Rosberg wins incident packed Monaco Grand Prix

Nico Rosberg led the Monaco GP from start to finish
Nico Rosberg led the Monaco GP from start to finish

Hometown hero Nico Rosberg conquered the mean streets of Monte Carlo to win the Monaco Grand Prix and made history by becoming the first son of a former winner – Keke Rosberg – to take victory at the principality.

From day one, back on Thursday, Rosberg was unbeatable around a circuit which traverses the neighbourhood where he grew up and went to school. He topped all three free practice sessions, scored a brilliant pole position and controlled every moment of a race packed with incidents, including two lengthy safety car sessions and a red flag stoppage shortly after midway.

It was a big victory for Mercedes, the first of the Toto Wolff – Niki Lauda era, it was also the team’s first triumph this season where they have had strong single lap pace but in race mode failed dismally.

Rosberg doubled his F1 career victory tally to two and on the day comprehensively out-performed teammate Lewis Hamilton who started second but ended fourth.

Nico Rosberg celebrates his Monaco victory
Nico Rosberg celebrates his Monaco victory

As mayhem and hardcore battles ensued behind him, Rosberg never lost control or the lead of the race. he was impeccable in all the paced restarts, instantly pulling a gap from the chasing field. He delivered one of the most memorable and polished performances seen at the principality, since Ayrton Senna’s dominant days at the venue over two decades ago.

And of course matching his father’s achievement before he was born 30 years ago – Keke won the 1983 Monaco GP for Williams – gave the achievement a priceless feel about it.

Rosberg reveled in the his moment of glory and said afterwards, “It’s amazing. This is my home, I’ve grown up here all my life and it’s really special. The whole weekend went perfectly. I had a terrible start and I was close with Sebastian and Lewis but after that I controlled the pace. The car was really good, the tyres held on OK and that was really the key, so a massive thanks to the team. I’m ecstatic.”

Sebastian Vettel finished second and Red Bull teammate Mark Webber third. Vettel thus extended his championship points lead as did Red Bull in the constructors’ table.

The pair capitalised by pitting just as the first safetycar period ensued, the timely move allowed them to catapult past Lewis Hamilton and very nearly getting ahead of Rosberg. Thereafter they spent the day, nose to tail and chasing Rosberg in vain. Nevertheless a good points haul for the energy drinks outfit.

Top three on the royal podium
Top three on the royal podium

Vettel reflected, “Overall I’m happy and pleased with the result, we know it’s difficult to overtake here. Congratulations to Nico, he had the pace and the tyres. We had a fantastic start but there was no room to overtake and I had to life. I was surprised by the slow pace of the opening laps. you expect two silver arrows in front of you and we had two buses in front going for a cruise. They had a strategy but we did well to get past Lewis. I think we can be happy with the result. It was a good job by the team.”

Webber summed his afternoon, “Congratulations to Nico, it’s a special place to win it. It was a seamless weekend. For us we knew it was a bit against us but we got a good start. It was sod’s law that it was a short first corner. After that it was saving the tyres. It was completely predictable. It was nice to get Lewis but we will take that position. It was difficult to get the restart. But in general it was just driving around and saving the tyres.”

Hamilton crossed the line fourth, but can also take some credit for his teammate’s triumph. He helped block off the Red Bull duo at the start and going into Turn 1 as Rosberg endured a sluggish start and then he played the team game by holding the blue cars up during the early stages of the race,  giving Rosberg the breathing space to look after his tyres and control the pace.

Nico Rosberg acknowledges victory on home soil
Nico Rosberg acknowledges victory on home soil

Scraping away the gloss and the glamour, and not to detract from Rosberg’s fine win, the fact that the front runners were all in tyre conservation mode throughout the race bordered on a farce. It took a cheeky last ditch fastest lap by Vettel – which was two seconds better than anyone had gone all day –  for the point to be made and the harsh reality of what modern F1 has turned into.

Of course Vettel’s engineer mumbled without conviction that fastest laps do not count for anything, to which the world champion replied: “Just satisfaction.”

In fact prior to Felipe Massa’s big shunt which caused the first safety car period the headlines being prepared were the likes of: ‘Bore on the Cote D’Azur’ or ‘Yawn through the streets’ because nothing of note was going on out on track as the field snaked around a couple of seconds off the pace, in tyre economy run of sorts.

Massa’s crash no doubt woke up the half billion or so viewers, as it was a carbon copy of the fate he suffered in FP3. Slamming the barriers just after the start/finish line then flying out of control and slamming the TechPro barriers at Sainte Devote. It was another big one and Massa, who looked dazed and confused, received treatment at the side of the track.

Sergio Perez and Jenson Button went toe-to-toe for most of the race
Sergio Perez and Jenson Button went toe-to-toe for most of the race

When the safety car ducked into the pits, the top four were gone almost instantly, but the fun and games began with the field bunched up.

First there was a no-harm-done tap as Jenson Button chased Fernando Alonso out of Loews hairpin. Then a kilometre down the road Sergio Perez – who had in the first chapter of the race tangled with his teammate and had to relinquish the position he took by cutting the Nouvelle Chicane – darted down the outside of Button (again) as he exited the tunnel and made an audacious overtake stick.

