This weekend Formula One returned to the oldest track on its schedule- the Circuit de Monte-Carlo at Monaco. With the tunnel, elevation changes, tight corners and narrow width of the track, this is easily one of the toughest and the most demanding circuit in the sport. However, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg seems to be taking a liking for this circuit.
In what was an exciting last 12 laps to the race, Rosberg took the lead and clinched his third consecutive win in Monaco. He is the 7th driver to have 3 or more wins at Monaco and only the fourth driver after legends Ayrton Senna, Graham Hill and Alain Prost to win the Monaco Grand Prix three years in a row.
Lewis Hamilton did not just lead but dominated the first 65 laps of the race. Max Verstappen crashed into the barriers at turn one after a colliding his front tyre with the rear of Lotus Renault’s Romain Grosjean. Despite being the only incident of the race, its importance is realised in full essence only by Hamilton who went from a possible comfortable win to a third place on the podium.
The disastrous pit stop call was not the only takeaway from the race. So here are the five biggest talking points from the F1 2015 Monaco Grand Prix:
5. Results at Monaco a mixed bag for Force India
Both Force India drivers finished the race in the same position they started in with Perez in seventh position while Nico Hulkenberg in 11th. Force India are having to deal with a disastrous dip in form this season, largely because the team has missed all pre-season testing. According to insider Ralf Bach, the team was facing financial collapse.
Anyhow, given the circumstances under the which the team entered this season, the results from this race were encouraging to say the least. In the last five races before Monaco, Force India had finished in the points just twice, once courtesy Hulkenberg in Australia and the other thanks to Perez in Bahrain.
Perez adds crucial six points to the team’s tally for the season, keeping the team just ahead of Lotus-Mercedes (sixth) and Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault (seventh) in fifth position in the constructors standings after Monaco. The team could have added more if Fernando Alonso hadn’t sidelined Hulkenberg into the barriers at turn 5 in lap 1. Although Alonso was penalised by the stewards with a five place grid penalty, it hurt Hulkenberg’s chances of getting into the points as he was forced to make a pit stop in lap 1.
4. First points for McLaren
Jenson Button’s 8th position finish brought McLaren their first points of the season. So far, 2015 has been tough and gruelling for McLaren, their re-union with engine giant Honda has been much too unpleasant for the team. Pundits suggest, the Honda powered engine is among the weakest of all on the circuit. So weak is the engine’s power and reliability that the team started the season much too adrift of the competition.
Problems for the team start with the engine but don’t end there. From hydraulics to brake failure to mechanical issues, the team has had so many issues this season that they have finished only one race of the season so far with both drivers (Chinese Grand Prix).
In Monaco, before Alonso was forced to switch his car off due to a gear box problem, both drivers were looking good to not only finish the race but do it with both capturing points for the team. So, despite the disappointing end to Alonso’s race, this weekend the McLaren showed a huge leap in performance.
3. Strong finish for Red Bull
The struggling Renault engines and Sebastian Vettel’s departure made the defending constructors champions Redbull almost non-existent from the competition. In the season so far, the team had totalled just 30 points while finishing with 52 points after Monaco, courtesy of both their drivers finishing in strong point scoring positions.
Daniel Ricciardo’s pit stop to put on the super-soft tyers (the faster compund) during the Safety Car period almost brought Red Bull their first podium this season. For the last three laps of the race, Vettel (second), Hamilton (third) and Ricciardo (fourth) were seperated by just 1.5 seconds. Eventually Ricciardo handed fourth place back to his teammate Kvyat, who had allowed him to pass earlier owing to different race strategies.
During Ricciardo’s late race surge, there was slight tension in the Redbull garage over the possibility of stewards handing him a penalty for brushing Kimi Raikkonen off the race line for an overtake. However the stewards made no decision and Redbull could enjoy their successful weekend.
Which team had the best weekend?
Without doubt Renault.
2. Debut Monaco race for rookie Max Verstappan ends in horrific crash
Rookie Max Vestrappan has impressed many with his driving at his young age of 17. He might have only collected only 7 points so far this season but his driving style whether it is while taking a position or defending one has many awestruck with his talent.
Verstappan was runnign a solid race in 13th when he made his second pit stop on lap 48 to re-enter the race at 13th. He decided to go ahead with the super-soft compound tyres and this move would reap benefits until this happened when he was trying to make a move on Frenchman Romain Grosjean:
As soon as Verstappen re-entered the race after pit-stop, he was lapped by the then second and third place duo of Rosberg and Vettel. With fresh new faster tyres, Verstappen let them through but was setting lap times not too far off from the duo. As the duo caught any backmarker, the back-marker by rule is forced to slow down and allow the duo to go ahead, he grabbed this opportunity and gained track position by simply following Vettel as the latter lapped the back-marker.
This stopped however when Gorsjean in 10th pulled off a stellar move that let Vettel pass but kept the rookie behind him.
The rookie got out of the car, luckily unharmed. Let’s hope for the best.
1. Hamilton and Mercedes’ collective blunder gives Rosberg historic win
Verstappen’s crash brought out the Safety Car which brought excitement into a race which was dead for more or less 64 laps. Battles ensued up and down the field but as expected in Monaco there wasn’t a lot of over taking. In interview to SkysportsF1, Hamilton mentioned how the controversial second pit stop was a collective decision.
That being said, Hamilton admits the initial call to have a pit stop for tyre change was his idea when he saw one of his rivals (Rosberg and Vettel) on the screen pit for tyres. He made the call to remove the cooler tyres for hotter, fresher soft compound tyres. On another day, the pit stop would have brought him back in the lead and showed how dominant he was over the course of the race however Mercedes acknowledged an error on their part while comparing the time it takes for a pit stop and the gap between Hamilton and Rosberg.
Even if Vettel or Rosberg had indeed pitted, with a 20 second gap Hamilton would still have track position which is the key in a circuit like the one in Monaco. The blunder has made the drivers championships more interesting with the gap between Hamilton and Rosberg just 10 points. Meanwhile Rosberg has a lot of time to enjoy a win gifted to him with the next race in Canada not for another three weeks.