Jarno Trulli took his maiden pole position in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix and followed it up on race day with his first Formula One victory. It was also the first win for Renault as a team in the Principality and the first time in over 20...
Jarno Trulli took his maiden pole position in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix and followed it up on race day with his first Formula One victory. It was also the first win for Renault as a team in the Principality and the first time in over 20 years that an Italian took the honours in Monte Carlo. BAR's Jenson Button put Trulli under some pressure in the closing stages but settled for second and Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello took third.
It was an eventful race: Takuma Sato's BAR blew the Honda engine in the opening laps causing a big accident between McLaren's David Coulthard and Sauber's Giancarlo Fisichella. It was the first starring role for the safety car, which appeared again later when Renault's Fernando Alonso crashed in the tunnel. Michael Schumacher also came to grief in the tunnel, clashing with the Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya, which put the Ferrari out of the race.
Things started with difficulty; Toyota's Olivier Panis stalled when reaching the grid after the formation lap, causing a restart. Panis then promptly stalled at the start of the second formation lap and had to be pushed to the pit lane.
The pack finally got away; Alonso moved up to second and Sato shot up from seventh to fourth but his engine was puffing smoke intermittently from the start. Christian Klien was the first casualty, losing his front wing on the first lap after hitting Nick Heidfeld's Jordan and the Jaguar went into the barrier at the Lowes hairpin.
It only took a couple of laps before Sato's Honda engine exploded at Tabac, throwing out a huge cloud of smoke that completely obscured the track. Kimi Raikkonen, who was running fifth, negotiated his McLaren through and the following cars slowed to try and see where they were going. Coulthard almost made it but Fisichella launched off the back of the McLaren, turned over and came to rest upside down on the barrier.
It looked terrible but Fisichella was thankfully extracted and walked away unharmed. "Barrichello and Montoya were in front, then suddenly there was a McLaren," said Fisichella. "I'm not sure why it was there, but the next thing I heard was the bang and I was upside down. The car took all the impact and I stayed in the cockpit until it all went quiet outside, just in case the accident wasn't finished. Then I got myself out."
Obviously the Sauber was a wreck and the McLaren too badly damaged for Coulthard to continue. "It was unfortunate," said David, who thinks BAR is partially responsible for not calling Sato in when his engine was evidently not right.
"Sato was smoking on the parade lap and he jumped the start by a mile! Really, he went when the lights were still red, I nearly went with him. The BAR continued to smoke, then there was zero visibility behind Sato when he blew up. It's perhaps an example of BAR being a young team -- sometimes it's better to pull a car in than let it continue when the data shows there's a problem."
Initially the red flag was shown but then the safety car came out instead. Once it went in after several laps, Trulli was leading from Alonso and Button. Raikkonen was fourth and Michael fifth. Other gainers from the confusion were Sauber's Felipe Massa, up to 10th, Heidfeld up to 11th and Toyota's Cristiano da Matta to seventh. Ralf Schumacher dropped to 15th.
Mark Webber had made it up to eighth but his Jaguar cruised to a halt shortly afterwards. "We were in good shape, it's a big pill to swallow," said Webber. "I don't know what happened, I lost everything."
Montoya was the first to come in for a scheduled stop and the second Jordan of Giorgio Pantano retired to the pits with a gearbox problem. Michael lapped the Minardi of Zsolt Baumgartner to home in on Raikkonen as Button pitted. Gianmaria Bruni retired his Minardi to the pits, also with a gearbox problem, and Michael was putting in some storming laps before his first stop.
Leader Trulli came in on lap 23, Alonso a lap later and the Renault pair retained their one-two formation at the front. Michael came in the next lap and beat Button to third when he rejoined. Montoya got past Heidfeld at Mirabeau for eighth then Raikkonen's bad luck continued as he also retired to the pits. "Some sort of problem with the hydraulics, I think," shrugged the Finn.
Trulli and Alonso got tangled up with some backmarkers for a short while, which allowed Michael to close in but then Alonso came to grief in the tunnel. Ralf's Williams had a sick gearbox and he was nursing it round -- into the tunnel Alonso went round the outside to get past but hit the wall, spun across and hit the other wall, then spun out along the track, finally hitting the barrier again and coming to a halt.
What exactly happened is unclear but Alonso was furious, giving Ralf the finger even as his crunched Renault came to a halt. According to the Spaniard, Ralf slowed in tunnel to let Alonso past to lap him -- not the best place to do it -- forcing Fernando off the racing line to take the dirty outside. "He slowed and I was alongside," was Alonso's explanation. "Then he got back on the throttle and pushed me wide."
So, out with the safety car as the Renault was cleared and next thing you knew the tunnel was again a crash scene, even with the safety car leading the pack! Michael had inherited the lead, as Trulli had been in for his second stop, and going into the tunnel the German was trying to warm the brakes as the safety car was due in.
As with Ralf and Alonso, it was unclear exactly what happened. Michael braked and slowed, locking up at the front and Montoya, who was behind, swerved to try and miss the Ferrari. Not being much room to swerve in a tunnel, the Williams clipped the front of Michael's car and the Ferrari went into the barrier. Michael was left with a broken nose cone and the front left tyre hanging off, with nothing to do but retire.
After all that carry on, finally the safety car went in and the order was Trulli from Button and Barrichello, with Montoya holding fourth. Da Matta was fifth but got a drive through penalty for apparently ignoring the blue flags earlier, allowing Massa to move up to fifth. Cristiano returned in sixth after serving the penalty, with Heidfeld and Ralf in seventh and eighth.
Trulli again got somewhat hampered but backmarkers and Button closed up in the last ten laps. With eight to go he was within two seconds, with six the gap was down to under a second and a half. Lap by lap he closed in until with three to go the gap was under a second. It was nerve-wracking for Renault and BAR alike but Jenson ran out of time. Trulli crossed the line for the win just four tenths ahead.
"I've been waiting for so long and been through so many bad times," said the elated Trulli. "I have won the best race in the world at Monaco and nothing will change for me I will keep pushing like I have all year."
Flavio Briatore, Renault team principal was equally thriled: "The team was awesome this weekend, and the two drivers did a great job. Jarno drove fantastically well, and he has won his first Grand Prix at the most difficult circuit of all. He also won in the best possible fashion, from pole position."
BAR boss David Richards was pleased with the result. "Jenson was closing all the time," he said. "You've seen what it's like trying to overtake around here, he got held up by backmarkers in the middle but wasn't going to give up. It would be easy to say "we can't overtake" but we're weren't going to give up, we're going to fight all the way to the end."
A splendid race by both Trulli and Button, making it entertaining right to the chequered flag. Barrichello, wisely perhaps, kept himself to himself and avoided the troubles to come home third. Montoya took fourth but Ralf's ailing Williams expired just four laps from the end. A commendable effort from Massa in fifth and Heidfeld in seventh -- and after thinking Monaco would not be a profitable race, Toyota scored its first points with da Matta sixth and Panis eighth.
Monaco was the best race so far this season, although naturally those who came to grief would probably not agree. But for the fans it was really something to watch after the lack of action in previous events. Of course, cars crashing is not necessarily enjoyable but if no-one is hurt it's certainly a spectacle. Even though it was unlikely Button would be able to pass Trulli at the end, the tension was amazing -- and tension is something F1 fans have been sorely missing.
No doubt there will be a few choice words being bandied about in regard to the on track incidents, but the stewards decided after the race that neither Michael nor Montoya were to blame for thier altercation. Final top eight classification: Trulli, Button, Barrichello, Montoya, Massa, da Matta, Heidfeld, Panis.