He did the same again to Alonso a couple of laps later. The Ferrari driver was wise to it and cut the chicane and what appeared to be a move to avoid contact. Later on, after the restart, the Spaniard was told to cede the position to Perez who at this stage was first in line for ‘man of the match’ award – more of that later.

On lap 46 Pastor Maldonado came upon Max Chilton as the pair went into Tabac, the Williams driver was up against the barrier when the Marussia edged into him causing the blue and white car to get airborne and crash heavily into Tabac at the foot of the grandstand. The TechPro barrier engulfed the Williams and blocked the track which resulted in Jules Bianchi slamming into it and destroying the front end of his Marussia.

Pastor Maldonado crashes into the barrier after clashing with Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi
Pastor Maldonado crashes into the barrier after clashing with Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi

With the track perilously blocked the red flags came out and they all lined up on the grid, awaiting the restart as piles of debris were collected and the barriers strapped up again. Chilton got a drive through penalty for his role in the accident

About half an hour later the field started up for the second formation lap of the afternoon. At this point lap Alonso had to allow Perez through as the stewards deemed Alonso’s chicane cut had given him an advantage.

The restart was a carbon copy of the first one as the leading quartet bounded away into the distance and behind them  a train of cars battled it out. Perez the hero (thus far) went to zero with his next move, this time on Kimi Raikkonen for fifth place, again going into the chicane after the tunnel. This time the McLaren was too far back and it was an overly ambitious move.

Unlike Button and Alonso, Raikkonen drifted towards the harbour-side and squeezed Perez into the barrier, the cars made contact and a shower of McLaren and Lotus bits were testament to the damage.

Raikkonen suffered a puncture and pitted immediately for new tyres. His day ended with a solitary point – disappointing since he was good for at least fifth – but nevertheless extended his consecutive points scoring run to 23 races.

Kimi Raikkonen was running fifth before clashing with Sergio Perez
Kimi Raikkonen was running fifth before clashing with Sergio Perez

Damage on Perez’s car was more severe and although he tried gamely to hang in there, he eventually had to park it just before Anthony Nogues, his race run and almost scooping the ‘bad boy’ prize.

A few laps later Romain Grosjean stole the ‘bad boy’ prize from Perez with a bizarre misjudgement which saw his Lotus climb up the back of Daniel Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso as they exited the tunnel at high speed. Debris scattered all over the track, both drivers escaped down the slip road without injury but with damage to both cars. Grosjean tried to resume but the front suspension on his E21 was bent. It was his fourth crash during the three days in Monaco.

This brought out the safety car again, as debris was cleared from the chicane area.

Capitalising impressively on both the restarts was Adrian Sutil in the Force India who made a couple of classy moves on Button first and a few laps later on Alonso going into the Loews hairpin. Fifth place was his and Force India’s best ever finish at Monaco.

Romain Grosjean returns to the pits with his damaged Lotus
Romain Grosjean returns to the pits with his damaged Lotus

At the end of the afternoon, Button and Alonso had survived the wars around them for what seemed most of the race, to finish sixth and seventh respectively.

Best of the Frenchmen was Jean Eric Vergne who delivered what must be a career best drive to eighth place in the Toro Rosso. The youngster showing maturity and race craft beyond his years on a trying day at a venue which is as close as he will be to a home race.

Paul di Resta put behind him a disappointing qualifying session, and delivered a solid performance which saw him start 17th and end up ninth in the Force India.

Final word to race winner Rosberg,  “I’m extremely happy to win this race. We’ve had such a difficult time the last couple races and droppig back so much. That was a little bit in back of mind but it was OK. I hope this is going to last. Today, the team gave me a great car. It’s really fantastic to see how much they have been able to improve in a short space of time. This track suited us anyway.”

Monaco Grand Prix, Race Result – Sunday, 26 May 2013

19Nico RosbergMercedes78Winner125
21Sebastian VettelRed Bull Racing-Renault78+3.8 secs318
32Mark WebberRed Bull Racing-Renault78+6.3 secs415
410Lewis HamiltonMercedes78+13.8 secs212
515Adrian SutilForce India-Mercedes78+21.4 secs810
65Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes78+23.1 secs98
73Fernando AlonsoFerrari78+26.7 secs66
818Jean-Eric VergneSTR-Ferrari78+27.2 secs104
914Paul di RestaForce India-Mercedes78+27.6 secs172
107Kimi RäikkönenLotus-Renault78+36.5 secs51
1111Nico HulkenbergSauber-Ferrari78+42.5 secs11
1217Valtteri BottasWilliams-Renault78+42.6 secs14
1312Esteban GutierrezSauber-Ferrari78+43.2 secs19
1423Max ChiltonMarussia-Cosworth78+49.8 secs22
1521Giedo van der GardeCaterham-Renault78+62.5 secs15
166Sergio PerezMcLaren-Mercedes72+6 Laps7
Ret8Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault63+15 Laps13
Ret19Daniel RicciardoSTR-Ferrari61+17 Laps12
Ret22Jules BianchiMarussia-Cosworth58+20 Laps20
Ret16Pastor MaldonadoWilliams-Renault44+34 Laps16
Ret4Felipe MassaFerrari28+50 Laps21
Ret20Charles PicCaterham-Renault7+71 Laps18

Note – Bianchi and Massa failed to set a qualifying time within the 107% requirement. Both race at stewards’ discretion. Massa and Chilton (originally qualified 20th) take five-place grid penalties for gearbox change.