Only a week has passed since Spain and we are in the thick of the action again. We are racing in Monaco and the venue probably holds the most coveted prize of them all. To win in the difficult narrow streets of Monaco is something every driver wants. Kimi did it of course in 2005 in a commanding way. And he came close in 09 – even with the F60 who was much further off the pace of the front than the current F10. And yet he qualified in 2nd. Had he got it on pole, he might very well have won as passing is close to impossible here. Unless you are a sly old fox that is. But I will get to that.
The free practice pace shown by Alonso in the Ferrari and also Robert Kubica in the Renault promised a shakeup in qualifying. But it all turned sour for Alonso in FP3 when he binned his car in Turn 3/Massenet. The tub was damaged which meant the team could not get the car ready for quali. This was the second major mistake from Alonso this season. The first being his jump start in China. So he would start from the pitlane.
Here is the crash from FP3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqzXdLcXB-0
Or here if one gets taken down: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAYV214fjuA
All the worry over the weekend that the slower teams would cause chaos in Q1 seemed to be pointless. Q1 and Q2 passed without any major drama. A couple of flying laps were hampered by traffic of course. But no more that what we have seen in the past with fewer cars. Nico Rosberg had some frightening speed in Q2 and ended up on top there. But he made a mistake in Q3 and after that his tires were gone. He still ended up 6th on the grid – one ahead of Schumacher. They may have the same driving styles but the short wheelbase chassis sure seems to suit Nico a lot better.
McLaren were hoping for a win here. But it soon became clear that the MP4-25 was not suited for the track of Monaco. 5th for Hamilton and only 8th for Button. Not the best lineup for the championship leader.
Massa qualified in 4th. Somewhat disappointing considering he also qualified 5th last year in the F60. The gremlins havent left Massa completely. Had Alonso been in qualifying, it is almost certain that Massa would have ended up in 5th.
As for Red Bull – just when you thought that the twisty track of Monaco was not suited for the Red Bull at all, then Webber sets a pole lap of 1.13.8. In fact the only lap in the 1.13s all weekend. Thats 6 for 6 for Red Bull. If I am not mistaken, the last time that happened was in 1992. Nigel Mansell took 6 poles in a row in the superior Williams. Feel free to correct me if Im wrong. Point is, on pace the Red Bull seem truly invincible. Their worst enemy is themselves at this point. Mistakes, reliability. Its theirs to lose. The question is who will seize the day. Webber or Vettel?
The big surprise in qualifying was of course Robert Kubica. Every race he impresses me. He is clearly thriving in the Renault team. And he has himself hinted on how much he prefers it to BMW. This, a good setup, and a lot of talent can get you to the front row in Monaco. Which is exactly what Kubica did. 1 tenth quicker than Vettel in 3rd. Fantastic. I also noticed 3 Renault engines in front. It may be down on power, but it must have a nice and smooth power delivery. Which counts for a lot. Especially in Monaco according to Vettel.
Lights out and Vettel gets a run on Kubica, who tries to block but too late. He slips into 2nd by Turn 1/Sainte Devote – nicely done. The rest of the field comes unscathed through turn 1, but The Hulk has a big shunt in the tunnel! Im tempted here people.. Oh what the heck. HULK SMASH! You Marvel fanatics know what Im talking about 😀
Replays shows him suddenly going wide in the tunnel and getting a hard welcome by the barrier. He wasnt exactly sure what happened himself. Williams have confirmed that it was indeed a failure on the car. A front wing mounting component.
Safety Car is immediately deployed and Alonso dives in the pits to do away with his mandatory tire change. He is at the back of the grid but doesnt need to stop again. It would prove a very smart move by the Ferrari team.
Next thing we see is Button pulling his McLaren over to stop. It is smoking from the back of the car and has clearly overheated. It emerges that a cooling cover was left on the car which caused the problem. His championship lead was then lost.
Safety car is in and we get a lot of footage of Alonso battling his way past Virgins and Lotuses. Di Grassi seemed to be the one who put up the biggest fight as the other drivers seemed to just let him by. Why they did that is a mystery to me. But at least we got to see some passing in Monaco 😉
The first driver to make a regular stop was Lewis Hamilton on lap 17. McLaren realised they had to, or the charging Alonso would pass him. He emerged just ahead of the Spaniard, so they timed it perfectly. Eventually all the cars pitted for their tires and Alonso found himself in 6th position ahead of Schumacher. Not bad considering he started from the pitlane. The safety car always benefits someone in Monaco.
Next incident we see is another Williams shunt on lap 30. Barrichello is facing the wrong way up at Massenet and he chucks his steering wheel out of the car onto the track. Seconds later a HRT car passes over it and its gone. Lol! Thats 10.000 euros out the window. Real smooth Rubens.
