Nico Rosberg took his second consecutive Monaco Grand Prix victory and reclaimed the lead of the FIA Formula One World Driver’s Championship with a controlled drive from pole position.
The German held off a strong challenge from team-mate Lewis Hamilton, whose chances of taking a fourth win in a row this season faded when he suffered a visibility problem caused by dirt in his left eye. Daniel Ricciardo finished third for Red Bull Racing after recovering from a slide to fifth at the start.
It’s another special day for me, for sure,” said Rosberg. “Lewis drove well and pushed me massively hard. The pressure was on but I kept it cool and pulled a bit of a gap at the end because of the refreshed tyres. Thanks to the team for all their great work.”
Ricciardo summed up his thoughts on the podium, “It’s really nice to be on the podium. The start was not great, it was frustrating. Sebastian had a problem and I got fourth, then Raikkonen had a puncture so we inherited third. At the end, we closed in on Lewis. We tried to put pressure on, but third was the best we could do.”
Rosberg held his lead at the start, but had Hamilton hard in pursuit. Behind them third starting Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo made a poor getaway and was passed by team-mate Sebastian Vettel. The Australian then tried to fend off the hard-charging Fernando Alonso and that allowed his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who had started sixth, to slip past both, around the outside.
As the front-runners settled into the lap, behind them Force India’s Sergio Perez, who had started 10th, was clipped by McLaren’s Jenson Button and pitched into the barriers on the run down to the hairpin.
That triggered a brief Safety Car intervention and when the it was called back in, the order quickly changed again. This time it was Vettel on the move – backwards. The champion reported a loss of power and slid rapidly back to 10th by the end of lap four.
He pitted for work to be done but when he was released back on track he quickly reported that his RB10 was stuck in first and then had further problems with the Renault power unit, which forced him to retire at the end of the lap. His exit moved Raikkonen to third and Ricciardo to fourth.
Vettel was exasperated over the radio, “Come on guys. I’m sure you are trying everything…I’m stuck in first gear.”
The next man to stop was Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat. The Russian rookie had impressed all weekend on his first time out at Monaco but after a decent race start in which he settled into eighth position he began to drop back on lap 11 losing places to Button and Hulkenberg. Kvyat steered his car back to the pit lane and retired.
The Safety Car next appeared on lap 25. Adrian Sutil lost control of his Sauber on the exit of the tunnel and smashed into the barriers scattering debris all across the run down to the Nouvelle Chicane.
That was the cue for a flurry of stops as the front runners all visited the pits. While all went smoothly for the Mercedes drivers and for Ricciardo, trouble was brewing elsewhere.
Seventh-placed Jean-Eric Vergne was released into the path of Magnussen and incurred a penalty that was a sign of his further problems for the Frenchman and his Italian team.
Raikkonen, meanwhile, slotted back into third following his stop but was soon back in the pits, for another set of Softs, the Finn having been clipped by a lapped Marussia on his out-lap. The Iceman’s misfortune promoted Ricciardo to third.
This was arguably the best chance Hamilton had of seriously challenging for victory as he was gifted an opportunity to pit just before the second Safety Car was deployed, after Sutil’s shunt at the Chicane.
There appeared to be ample time for his pit wall to make the call to bring him in, as the debris from the Sauber strewn across the track would clearly require a Safety Car. But no call was made to driver number 44.
Hamilton was not pleased and made it quite clear over the radio: “I knew we should have pitted on that lap, but I knew you wouldn’t call me in guys.”
Meanwhile Vergne’s return to the pits on lap 37 for his penalty shuffled the order in the lower half of the top 10. Hulkenberg was now sixth, ahead of Magnussen, Button, Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutierrez.
Massa, though, was still circulating on his first set of Super-softs and would need to make the switch. He finally pitted on lap 45, dropping back to 11th. The order now was Rosberg, just 0.8 s ahead of Hamilton, with Ricciardo third, 12 s back. Alonso was fourth ahead of Hulkenberg, Magnussen and Button. Bottas was eighth, Gutierrez ninth and Raikkonen was back into the top 10.
Vergne’s race meanwhile went from bad to worse. Fighting with Jules Bianchi for P13 on lap 52, blue smoke suddenly appeared at the back of the Toro Rosso. By the time Vergne reached the swimming pool section it had turned into a plume and he arrowed into pit lane to bring to an end a frustrating afternoon for himself and his team.
A handful of laps later the second engine failure of the day (and indeed, the season) changed the order again. Bottas, in eighth, was defending hard as behind him Gutierrez, Raikkonen and Massa (now on fresh tyres) pushed to get past. In the end none of the trio had to tussle too hard as on lap 57 Bottas’ FW36 expired in a plume of smoke at the hairpin.
Gutierrez was the next man to exit the race. The Mexican clipped the barrier at Rascasse, sustained a puncture and spun close to the pit lane entrance.
That put Marussia’s Jules Bianchi in a points-scoring position. The Frenchman was due to take a five-second penalty at the end of the race for a previous infringement but with a six-second advantage over Grosjean on track, it looked like the Frenchman was on the way to his first F1 points.
Hamilton, meanwhile, was in trouble, complaining that he had dirt in his left eye that was impairing his vision. The gap between him and Rosberg drifted to five seconds, with Ricciardo now eight seconds behind Hamilton.
The Australian made a determined bid to reel in Hamilton and closed the gap on the Mercedes driver to three seconds by lap 72. Hamilton was soon embroiled in traffic and on lap 73 Riccardo was running on the Briton’s gearbox.
In the traffic, Button passed Magnussen across the start-finish line. Riccardo and Hamilton wove their through the backmarkers and as they did so Raikkonen attempted to pass Magnussen.
Both got stuck at the hairpin and that allowed Bianchi to move up to eighth place, meaning that regardless of his penalty he would retain a points position.
It was now all about the Riccardo/Hamilton duel. Riccardo threw everything at the challenge but the Red Bull driver could find no way past as Hamilton used his greater power in tunnel to prevent any move from Riccardo into the chicane.
Ahead, Rosberg crossed the line to take his second Monaco win and to take back the championship lead. The German now has 122 points to his team-mate’s 118.
Hamilton held off Riccardo to take second. Alonso was fourth behind the Australian, with Hulkenberg fifth. Button was sixth for McLaren, ahead of Massa. Romain Grosjean was eighth.
Bianchi crossed the line ninth, but the Marussia driver was crucially nine seconds ahead of tenth-placed Magnussen, meaning that Marussia scored their first championship points and took a significant advantage over Caterham, for whom Ericsson was 11th, in the Constructors’ Championship.
“Finally we have a point!” Bianchi declared in delight on the team radio after he heard that he finished ninth despite a five-second penalty applied to his race time.
Later the Frenchman added, “It’s just amazing for us, we have been waiting for this for a long time and now we have done it”.
But the big headlines will no doubt be the animosity that has escalated between the Silver Arrows duo, with tensions mounting with every session, let alone every race. The Monte Carlo podium ceremony was an awkward affair with Hamilton ignoring Rosberg and vice versa, the strain between the two title contenders is serious and sure to get even worse – it is clearly cold war within the Silver Arrows camp. (GP247-F1 Media)
Subbed by AJN.
Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo – Sunday, 25 May 2014