Vettel wins in Monaco (almost) thriller
Sebastian Vettel has won Formula One’s most prestigious event in Monaco in one of Monte Carlo’s most exciting races.
In a race packed with incidents, Vettel navigated his way through two safety car periods and a temporary race suspension to beat Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button to the chequered flag.
Australian Mark Webber cam fourth after being muscled out of position on his way to the first corner once again. He led home Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi and an incensed Lewis Hamilton as the last of the cars to complete the same number of laps as the race leader.
‘It’s unbelievable. I think the race today was pretty entertaining,’ said Vettel after claiming his fifth win in six races. ‘A fantastic result, and an extreme honour to add my name to a list of previous winners here.’
The race promised to provide a thrilling conclusion as Vettel gambled on a one-stop strategy against Alonso’s two-stops and Button on three. By lap 61, the trio were separated by less than a second as the conclusion looked to come down to defensive driving and tyre management.
However, a late multi-car incident on lap 71 between Sutil, Hamilton, Alguersuari and Petrov resulted in the race’s second safety car period, and eventually a red flag.
Confusion ensued as some reported that the race would be declared run with six laps remaining, whilst teams ordered their drivers to the starting grid in anticipation of a restart.
It transpired that race control’s hesitation making a decision was due to uncertainty regarding Petrov’s state after the accident. Witnesses suggested that the Russian mightn’t mave been moving in the cockpit for some time, though medical crews found him conscious and helped him from his car to allow the race to be restarted.
As is the case under red flag conditions, Red Bull were able to change the tyres on Vettel’s car, scuppering the potentially competitive ending as he controlled the restart to claim his first victory in Monaco.
‘I was targeting to go longer on the options, but we had a problem on the pit stop,’ said Vettel. He took his first pit stop on lap 16 to cover Button’s early change of tyres, but as he entered his pit box, his mechanics were only just leaving the garage.
‘We had problems at Sebastian’s first stop, we had radio issues and didn’t get the tyres on that we wanted, so we had to change our strategy,’ explained Christian Horner, team principal at Red Bull.
‘The main thing was that we didn’t panic. We tried something a bit different, which was very aggressive, but Seb was making it work – that was what won him the race today.’
The pit stop error temporarily gave the race lead to Button, whose three-stop strategy looked set to hand him his second Monaco victory.
He was caught out, however, by the day’s first safety car only two laps after he switched to the super-soft compound.
‘It was fun for quite a few laps until the first safety car came out,’ said the 2009 Monaco winner. ‘It hurt us a little because we’d just pitted.’
‘We went for the three stop because i was struggling a little bit in the first stint with the rears.
‘Disappointed for the team and for myself… we had a really chance of victory here.’
It would be Alonso who seemingly came closest to victory on lap 59, as the Spaniard caught the German with significantly fresher tyres. He was running the expected two-stop strategy, whilst Vettel was forced to try to make a one-stop race work.
‘It’s difficult here. There is the risk of 50 per cent you overtake, 50 per cent you crash,’ said second-placed Alonso.
‘You never know what’s going to happen. I was 100 per cent ready to try.
‘He was having more problems [than me] in the last ten laps of the race. He’s got more to lose that me, I was ready to attack.’
Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton spent his day in the thick of the action, and was penalised twice as a result.
Although looking fast all weekend, a strategy error during qualifying meant he only managed to find eighth on the grid – though his time was later deleted for cutting a chicane and he started ninth.
He battled to keep his place with five-times Monaco winner Michael Schumacher, who eventually forced his way through the inside of the hairpin to relegate Hamilton down to 10th.
Hamilton took the position back with a gutsy move on the inside of Ste Devote, driving Schumacher to the limit of his Mercedes’ grip as he narrowly avoided contact with the outside barrier.
Despite Schumacher’s energetic start to the race, both him and Nico Rosberg soon succumbed to early tyre-wear, and were swallowed up by the midfield.
It would be an ambitious move on Massa around the hairpin that would cost Hamilton his first penalty and, ironically, his team-mate the race victory by having the safety car deployed.
There was damage to the side of Massa’s Ferrari, though the accident didn’t prevent the Brazilian from attempting to take his place back through the tunnel. He lost grip on the tyre debris and dust, however, and put his Ferrari in the wall.
Hamilton would attract attention of the stewards for a second time on lap 74 as he bullied Williams’ Pastor Maldonado out of the way into Ste Devote. Maldonado retired and Hamilton suffered a retrospective 20 second time penalty, handed down after the race.
‘It’s an absolute frickin’ joke,’ he told the BBC after the race. ‘I’ve been to see the stewards five times out of six this season.’
When asked to explain why he thought that was, he replied ‘maybe it’s because I’m black. That’s what Ali G says.’ His comments were later dismissed by McLaren principle Martin Whitmarash as a poorly-received joke.