He was fastest in every practice session, took pole, and led the race from lights to flag. This is what dreams are made of. His only wobble was a so-so start to the race but he was able to fight off challenges from teammate Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and emerge from the first corner ahead. He drove impeccably through 78 laps, a safety car period and the race being red flagged. The media made much of his father, Keke, winning the race in 1983, and this being the first father-son winning combination in the sport, but Nico concentrated on the race and was a very shiny star.
Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber got second and third for Red Bull, leapfrogging Lewis Hamilton in a safety car period, but finding no way around the leading Mercedes. Mark Webber said that the Mercedes strategy was ‘completely predictable’ and Webber’s role was just ‘driving round, looking after the tyres’. Even allowing for the fact that Red Bull has made no secret of their dislike of the current generation of fast-degrading tyres, hearing that from a driver doesn’t sit well with me.
But behind the top four cars we saw overtaking from many drivers, including Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil for Force India, and Jenson Button for McLaren.
But it was Sergio Perez who did more to create action than any other driver. He obviously hadn’t got the memo that overtaking is impossible in Monte Carlo. He began by keeping a racy Jenson Button at bay by cutting on and off the circuit and had to give the position to Button for gaining advantage (ie keeping his place that he might otherwise have lost). Then he pulled off a great overtake on Button, a more questionable one on Fernando Alonso, where Alonso was the one to miss the corner rather than give up his position, and then had to give up the place.
But Perez’s moves on Raikkonen were not so wise. His first attempt to overtake was optimistic and Perez got down the inside but couldn’t slow his car and they both crossed the chicane and held position. But the second go around, as they exited the tunnel, Kimi was already moving over. The racing line hugs the left hand barrier so Sergio was always going to be driving into a wedge. So it proved. Raikkonen’s rear tyre was punctured and the consequent pit stop put him back to tenth. Sergio’s car was damaged and he retired soon after.
The race at Monaco often turns out to be a procession enlivened by crashes. It was better than a procession today but we did, unfortunately, get the crashes. Felipe Massa locked up into the barrier at Turn 1 in Practice 3 and his mechanics were unable to put his car back together in time for him to qualify. After starting at the back of the grid he repeated the trick on Lap 30 of the race, causing a safety car period that Lewis Hamilton will rue as he slid from second to fourth in the consequent shuffle. Pastor Maldonado’s Williams flew into the barrier at Turn 16 after Max Chiltern apparently failed to see him on the outside and moved across on lap 46. Fixing the barrier necessitated red flagging the race. Happily, both Massa and Maldonado escaped with superficial injuries.
It’s impossible to write about this weekend’s racing without remarking on the series of crashes experienced by Romain Grosjean in his Lotus. Three in practice sessions, however spectacular at the time, were put in the shade by his running into the back of Daniel Ricciardo’s Torro Rosso on Lap 63 of the race. First his front reared up over Ricciardo’s rear tyre then Ricciardo’s car bucked over Grosjean’s front. Both cars ended up safely in a run off but it was a hairy moment and this weekend has destroyed the credibility Grosjean was building after his run of crashes last season. It’s a shame that such a fast driver should consistently find himself with his car in tatters.
Quite a contrast to Nico Rosberg’s calm, clean, controlled win. By Sue Moorcroft