwing the car round a twisting, turning, tight track. Pushing it to the absolute limits and just barely kissing the barriers. Spotting tiny gaps and elbowing their way into them to gain positions. It’s a track where the brave and the great will always thrive. The place where you will usually see some of the most beautiful driving you could ever wish to; all ruined by rubber. The sport I love is F1 Racing. Not F1 Maintaining.

Nikki is a 30-something life-long motorsports fan who fell in love with Formula 1 when Ayrton Senna stole her young heart, never to be returned.  Feisty by nature, she always tells it how it is and is no respector of reputation – if a driver is having a bad driving day and is making excuses, that’s exactly what she’ll say. Don’t forget to follow her on Twitter!

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