Max Verstappen may have ended his race in the barriers, but without him the Monaco GP would have been, as Sebastian Vettel described: “Very boring to the first pit-stop and then a bus tour to the end.”
Star of the Race
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 3rd
As Nico Rosberg said afterwards: “Lewis did an awesome job the whole weekend and didn’t put a foot wrong.” In Qualifying on Saturday Hamilton delivered a dominant pole while Nico Rosberg had serial brake-locking issues. In the race, Lewis could pull away from his team-mate with ease and dealt with the traffic better, yet was robbed of a deserved race win by a stupid decision from the pitwall.
Looking at the time gaps you got a small insight into why it happened. Just before Max Verstappen hit the barrier at Ste Devote the gap between Lewis and Nico was 17 seconds. All of a sudden that jumped out to 25 seconds on the timing screens. Whether or not that played a part in someone calling Lewis in for a precautionary stop is unlikely to be confirmed by Merc, but it was obviously the wrong decision.
Mercedes have an easy solution, though. In a future race where Nico is leading Lewis, they just need to reverse the order. The only reason Nico won is from an errant team call. It’s been done before. McLaren had a memorable mix-up with Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard at the Aussie GP. Hakkinen responded to what he thought was a call from the pitlane and came in, but was waved through. That gave DC the lead.
McLaren made the call to Coulthard and he gave up the win and llet Mika Hakkinen back into the lead again. Lewis took it better than you though he might, but then again he has just signed a three-year deal worth over $120m. That’s got to soften any blow.
Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 56: Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso on Valtteri Bottas, Williams for P11
Verstappen was the one driver who made the Monaco GP come alive. It was an astonishing race weekend for the 17-year-old, who showed that 200 laps in the simulator was all he needed to master what was required around the Circuit-de-Tax-Dodgers.
The Dutchman’s pass on Maldonado into Ste Devote was great, but aided by the Lotus driver’s lack of braking. What Pastor lacked in brakes he made up for in unwillingness to give up the position and it was a small miracle that the two of them came through there side-by-side without touching. A rare sight.
But then Max had the idea that he could be Sebastian Vettel’s pilot fish, seeing as he was equipped with much faster tyres than Vettel and was able to sit on the Ferrari driver’s exhaust as he ploughed through the cars obeying the sign of the blue flag. He jinked past the compliant Bottas at Portiers in the neatest of moves.
Grosjean was wise to the scam a few laps later but was holding on for dear life when the two collided. Max’s subsequent penalty was not deserved. Drivers should be encouraged to take chances, not just follow round and round.
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 2nd
Seb managed to grab P2 thanks to his dogged and resolute pursuit of Rosberg throughout the race. Interesting to see him warming his tyres on the pit straight as Hamilton exited the pitlane. That must have been a surprise. A little bit more warming and that might have been P3 for Seb not P2.
In a way, Seb saved even more Mercedes controversy, because had Lewis come out in P2 behind Rosberg, with Vettel back in P3, then it would have given the Silver Arrows team a big headache. Do they ask Nico to hand the win to Lewis? Or would we have had a Bahrain situation where they both fight it out – only this time very close to unforgiving barriers.
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1st
How does the saying go? There are lies, damned lies and statistics. The grand prix stats book now reads that four drivers have won three consecutive Monaco GPs – Hill (Graham), Prost and Senna. World Champions all. And now Nico Rosberg.
Nico was very gracious about his good fortune in lucking into his win afterwards. It was a bit like a team winning the FA Cup final, having had no shots on target, and the other team scoring a freaky own goal. It was all a bit anti-climactic.
Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull, 4th
Kvyat made the most of his perfect start to score the best result of his Red Bull career. He was also a lot quicker to respond to RBR instructions from the pratt stand when he got them this time round. He needed this result, but he’ll need a lot more
Dan Ricciardo, Red Bull, 5th
Dan was a lucky boy to keep his fifth place after tapping Raikkonen out of the way into Mirabeau with an old karting move. He looked a lot racier than Lewis Hamilton at the end. But presumably Lewis was wary of a rash dive that might have handed the whole 25 points to Rosberg.
Sergio Perez, Force India, 7th
Perez kept his hard-won P7 from Qualifying. This wasn’t a gift from others’ misfortune, as has often been the way with Force India points. Checo started in P7, finished the opening lap in P7. On Lap 20 he was P7 and on Lap 39 he was P7. You can guess where he lined up behind the Safety Car.
Jenson Button, McLaren-Honda, 8th
Jenson benefited from the demise of Verstappen and Maldonado, but had a good race keeping pace with the cars at the front. This must be the most cherished 8th place that McLaren have scored in the last 25 years.
Monaco GP Organisers
Long time readers of this column (yes, you, Mr G. Richardson of Long Ditton) will be familiar with my rant about the Monaco GP organisers. They pay nothing for their GP yet can’t engineer a place on the race track where overtaking can take place.
Without the late race energy pumped in by Max Verstappen, this was going to be a turkey of a grand prix. What is billed as the ‘blue riband’ event on the calendar, the showcase race where a lot of non-F1 people turn up to see how their sponsorship money is being spent, would have been as dull as a Helmut Marko interview.
That could be solved by spending $5 to $10m on extending the track past the tunnel chicane to create a place where overtaking without too much carbon fibre can be achieved. There is room down there for expansion. The Auto Club de Monaco were forced to build a proper pit complex after years of criticism. In this new era of asking fans what they want, ‘the chance to overtake somewhere’ is a pretty fundamental requirement for a race circuit.
Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, DNF
And still it continues – Pastor Maldonado has been hit by at least one car at every race of the year. Most of the time it’s not been his fault. This time it was Max Verstappen who gave him a front-wing-modifying nerf into the tunnel chicane. This time it was Pastor’s lack of brakes that brought on the contact. One day he will finish the Monaco GP.
Arse(s) of the Weekend
Now you might think that the person who decided to bring Lewis in for that pit-stop would get this particular laurel wreath, but that was a decision under pressure made in seconds
The stewards at Monaco decided it was correct to give Fernando Alonso a five-second penalty for a first lap racing incident with Nico Hulkenberg, and then later in the race allow Daniel Ricciardo to punt Kimi Raikkonen towards the barriers at the same place, take the position, and let him get away with it.
This is F1 not the BTCC.
Ricciardo was much further back than Alonso and didn’t have a chance at getting past Raikkonen at Mirabeau and it was only the Ferrari driver’s skill that kept him out of the barriers. Alonso’s was a racing 50/50.
The stewards later confirmed that they have the collective judgement of a single cell organism by giving Max Verstappen two penalty points and a five-place grid penalty for Canada.
How many has Eddie had?
A new feature for W+L – when EJ starts beaming in the paddock, readers have to guess how many he’s had before going on air. At one point on the Saturday show DC was angled across looking at Allan McNish giving his analysis, while EJ faced out beaming at the camera in the wrong direction. Together they looked like Gilbert & George. Here are the possible answers:
a) A few
b) Quite a lot
c) More during Qualifying than in the race
David Coulthard proved that the Carry On films are alive and well and living in F1: “I’ve rattled the barrier there a few times myself…”
The STBO (Stating The Bleedin’ Obvious) Award
Jenny Gow: “Bottas has been told, “you’re in the window, change to Mode 6’.” Can you decode that Allan?”
Allan McNish “Mode 6 is a setting for something or other on the steering wheel.”