Mark Webber turned his inherited pole position into victory despite tricky conditions in the closing laps of Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix. The victory marked Webber’s second win around the streets of Monaco Grand Prix in his career.
He also became the sixth winner in six races to continue this incredible Formula 1 season. That particular statistic is unprecedented in F1 history. The win for Red Bull meant the team became the first team to notch up a repeat win this year.
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg was second, while Fernando Alonso completed the podium for Ferrari and now astonishingly leads the world championship despite Ferrari’s early struggles this season. Sebastian Vettel (4th) in the other Red Bull, Lewis Hamilton (5th) in his McLaren and Alonso’s team-mate Felipe Massa (6th) rounded out a very close top six.
Pole position starter Webber held off Rosberg’s Mercedes away from the grid, then remained ahead through the sole pitstop sequence, despite Rosberg going for fresh tyres earlier. It was a rare thing to see as generally the driver to pit earlier has enjoyed an undercut in time on fresh tyres. Behind the lead two there was carnage as Schumacher and Grosjean tangled sending Grosjean out of the race.
Vettel brought himself into contention by getting up to sixth at the start, then stayed out until lap 45 before switching from softs to the super softs that everyone else had started the race on. Having parked up in qualifying; Vettel decided to use a different strategy from his lowly grid slot. Lapping 1.5s faster than anyone else for a spell while leading, Vettel was able to emerge from his stop in fourth ahead of Hamilton, who had also lost out to Alonso in the pits much to his disdain judging by his interactions on the team radio.
Rain had been forecasted all afternoon, and there was some sprinkling rain going into the final eight laps, just as the leaders’ tyres began to fade. As Webber’s tyres began to fade up front; he started to back the pack up and the top six grew ever closer together as the final laps began; with Rosberg, Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton and Massa suddenly right on Webber’s rear wing. As the drizzle eased again; Webber began to push the pace in the final two laps to edge clear of Rosberg’s Mercedes and he was able to wrap up his first win of 2012.
A start crash eliminated one of the weekend’s possible podium contenders in Lotus’ Romain Grosjean. Having made a slow start, he then tangled with Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes, breaking the Lotus’s suspension and sending it spinning across the pack at Sainte Devote. In a stroke of luck in a race which is famous for first corner incidents; none of the frontrunners hit the stricken Lotus. It did clip the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi and led to the Japanese driver’s retirement with suspension damage. Schumacher was able to continue and ran seventh until fuel pressure problems forced him to retire. At the back of the pack, Barcelona winner Pastor Maldonado ran into Pedro de la Rosa’s HRT to end a miserable weekend for the Venezuelan who‘d incurred penalties for a gearbox change and a driving infringement following some on track contact with Perez‘s Sauber.
Jean-Eric Vergne overtook Schumacher as he struggled with his fuel pressure problems but following a risky strategy which required a very early pitstop on lap 18 to give Vergne the chance to run in clean air and vault up the order. He was forced to stop for tyres late on. A decision to pit for intermediates as the drizzle fell proved a misguided gamble and he eventually finished out of the points in 12th.
Force India scored a double points finish as Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg finished seventh and eighth respectively. After a weekend spent battling his steering; there was only a 9th place finish for Kimi Raikkonen in the remaining Lotus. The Finn lost time when his tyres dramatically faded in the first stint. He’d a great battle with Schumacher then Hulkenberg as the first and only round of pit-stops took place. The Finn then got trapped behind Charles Pic’s Marussia following his stop before eventually getting back into the points as others hit a mixture of reliability issues and poor tyre calls. Bruno Senna had a difficult weekend having been out-paced again in qualifying by his team-mate but he did manage to pick up a solitary point for Williams.
Jenson Button failed to make any progress in the second McLaren. After taking to the escape road to avoid the first-corner crash, he spent most of the afternoon trying to pass Heikki Kovalainen’s Caterham. Having been freed up by Kovalainen’s initial stop; Button went on the charge to try pick up places only for his team to have possibly brought him in to early for his only pit-stop of the afternoon. To the team and Button’s dismay he returned to the track just behind Kovalainen and battled with him before contact sent him out of the race at the exit to the Swimming Pool. Kovalainen had been on course for 11th, but had to pit with front wing damage after a massive battle with Sauber’s Sergio Perez, he eventually fell to 13th behind Vergne.
Alonso now leads the world championship by three points from Vettel. The Spaniard was ecstatic about his podium in Monaco and it must give Ferrari confidence having seen their cars rebound from early season struggles. There was some controversy about the win as there is arguments surrounding the floors of the Red Bull cars. There were rumours on twitter of a possible protest but this did not occur. It appears that scrutineering ahead of the Candian Grand Prix may involve a protest should clarification surrounding the Red Bull floor not be received by the sport’s governing body the FIA.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS
The Monaco Grand Prix
Monte Carlo, Monaco;
78 laps; 260.520km;
Pos Driver Team Time
1. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1h46:06.557
2. Rosberg Mercedes + 0.643
3. Alonso Ferrari + 0.947
4. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 1.343
5. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 4.101
6. Massa Ferrari + 6.195
7. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 41.537
8. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes + 42.562
9. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 44.036
10. Senna Williams-Renault + 44.516
11. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap
12. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
13. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
14. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap
15. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
Fastest lap: Perez, 1:17.298
Driver Team On lap
Button McLaren-Mercedes 71
Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 66
Pic Marussia-Cosworth 65
Schumacher Mercedes 64
Petrov Caterham-Renault 16
Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 6
De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1
Maldonado Williams-Renault 1
Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1
1. Alonso 76
2. Vettel 73
3. Webber 73
4. Hamilton 63
5. Rosberg 59
6. Raikkonen 51
7. Button 45
8. Grosjean 35
9. Maldonado 29
10. Perez 22
11. Di Resta 21
12. Kobayashi 19
13. Senna 15
14. Massa 10
15. Hulkenberg 7
16. Vergne 4
17. Schumacher 2
18. Ricciardo 2
1. Red Bull-Renault 146
2. McLaren-Mercedes 108
3. Ferrari 86
4. Lotus-Renault 86
5. Mercedes 61
6. Williams-Renault 44
7. Sauber-Ferrari 41
8. Force India-Mercedes 28
9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 6