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.