As he did in 2010, Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber parlayed a Monaco Grand Prix pole into a Monaco victory as he helped set a FIA Formula 1 World Championship record by becoming the sixth different winner to claim an F1 victory to start the season.
Webber led a rampaging six-car train that fought through varying weather and track conditions through the final 10 laps, besting Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso to become the first Australian to win two Monaco GP events.
“It was an interesting race,” Webber said after taking his eighth F1 victory. “It was fairly straight forward at the start, we were getting good lap times and getting a gap on the super soft tires, but we were watching the rain. The next phase of the race was strange because it was hard to get the soft tires warmed up and we had very low front grip, which was difficult. I think we got the maximum out of ourselves this weekend and it was a special victory for us today.”
Webber paced the first 28 laps of the day before pitting for tires, promoting his teammate Sebastien Vettel to the top spot. Vettel, who was the only driver to start the race on the soft Pirellis as opposed to the super-soft shoes that everyone else had, stayed out and led until Lap 46 as everyone on Pit Lane was telling their drivers to expect rain. Vettel’s move would have given him a big advantage if everyone had needed to pit for intermediate rain tires, but the weather didn’t cooperate.
“We were concentrating on staying within 20 seconds of Sebastien because that’s how much time it takes to get through a pit stop,” Webber reported. “We didn’t want to lose the lead that way, that wasn’t part of the plan. Once that was taken care of, we thought we were clear, then things got interesting later.”
Vettel handed the lead back to Webber when he pitted, although Vettel did manage to move into fourth place with his charge, coming out of the pits just ahead of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton, who had run third in the first part of the race, saw that spot stolen away by great Ferrari pit work, as Alonso got out around Hamilton on their first stops.
Webber, Rosberg, Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton and Felipe Massa were all within five seconds of each other as the laps wound down, but things tightened up even further as light rain finally started to fall with a dozen circuits remaining. Lap times plummeted as the rains dampened the course, even sparking Jean-Eric Vergne to pit out of seventh spot to put on the intermediate tires.
But as will happen on the Cote d’ Azur, the rains vanished as quickly as they had come, negating the need for the leaders – who by now were all six covered by just 2.1 seconds – to come in for new shoes.
With the threat gone, Webber was able to keep Rosberg at bay during a furious nose-to-tail battle between everyone in the top six, while Alonso pressured Rosberg extremely hard before settling for the third position. The finish for Alonso vaulted him into the series points lead ahead of Vettel and Webber, who moved into a tie for second with his win.
“The target was to finish in front of Sebastien, but now that changes,” Alonso stated. “Now he and Mark are the targets. The race was smooth at the start, even though I thought there might have been damage after contact with (Romain) Grosjean. The team gave me a perfect pit stop and we were able to make up some ground and that was big for us.”
Grosjean saw his promising day ended before the first turn as the Frenchman was pushed toward the wall by Massa at the start. Grosjean’s relocation unfortunately moved him in front of Michael Schumacher, who had slid to his left in search of a clear path to the first turn. The resulting collision caused Grosjean to spin and retire, while Schumacher would continue on before eventually retiring late in the race.
Sergio Perez had an eventful day, setting the fastest lap of the race, but failing to score a championship point after a penalty for a dangerous move entering Pit Lane and contact with Heikki Kovalainen late in the race.
Force India’s Paul DiResta ended up seventh ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Kimi Raikkonen while Bruno Senna was promoted into the final points-paying spot after Vergne’s failed strategy dropped him out of the points.