The Monaco Grand Prix is rightly regarded as the most prestigous race on the Formula 1 calendar. With the glitz and glamour of the French Riviera mixed with Formula 1 cars racing around the streets of this tiny Principality it is clear why this race has been an almost permanent fixture in Formula 1.
This year’s race was the 70th edition of the classic Grand Prix and it featured the most thrilling finish to a race since the 1982 edition. That year the lead changed hands six times in the final two laps with drivers crashing, retiring with mechanical failure and running out of fuel. It is rightly regarded as one of the most action packed climaxes to a Grand Prix. Last weekend’s race however produced another classic conclusion…
Webber makes it six
Mark Webber claimed his second victory around the Monte-Carlo streets following a race long battle with Nico Rosberg. The pair were never separated by more than a couple of seconds throughout the 78 lap race but the Australian was sure-footed throughout and held off his German rival by just half a second at the finish.
Webber’s victory made him the sixth different winner from the opening six races of the 2012 season, the first time in history that the season has opened with so many different winners, after a superb finish to the race saw the top six finish within six seconds of one another.
The race saw action from the start with a slow starting Romain Grosjean engulfed by the field. The Lotus driver was not alone in struggling at the start, Lewis Hamilton later complained that he suffered lots of wheel spin,and was squeezed off the line as the pack of 24 cars funnelled towards the bottleneck of the first corner, Sainte Devote.
Michael Schumacher set the fastest time in qualifying but the German was relegated to sixth on the grid as a result of a penalty for crashing into Bruno Senna at the previous race. The seven times world champion however made a great getaway and was trying to drive around the outside of Grosjean when the Frenchman started to ease his way towards the crash barriers.
Schumacher had nowhere to go and the pair collided. Grosjean was out of the race and it was a miracle that Schumacher’s Mercedes was able to continue.
After inheriting the pole position following Schumacher’s woes Webber made a great start and easily led into the first corner from Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
The opening stint of the race saw last year’s victor, Sebastian Vettel, pacing himself and save his tyres. The reigning champion qualified ninth and used a one stop strategy to quietly move through the field.
Fernando Alonso qualified in fifth and spent the opening third in the fourth with his teammate, Felipe Massa, in close quarters behind him.
Towards the end of his stint on the option tyre Alonso started to pull away from Massa and close on Hamilton. Making an earlier pitstop put him in a position to leapfrog the McLaren. The championship leader has made a tremendous start to the campaign with a series of stunning drives and Monaco was no exception.
Final stint sees leading pack close
Following his pitstop Vettel emerged from the pits in third position and hot on the heels of Rosberg. The leading pack of drivers started to close dramatically in the final 15 laps with Webber clearly starting to struggle with tyre wear.
The race ran under the constant threat of rain but it took until the final laps before light rain started fall. It was little more than an inconvenience for the drivers and they were able to continue on slick tyres but with the track clearly losing grip the potential for a mistake was easy.
In the closing stages of the race Alonso was once more able to set a stunning pace and the gap to the podium places was diminishing with every sector. Behind him Hamilton and Massa, who had both spent the stint saving their tyres for a late race battle, also had the scent of victory.
With five laps to go the six drivers were separated by just three seconds when they met traffic. Webber made it through the backmarkers easier than the rest and started to open a slight lead with Hamilton and Massa losing touch after difficulty overtaking Heikki Kovalainen and Sergio Perez.
With a cushion to Rosberg and the inherit difficultly of overtaking on the street circuit Webber was able to hold on to the win and continue his consistent start to the season. The Australian was comfortably beaten by Vettel last year but he has a much better understanding of the Pirelli tyres and is now a genuine title threat again.
The result sees him move level with Vettel just three points behind Alonso in the championship standings.