The Grand Prix Of Monaco

The Grand Prix of Monaco. Something about it just sounds proper. It’s the third oldest Grand Prix in Formula 1 and one of the most storied. The infamous Circuit de Monaco has changed little, since the event’s first running in 1929. Monaco is a principality on the French Riviera, known to be frequented by the jet set and ultra wealthy. The star studded event is certainly the most glamorous on the Formula 1 calendar, however its not all spectacle. Watching the Grand Prix is like looking back into history.

It’s hard for me not to sound gushy when talking about the Grand Prix of Monaco. It was indeed, the first Formula 1 Grand Prix I ever watched live and for that, it’s pretty special. While many have commented about the main event’s rather boring racing, Sunday served as an exciting reminder, of just how amazing the sport’s drivers and their cars can be.

Webber & Red Bull On Point

After a surprising pole by Michael Schumacher in Saturday’s Q3, it was Mark Webber who took the spot, after a 5 grid spot penalty on Schumacher. Could there have been a better place for Schumacher to secure his first pole with Mercedes? Every once in a while, F1 throws a curveball and in a qualifying; where we were sure to see a Red Bull or Ferrari in pole, it was Schumacher who surprised us all.

I was very pleased to see Mark Webber do so well this weekend. After a great start off the line and a clean exit from the notorious Sainte Devote, Red Bull led most of the Grand Prix. A make or break tire strategy for Sebastian Vettel, had him out well after the rest of the grid, in hopes of looming rain. During that stint, he gained a massive lead over the rest of the drivers and proved that when it comes to driving without contention, there’s no one better. Eventually Vettel had to pit, with Webber regaining the lead. He held it during a positively stunning, final 10 laps, which saw 6 of the sport’s best drivers, nose to tail. While there was no passing, the sight of those 6 cars (Webber, Rosberg, Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton and Massa) around the streets of Monaco, were some of the best 15 minutes of 2012 thus far. A positively exhausted looking Webber took first, with Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso finishing second and third.

If there’s one driver outside of the McLaren boys, I gladly show my support of, it’s Mark Webber. He’s put in the seat time and he deserves more victories like the one in Monaco. He’s had a tough time getting good starts, but hopefully this win will bring a new confidence to the Red Bull driver.

Don’t Believe The Hype

We saw a more true to form Pastor Maldonado, this weekend in Monaco. On the back of his first career win in Spain, 2 weeks ago, things couldn’t have gone any worse for the Williams driver. After causing a collision, with Sergio Perez during free practice, Maldonado was given a 10 grid spot penalty (and a further 5 for a gear box change). Although he made it into Q3 and earned a 9th starting spot, the penalties saw him starting 24th. Things didn’t fare well once the race started either, a collision in Sainte Devote, saw Maldonado out of the race. While I’ll admit he showed his chops in Spain, I never considered Maldonado to be a contender and still don’t.

Dazed & Confused

What happened to Jenson Button? Surely it’s an impostor, driving in JB’s MP4-27? Another race and another bad showing for McLaren in Monaco. I’m over this team right now. How many chances do they need to redeem themselves? Lewis has been a class act, through all of the controversy. He’s driving to the very best of his abilities and has stood behind his team. This is a more mature, focused Hamilton than we haven’t seen before. It doesn’t matter though, because Formula 1 is a team sport. The driver can do only so much and in the case of McLaren, they’ve not got it together this season.

Martin Whitmarsh was hanging out in the press again today, making more excuses and diverting the attention, away from himself. The politician’s gag is getting old Marty, why can’t the team get a grip? The pit stops are still horrendous and there’s no excuse. Hamilton also made some statements, about his dissatisfaction with the pitting strategy and the car’s setup, on Sunday. With numbers falling from the lap board onto his head, passing by the pit wall, it’s as if McLaren has become a comedy team.

Jenson Button hasn’t been laughing. He’s been in his worst funk, since the good old days at Honda. It’s a lull he has no real excuse for, apart from the fact the car isn’t working. He didn’t make it out of Q2 on Saturday and spent a vast majority of Sunday’s race, held up by Heikki Kovalainen. After colliding in lap 70, Button’s weekend was over.

Separation of Powers

So far it’s been an unpredictable season and we’ve seen 6 winners from 5 different teams. I think all that is about to change and we’re going to start seeing a couple of teams, pulling away in the Championship. The first team that comes to mind, is obviously Red Bull. Red Bull got off to a bit of a rocky start, but after the performances of both their drivers yesterday, there’s little doubt they’ll be at the head of the pack, through November. Mark Webber will be pleased to get that rhythm back and his first win of 2012 out of the way. Sebastian Vettel is also beginning to heat up and despite not always being on the same page as his team, concerning strategy, he’ll be a strong contender the remainder of the season. Adrian Newey also seems to have dialed in the RB8 much more. It’s been looking a lot better in racing.

