A great win for Mark Webber in Monaco to make it six different winners in the first six races of the year. The inconsistent and unpredictable Pirelli tyres are, if nothing else, making this year one to remember, but also, possibly one to forget.
Webber dominated the weekend with a superb lap in qualifying and a faultless display in the race to gain his second Monaco victory and the third victory in succession for Red Bull. He inherited pole position from Michael Schumacher after the German posted the fastest lap but was given a 5 position grid penalty after running into the back of Senna in the previous race in Barcelona. This promoted Rosberg in the second Mercedes to the front row of the grid alongside Webber. Third, fourth and fifth places on the grid were taken by Hamilton, Grosjean and Alonso.
With overtaking during the race virtually impossible on this tight twisty track, qualifying is more important than the race and the top six qualifiers, occupying the front three rows of the grid, would have been hoping for a dream start, knowing that the first car to emerge from St Devote, the first corner, would undoubtedly be able to control the race and baring a mishap would win. And so it was for the first three cars, Webber, Rosberg and Hamilton. Alonso made his usual great start from the third row to squeeze between the slow starting Hamilton and Grossjean, but Grossjean inexplicably vered sharply to the left and contacted Schumacher from which mayhem ensued. Schumacher glanced off the barrier without apparent problems but Grossjean damaged his suspension, slewed sideways across the track and was contacted by several cars which put him and others, including last week’s Spanish GP winner Pastor Maldenado, out of the race. before they had reached the first corner.
The “race’, or should I say the Pirelli tyre conservation “Treasure Hunt”, settled down to a procession of cars, led by Webber from Rosberg, Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel, who had started the race on harder tyres than the others, hoping that he could stay out longer and pull out a sufficient gap to take the lead. It takes around 20 seconds to make a tyre stop and Vettel managed to eke out a 17 second gap, not quite enough and he slotted back into the pack in 4th place, behind Alsonso who had jumped in front of Hamilton during the pitstops. So the procession continued on to the finish with only a few drops of rain to bring hope of a little excitement towards the end, but it was not to be.
The three leaders all thoroughly deserved the points they gained, especially Alonso who did not put a foot wrong all day and rescued a podium finish from his 5th spot on the grid. Alonso continues to lead the Championship, now by two points from Webber and Vettel with Hamilton a further 10 points back. There is a long way to go yet and the championship is still wide open, but if Alonso can be leading now with what is generally regarded as an uncompetitive Ferrari then the others should look out when they get their act together.
On the face of it, the races this year are close and unpredictable but one has to remember that the front runners yesterday were lapping at around ten seconds a lap slower than they were in Qualifying and on the same compound tyres. Any faster and they would be changing tyres every 6 or 7 laps and would not have enough tyres left from their allocation to finish the race. Admittedly they had more fuel which may account for 2 to 2.5 seconds a lap but in no stretch of the imagination can they be said to have been ‘racing’. The World Champion has always been regarded and looked up to as the fastest driver in the world that year. Does ‘the best tyre wear manager” have the same ring to it. Perhaps I am getting too old and expecting too much. I remember only too well those epic battles between Jackie and Jochen, and Senna, Mansell and Prost and Damon and MSC, each wringing the last ounce of speed from their cars and giving no quarter. I suppose that would be too much for the Health and Safety Culture of the 21st Century. Can you imagine telling Keke or Alan Jones to take it easy on the tyres!!
I am positive that the good guys of today are every bit as fast and skillful as the old boys, so let’s give them a chance to show us!!