Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton won his first race since the US Grand Prix back in October 2015; taking victory in the principality of Monte Carlo after a disastrous pit stop error by Red Bull gifted the Briton the lead on lap 32, not to say Hamilton was not deserving of victory, he made it work by staying out on full wet tires while others pitted for intermediates before switching to ultra soft slick tires on lap 31.
I have to admit that I am somewhat of Daniel Ricciardo fan and you have to feel for him, this is the second strategy/pit blunder in as many weeks that potentially denied him victory. I don’t believe that Red Bull screwed Ricciardo like the tin foil hat conspiracists, but you have to question the Red Bull decision makers after the bad strategic call in Spain and not having tires ready for the Australian during his second stop.
However I do question Hamilton’s actions in blocking Ricciardo on lap 37 after the Briton made a mistake at the Nouvelle chicane at the end of the tunnel. Hamilton aggressively cut back onto the racing line when the Australian had two wheels alongside, forcing him to lift off to avoid a collision. Hamilton didn’t give Ricciardo room, which went unpunished despite breaking the following rules in the FIA sporting code;
“27.7 Any driver defending his position on a straight, and before any braking area, may use the full width of the track during his first move, provided no significant portion of the car attempting to pass is alongside his. Whilst defending in this way the driver may not leave the track without justifiable reason.
For the avoidance of doubt, if any part of the front wing of the car attempting to pass is alongside the rear wheel of the car in front this will be deemed to be a ‘significant portion’.
27.8 Manoeuvres liable to hinder other drivers, such as deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track or any other abnormal change of direction, are not permitted.”
Ricciardo expressed his frustration over team radio as he took the chequered flag saying “Nothing you can say can make it any better. Just save it.”, understandable after Red Bull threw away a certain victory.
Moving onto other drivers, an excellent drive from Force India’s Sergio Perez scoring a fantastic podium. I’m not sure how he did it as the TV cameras were focused on the battle for the lead, but it’s a mighty performance to climb 5 places on the streets of Monaco. Perez has gone up significantly in my estimation in the past 12 months, putting his more experienced team mate Nico Hulkenberg in the shade.
Ferrari had a poor day at the races, Sebastian Vettel really didn’t have the pace to get past the Force India of Perez and finished exactly where he started in 4th place. Team mate, Kimi Raikkonen had an exceptionally poor race, first hitting the armco at the hairpin breaking his front wing, then blocked HAAS’ Romain Grosjean as his wing got stuck under the car and eventually retired at the end of the tunnel.
McLaren, on the other hand had an amazing day finishing in 5th and 9th places, Fernando Alonso moving up five places from 10th spot on the grid. Jenson Button brought the second McLaren home in 9th place, four places up on his starting position. Not exactly upto the high standards we expect from the Woking based team, but after a troubled year and a half, this is an amazing result for the Honda powered team.
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg took the chequered flag in 6th place overtaking world championship leader Nico Rosberg on the final lap. Rosberg was slow from the outset, holding up team mate, Hamilton before being ordered to let the Briton pass to chase down Ricciardo. Rosberg claimed to have brake issues, but it transpired that he simply didn’t have confidence in the car underneath him, the German tumbled from 2nd place to 7th place as the chequered flag waved, a disappointing performance to say the least.
Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz finished the race in 8th place while team mate Danill Kyvat retired after technical issues and later a collision with Kevin Magnussen. Williams’ Felipe Massa claimed the final points paying position followed by team mate Valteri Bottas, a disappointing day for Williams for sure.
Max Verstappen went from hero, winning the Spanish Grand Prix two weeks ago to zero in Monte Carlo crashing twice, once in the qualifying 1 session, which saw him start from the pit lane and again in the race. Verstapppen was making good progress through the field, breaking into the top 10 before getting off the dry line through Beau Rivage into Massenet putting his Red Bull into the armco and out of the race. I have no doubt that Verstappen is a future world champion, but the move to the senior Red Bull Racing team was a little premature, I believe he would have benefited from another year at Toro Rosso.
So overall, I would give the race 5/10; I’m no fan of Monaco as a race; but the “jewel in the crown” is here to stay despite it’s often processional nature. Obviously highlight of the race was the battle for the lead between Hamilton and Ricciardo, but it would have been nice to see how Perez, Alonso and Button made up the positions they did, but the FIA TV director was understandably fixated on the battle for the lead.