The other team beginning to pull away, is Ferrari. What a weekend for the Scuderia, who saw both of their drivers finish in the points. Yes, I said BOTH of their drivers. Felipe Massa had a major comeback (relatively speaking) in Monaco. While it’s still way too early to tell if his resurgence is here to stay, you can bet he’s breathing a temporary sigh of relief. Whether or not he’ll be replaced (I think he will) during August break or at the end of season, remains to be seen. His teammate Fernando Alonso is on fire right now. Give the guy a lousy car and you’ll see if he can really drive. Well, Alonso has proven himself week after week and though he’s only secured one win at Sepang, he’s been on the podium 2 additional times and leads the Driver’s Championship. His skill is going to keep Ferrari in the running and that consistency are beginning to pull them ahead.

If I wanted to take it a step further and predict a wild card, I’d say it was Lotus. Kimi Raikkonen has been inconsistent, but he’s fast and so is his teammate Romain Grosjean, who’s been doing very well this year. The Lotus is also quick in the straights and that’s helped in qualifying. I’d look out for them to do very well in the next few races.

Another Grand Prix of Monaco in the books. While it’s not the most exciting for wheel to wheel racing, no where is there a better showcase for the sheer speed and lunacy of Formula 1 racing. Monaco in many ways embodies the sport as a whole; fast paced, glamorous, but always staying true to its roots. Another great weekend and many more to come in this 2012 season. Canada is in 2 weeks.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

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6 comments

  1. I hope I can find my way to Monte Carlo one day to watch this grand prix live for a vacation of a lifetime. The race itself is a parade, pomp and circumstance, but moving along single file. Notoriously difficult to pass, it’s more of a spectacle than a race. Now on to the racing.

    The last 15 laps or so kept building to an anticlimactic ending. Webber had a fantastic start and coming out of the first turn in the lead was all he needed to do to lead the parade. He had half the race in the bag on Saturday afternoon. Vettel had a very clever strategy that allowed him to leapfrog a few spots during the pitstop. That combined with the opening incident allowed him to carry away good points from the race. The guys over at Red Bull seem to know what they’re doing on Sundays even if they haven’t sorted out their Saturdays.

    It was nice to see Schumacher return to form. I had a feeling Mercedes would have a good showing at Monaco but I was surprised to see it was Schumacher, not Rosberg on top. Rosberg had a flawless race at home, but the circuit just did not allow him to fight for the lead even after Webber slowed his pace after Vettel made his pit stop.

    Alonso is on fire right now. He is carrying Ferrari on his shoulders right now. While they may not have given him the best car, the team is just flawless on Sundays. They are setting the benchmark with their low 3 second stops. It looks like Massa has finally found something. It’s not too late for him to finish the season in a strong position so he needs to continue to build momentum if he wants to save his career. When Massa is at the top of the game, he is a championship contender. I do think his career at Ferrari is over, but I also think this is a good thing for Massa. He has always had to play second fiddle, but during Kimi’s brief tenure where Kimi doesn’t need the whole team to focus on him, Massa flourished. He would be better off with a team that gives him more support than Ferrari.

    Kimi had a very quiet weekend. Poor qualifying, poor finish. I can only assume he was too hungover to perform. Grosjean seems to take the motto “if you’re not first, you’re last” to heart. Kid Crash finishes well, if he finishes at all. I think EB needs to sit him down and tell him that races are won at the last corner, not the first. Romain needs to calm down and worry about finishing the race, not about how many spots he can jump at the start. Until he can do this and finish consistently, he is not a serious contender. However, I do see him fighting for titles in the future.

    Maldonado may have had a bad weekend, but he was still able to get into Q3. He is talented and has set himself apart from Senna. I don’t think Williams have the pace to be a contender this year, but Maldonao is a future contender so don’t write him off completely yet. Believe it or not, I can see him replacing Massa at Ferrari. He gets on well with Alonso, knows Ferrari is Alonso’s team, and he has talent. The only thing that might get in the way is the conflict of interest between his sponsors and Shell.

    As for the other rumored Ferrari drivers, Perez had an atrocious weekend. Monaco is just not his track.

    Di Resta was also very quiet. Force India has failed to keep up with other teams this year. They need to get back on track and keep progressing.

    I’m excited for Montreal, but sad I won’t be there with my friends. I think Mercedes and Sauber have the cars that are best suited for the track, but Ferrari keeps improving. Red Bull hasn’t taken a step backwards as much as everyone has kept progressing. It should give us a clearer picture as to how competitive McLaren and Williams really are.

    1. Nico drove well, but I really don’t care much for Mercedes. They’re just too German, if that makes any sense. Shumacher rarely says anything that doesn’t sound like lines from a script, Nico never really gets overly passionate (even when he won) and the team as a whole operates very quietly. You never really see them taking a lot of interviews, Brawn never talks to the camera. The whole thing is just a very cold and calculated operation.