Replays shows the reason for his anger. He is charging up the hill at Beau Rivage and suddenly the rear steps out. This is surely a failure in the rear suspension! Two failures for Williams? Thats nothing short of a disaster for the team. He was in a solid points position as well. I believe he was in 7th when this happened. Which is a far better position than what the pace of the car actually deserved, so its a real shame.
Video of the crash. (Unless FOM takes it down) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VnTT26pEQw
The race pretty much settled into its own rhythm after that. And I caught myself dozing off a few times. Webber was once again untouchable. Vettel had no answer for his pace. In fact Kubica matched Vettels pace and more so. I dont know if that is disappointing from Sebastian or mightily impressive from Robert. Probably both.
Lap 70 sees another major shunt. Trulli was getting fed up behind the GP2 slow HRT of Chandok and he decided to go for it in Rascasse. That can only end in tears. Which it did. Replays showed the Lotus trying to mate with the HRT, eventually going right over the top of it. And giving the Indian a serious scare in the process. I bet he was happy about the higher cockpit sides right about then. Looked frightening for a moment there.
Here is a vid of the incident. The quality is pretty crappy but this also means less chance for FOM to take it down: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9sHbkhAWpc
This of course brings out the safety car and it looked like it would stay out until the end. But on the last lap it is called in and the lights turn green and there is a dash to the finish line where Webber takes the chequered flag to win. Closely followed by Vettel and Kubica. No surprises there. But a quick glance on the results show Schumacher ahead of Alonso! How on earth did that happen? We get the replay and we see Schumacher squeezing by the Spaniard in the last corner. What a move! But was it legal?
SCHUMACHERS MOVE ON ALONSO
By the time Im writing this, the stewards have decided to penalize Schumacher for his overtaking move on Alonso. There will be an appeal which I hope will be in the favor of Mercedes. And for the sake of the sport. Yes, I know that article 40.13 states that “If the race ends whilst the safety car is deployed it will enter the pit lane at the end of the last lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.”
But there are two major flaws here and the first one is the fact that the rules for overtaking has changed since last year. Cars are now allowed to pass after the Safety Car line. Previously you couldnt overtake until the start/finish line – so naturally the cars would “take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.”
Second major flaw was that the yellows were gone and the green light was on. Green means racing. Any race driver knows that. And after the SC line has been passed, its on. Why else was everybody gunning it for the finish?
Do you remember Australia last year? That race finished under the safety car and no one overtook anyone. The yellows were out and the SC sign was out when Button crossed the line to win. That was not the case here in Monaco.
Darn shame it had to end in another steward decision debacle. Because Schumachers move was undoubtedly the best of the race. Cheeky and brilliant from the sly old fox. The appeal will probably have no effect on the decision, but now you have my 2 cents on the ordeal.
Addition: My conclusion on the affair is this. Yes, the rule is in place which makes Schumachers move illegal. However, the information given by race control at the end of the race was in complete contradiction to that rule. So who do you listen to? Should racers start ignoring flags in case they might get a penalty? The fact is that race control did NOT say that the race will finish under the safety car. And the biggest argument is undoubtedly that green flags were waved and the least the stewards could do is call it even and hand back 7th place to Schumacher. Because the penalty given in this light is clearly a farce and the repercussions will not go down quietly.
DRIVER OF THE DAY
Once again I could give it to Webber for his great win. But Im not gonna. It goes to Kubica for me. By a longshot. What he did in the Lada sponsored Renault all weekend was awe inspiring. Yes, Webber ruled. But the yellow Renault should not be up there. It should be way behind the Red Bulls, the Ferraris, The McLarens, The Mercedes’. But it wasnt. Not in Kubicas hands. Well done!
I really dont know what is going on with Vettel. He was making minced meat out of Webber just a couple of races ago and now the roles have been completely reversed. He needs to step it up and fast if he wants to win the championship. They are now equal on points and the next track is Turkey. Monaco has never really been good to Mr. Vettel. But he put it on pole in Turkey last year. Its an aero track that suits him much better. He made a mistake on the first lap back in 09 and Im sure he is determined to right that wrong and regain the lead on his teammate.
SORENS RACE RATING
4 out of 10 minus 2 for the stewards decision to penalize the best move of the race. That makes it 2 out of 10. As you can tell Im a bit upset about the whole thing. Also the fact that I snoozed a couple of times doesnt help either.
Its crunchtime in Turkey and I cant wait to see the drama unfold there. Until then, take care and be nice to each other. Dont forget that we have Rally Portugal coming up in 2 weeks as well. Go Kimi Goooo!!!
Soren says: Eat your vegetables.