Nico Rosberg Leads Every Single Lap to Take Monaco Grand Prix
For one week per year, celebrities, magnates, and titans of industry descend upon the tiny seaside town of Monte Carlo, Monaco, to see and be seen at what is arguably the most famous race of the Formula 1 season. While the streets become clogged with those who become temporary F1 fans, the Monaco Grand Prix also is special for true racing devotees for a number of reasons. The street course has been a staple of F1 racing since the late 1920s, and draws huge interest due to its low speeds, narrow roads, and extremely tight turns and hairpins. Overtaking is extremely difficult as a result of those narrow roads, so setting hot qualifying laps is crucial to earn a top position for the race.
While Nico Rosberg has started in pole position during three of the six Grands Prix so far, he finished the races in Bahrain and Spain several places behind in each. This time, however, 30 years after his father, Keke Rosberg, won the Monaco GP for Williams, Nico crossed the finish line after leading every lap of the race; he handily outperformed Red Bull teammates Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, while Rosberg’s Mercedes colleague, Lewis Hamilton, finished just outside the podium.
Race start is more important at Monaco than anywhere else due to the famously tight roads that make overtaking extremely difficult. This fact was proven almost immediately when Adrian Sutil collided with Jenson Button during an overtaking attempt at the hairpin in the first lap. There was no serious damage from the hit, but contact became a frequent occurrence throughout the race. Soon after the Sutil-Button incident, Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde damaged the front wing of Pastor Maldonado. The damage on the track prompted the first yellow flag warning of the day.
Lap 8 saw the day’s first retirement with Charles Pic. The Caterham driver’s car slowed to a stop just in front of pit lane as a result of gearbox problems, and overheated exhausts quickly caused a fire at the rear of the car. Drivers held position for more than a dozen laps, with the front not changing from the two Mercs in front, followed closely by the Red Bulls.
Things stayed pretty calm until Lap 29 (Jules Bianchi and Pastor Maldonado reduced some weight by shearing off splitters around Lap 23, but both continued). Repeating his crash earlier Saturday morning during practice, Felipe Massa was sent careening into one of the race walls, ricocheting back onto the track, and crashing sideways into a padded wall; the Brazilian was sent to the nearby Princess Grace hospital but has been discharged. The Mercedes SLS AMG safety car saw sunshine for the first time as it led the pack for nearly 8 laps. During this time, Hamilton pitted and lost his place to both Vettel and Webber. While Hamilton and Webber fought mightily for third place, the Brit was simply unable to take position from the Aussie.
By Lap 42, a brief scuffle between McLaren teammates Sergio Pérez and Jenson Button made it clear that the clashes from Bahrain wouldn’t just be confined to that race. Pérez foolhardily overtook Button just outside the tunnel, slowing down everyone behind him in the process. He escaped the endeavor with only the trust between himself and Button damaged, which couldn’t be said in his later collision with Kimi Räikkönen.
The next crash was so serious that a red flag sent all racers to the grid. Marussia’s Max Chilton drifted into the path of Pastor Maldonado, damaging Maldonado’s wing, which collapsed under his Williams and launched him into the air and into a wall. Under red flag conditions, all drivers reform on the starting grid in their current positions and have the opportunity to change tires and make minor repairs while the track is cleared of debris. Maldonado was sent to the on-site medical center and recovered just fine; Chilton was issued a drive through penalty.
Lap 59 saw the retirement of Jules Bianchi, whose wheel lock up sent his Marussia into a wall. Closer to the front of the pack, Pérez overtook the battling Fernando Alonso and Adrian Sutil for sixth place, right behind Räikkönen.
During Lap 62, Romain Grosjean rammed Daniel Ricciardo while competing for 13th place, sending Ricciardo into the air and immediately retiring the Toro Rosso driver. Grosjean limped to the pits and replaced his missing front wing. He stayed out for two more laps, but retired due to suspension issues stemming from the crash.
With less than 10 laps to go and 5th place up for grabs, Pérez ridiculously attempted to take Räikkönen on the inside of the Nouvelle chicane, which sandwiched the Mexican between the guardrail and the Lotus, and the collision sent the Finn straight through the turns. Räikkönen was forced to pit and was relegated to last place. He returned to the track, but Pérez succumbed to his car’s injuries in Lap 73. Brake failure forced him to exit right through the emergency lane on the side of the track.
The final few laps passed without incident, and Rosberg took first, followed distantly by Vettel and Webber. First and fourth place finishes for Mercedes puts the team within spitting distance of third place Lotus in the Constructor’s standings, while Webber’s third place finish puts him very close to Hamilton in third place in the Drivers’ standings. It is the first time Rosberg has both taken pole position and finished first in a Grand Prix.
The Canadian Grand Prix will be held in two weeks, on June 9th.