      I prefer teams like Ferrari, who get real fired up and put their emotions out onto the table. I like that the Italian press are having a field day on Massa’s poor performance. On the flip side of that, they praise Alonso as if he’s near god-like. It’s this display of passion that most closely ties F1 with other team sports like basketball.

      People compare it to a soap opera, as if that’s a bad thing. I like the drama on and off the track. Would everyone rather the drivers do their race and fuck off home with nothing to say? McLaren are in the shit, the press doesn’t let them forget it. Good.

      Perez did have a horrible weekend. Monaco is just not his track, it happens. I completely agree with you on the Romain Grosjean comments as well. He’s young, inexperienced and it shows when he makes risky maneuvers to pass cars, only to be crashed out of the race. The pace is there though and I’m sure he’ll be contending for years to come.

      Kimi was definitely hung over on Sunday. He’s probably pissed FOM won’t let him do Rally Finland either.

  2. Monaco is a procession. Unless there’s rain, it’s single-file racing. That’s the way it is. Montreal should be fun though. I’m just super pissed I have to be in summer school instead of going to the race with my friends.

    I suspect the Mercedes and Lotus are well suited for track. I’m wondering if Schumi has regained some confidence from qualifying in Monaco. Either way, he needs some more luck. He’s just been having a horrible season.

    If luck is on their side, Lotus should also have a good showing. Kimi needs to want it and Grosjean needs to be more patient.

    Everyone seems to be predicting Alonso to win the title, but I think this will be a good litmus test as to where Ferrari truly stands in the pecking order. Alonso is one of the best on the grid, but without the hardware he is still a mere mortal.

    McLaren are having dismal results. I suspect a staff shakeup could be in order, much like Williams at the end of last year. Button is struggling to understand the tires, but because of the lack of consistency of everyone else, he might still have a chance. He just needs to get back in the game before things return the natural order. Hopefully the rest of the team will get their act together with him as they’re sending Hamilton out to fight with an arm behind his back.

    Christian Horner is no Ross Brawn. The floor was within the gray area of the rules, where it wasn’t explicitly legal, but apparently the stewards feel it is outside the spirit of the rules. I wonder how much of an advantage they’ll lose with that covered up. Vettel used to be able to adapt quickly in any car and be fast straight away. That’s what made him such a supernaturally fast driver. After having a car tailored around him for the last three years, it seems that skill has diminished and he’s struggling. Webber is looking good for a title bid this year and I hope things keep going his way.

    1. I agree with you, Monaco is a procession, but a good one. I’m sure it’s one of those races you have to see live, to fully appreciate it. A friend of mine went 2 years ago and said it was quite a sensory overload. It’s certainly more interesting than watching a race in the middle of nowhere.

      Lotus will be strong in Canada, but I’m still unsure about Mercedes. I think Nico has the pace, but Schumacher’s season has been steeped in misfortune. Penalties and crashes have meant we haven’t really seen him “drive” during a GP. Qualifying went well for him in Monaco and I’m sure that high will carry over into next weekend.

      I think Alonso is doing fantastically well right now, but I don’t see Ferrari coming out on top, come November. Top 3 Driver’s Champion, surely, but not the winner. I’m not a Massa fan, but I’m pleased he did well in Monaco. I’d like to see him stay with a good team, even if it isn’t Ferrari. I think he’s well suited for more of a support role on a team, regardless of who it may be.

      I’ve just got this feeling that Red Bull are going to win it again this season. I’m not quite sure why, because at the moment, they’re not the strongest. I think they’re in good shape for a Constructor’s Championship and possibly a Driver’s. Although, who the driver will be, remains to be seen. Vettel is struggling right now and I think like Alonso, he flourishes, when a team is completely behind him and not so much the other driver. If Webber continues to do well, it may shift some of that Vettel attention, which could end up bad for him. He’s still very young and has a lot to learn. I think there’s plenty more greatness left for Vettel, whether it’ll be in Red Bull car, is a completely different matter.

      If you asked me who I want to win the Driver’s Championship, I’d say it’s a tie between Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton. Lewis has been one hell of a competitor this season, despite his team handicap. I think if they can get their acts together, he will start winning races. Webber has the skills and the experience, I just think he needs to be more aggressive. He’s a laid back guy and pretty care free, that may well hurt him. He needs more of that killer instinct to win a Championship.

      As for JB, well he sort of mirrors his team. Lots of silly mistakes and bad performances thus far. I really hope he comes out of his funk. The memories of last year’s Canadian GP may be just the jolt he needs, for next week to be a good one. At the very least, he’s got Jessica to keep him warm at night. 🙂

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