MONACO GRAND PRIX – 28TH MAY 2017
A favourite Formula One race for many, today the Monaco Grand Prix proved fairly uninspiring; the late safety car following Button’s crash providing the only flurry of excitement.
“The battle’s not over, boys.” (Hamilton)
The Main Event For Some!
Passing is always nigh on impossible on the Monte Carlo street circuit and with this season’s wider cars, seemingly more so – giving qualifying and pit strategy an even greater importance.
Raikkonen was in pole, for the first time in 9 years. Vettel had made mistakes during qualifying, but started in 2nd place to make it a Ferrari one-two. Hamilton had too much to do today, following a disappointing qualifying session (involving driving errors and problems with tyres) and he started 13th on the grid.
With a ‘one pit only’ plan, would Ferrari engineer a strategy so that Vettel won? It would appear so…
Raikkonen led at the first corner and then both Ferrari’s proceeded to edge away from Bottas, Verstappen and Ricciardo.
Ferrari pitted Raikkonen on Lap 34, with no obvious reason for them to do so, and when he re-joined the race he emerged into traffic. Meanwhile, Vettel stayed out longer and managed to achieve some strong laps before pitting on Lap 39 – when he had a 2 second lead. He then increased his lead to 10 seconds over the next 8 laps.
Ferrari Take the Lead
It was this move by Ferrari that gave Vettel the lead and ultimately the win. But was it deliberate? Raikkonen certainly seemed to think so, “Nothing to say really. Obviously, it’s still second place but it doesn’t feel awfully good.” Raikkonen hasn’t won a race since the Australian Grand Prix in 2013 (with Lotus), today was arguably his best chance to win again – and it was scuppered by the team.
And he wasn’t the only one to sense a strategy; Hamilton “It’s clear to me that Ferrari have chosen their No.1 driver…for the leading car, it’s very hard for him to get jumped by the second car unless the team decide to favour the other car.”
But Vettel claimed that it wasn’t part of a plan “when Kimi stopped I was just going flat out as fast as I could. I was surprised when I came out ahead.”
Whatever the truth, this was an incredible day for Ferrari; they last won here in Monaco with Michael Schumacher in 2001 and today they took 1st and 2nd place.
Verstappen was similarly annoyed by his team’s pit tactics and referred to Red Bull’s strategy as ‘a disaster.’ He had been switched to ultra-softs to give him a chance to pass Bottas – but he failed to pass Bottas after pitting first, while teammate Ricciardo went from 5th to 3rd after running long and pitting later.
Jensen Button’s ‘one off’ appearance this season (with Alonso at the Indy 500) started light heartedly – with Button joking to Alonso that he was going to ‘pee in his seat’ and ended with disappointment when he crashed out after colliding with Wehrlein on Lap 66.
It was this safety car that started a series of collisions that enlivened the otherwise ‘processional’ race.
Ericsson crashed out under the safety car. Vandoorne slid into the barrier while passing Perez. Perez collided with Daniil Kvyat – who went out of the race.
At the restart Ricciardo hit the wall at Sainte Devote while under pressure from Bottas. But he continued without losing his position.
Mercedes decided to run Hamilton long and take advantage when others pitted. The strategy worked, as Hamilton had made up 7 grid places by the time he pitted at Lap 46 in 6th place. Following this pit, he lost a single place to Carlos Sainz and eventually finished 7th. He also managed to skilfully avoid the midfield tangle.
Up Next in the Land of the Polar Bear: Canada!
The Canadian GP is one of Hamilton’s favourite circuits and one that he has always excelled in. But are Ferrari currently favourites?