By: Hannah Taylor, F1 Correspondent
- Vettel wins a chaotic Monaco Grand Prix
- Hamilton at loggerheads with stewards
- Petrov unhurt after multi-car crash
As the most prestigious Formula One Grand Prix of the 2011 season got underway, the glamorous location of Monte Carlo was temporarily overshadowed by the action on the street circuit. For now five of the last six races, Sebastian Vettel has been victorious. The Red Bull driver managed to overcome the two safety cars, crashes and incidents throughout to take the chequered flag, and his first win at the Monaco Grand Prix. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso came a close second, and McLaren driver Jenson Button made it an all Champions podium, as he secured third place.
From the moment the lights went out, Vettel seemed to rule the roost as he leapt ahead of the field from the first corner. On just lap nine of the race the German was setting a competitive pace, and recorded a speedy lap time of 1:19.388secs. Miraculously, he also only made the one pit stop on lap 16, and completed the remaining laps from there up to the 78th and final one on the same tyres.
The reigning World Champion seemed overwhelmed by the win and intense race.
“It’s difficult to describe today; it’s a great feeling. I’ve seen what it takes to win here. Today it was a crazy race. It’s difficult to imagine you can one-stop at this race, but that’s more or less what we did… I’m really, really happy. A fantastic result and a huge honour to put my name on the list of Monaco race winners. We fully deserved this win, we took the risk and we got the reward,” commented a delighted Vettel.
Button was able to maintain second place where he started from, but could not catch the leader in the distance. Vettel’s team mate, Mark Webber though, dropped back to begin with, which gave Alonso third place early on.
Webber’s chances of a good result already looked bleak as he had lost places at the start, but when he wanted to pit, it seemed there was a mix up with the timings in the pits for both Red Bull drivers. The mechanics were heading back into the garage when Webber came into the pits. They made a swift exit to get the job done, but both drivers incurred unexpected time delays as a result. With the events that unfolded later on in the race, Webber managed to climb up the field and secure a fourth place finish.
Likewise with Webber and Vettel’s pit stop palaver, Hamilton also suffered the same fate when he visited the pits on lap 23. The McLaren team did not appear to be ready when he arrived for a tyre change. This caused a delay for the Englishman as well, who rejoined the race in 15th position at the time.
Lewis Hamilton tried to overtake Felipe Massa on lap 33 on the inside of the Loews hairpin, he hit Massa but pointed the finger at the Brazilian when he reported this incident to his team over the radio. Just two turns ahead, in the tunnel, Massa tried to get his position back from Hamilton, but ended up on the dirty side of the tunnel and slid straight into the barrier even before he had exited the tunnel.
On that very same lap Massa crashed in the tunnel, Marussia Virgin driver Timo Glock retired from the race as well, after his right rear suspension had been damaged beyond repair. At the same time in Rascasse, Michael Schumacher also slowed down on the track. The Mercedes driver lost power suddenly, which meant an unfortunate end to his race. The seven-time World Champion had started from a promising position in fifth place. Earlier in the race he had been scrapping for position, with former Ferrari team mate Rubens Barrichello. With all the chaos on track the safety car came out to give the marshals the opportunity to clean up the mess.
Although he picked up a sixth place finish when the race ended, Hamilton was at the centre attention several times. The 2008 World Champion was reported to be under investigation by the stewards on lap 40, after he had collided with Massa in the hairpin just a few laps earlier.
The FIA stewards decided Hamilton was the one to be issued with a punishment, and had to serve a drive through penalty for causing an avoidable collision. Hamilton didn’t waste any time, served his penalty one lap later, which cost him another 20 seconds.
Despite the front-runners taking a lot of the limelight, there were a few midfield drivers in the mix as well. Kamui Kobayashi was one of them, who was the sole driver flying the flag for Sauber in the race. His team mate Sergio Perez was ruled out of the race, following his nasty crash in qualifying yesterday. The Mexican driver came out virtually unscathed from the accident, but suffered a concussion and a bruised thigh.
During the race his Japanese team mate Kobayashi showed his usual feisty form. With the shuffling of track positions due to pit stops, and incidents on the track, Kobayashi got himself into fourth position on lap 66. However, in being one place better off, he made contact with the Force India driver Adrian Sutil who lost the position. It was later reported that the stewards would investigate this maneuver after the race. They have since confirmed that Kobayashi has been given a reprimand, but will keep his fifth place finish. Sutil ended the race just a little further behind, and took seventh position.
Sutil seemed to have a little more success in the race than his rookie team mate Paul Di Resta. The Scotsman was at the heart of the action during various points of the race. On lap 27 he tried to overtake Jaime Alguersuari in the inside of the Loews hairpin, a very optimistic move that damaged the front wing of the Scot, who had to pit for repairs.
Di Resta received a drive through penalty from the stewards, as he caused an avoidable collision with Alguersuari. Di Resta went on to finish the race, but missed out on the points like Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg. The German pipped Di Resta to 11th position.
Other drivers who made it into the top ten point scoring positions, included Nick Heidfeld for Lotus Renault who finished in eighth place, followed by Williams driver Barrichello, and Sebastien Buemi took the final spot to pick up a point for Toro Rosso.
Further collisions on the track around lap 68/69, meant there was a temporary delay to the proceedings.
Sutil tried to fend off Pastor Maldonado, did not succeed and hit the barrier at Tabac just before the swimming pool section, skipped the first chicane and caused panic for the drivers behind him. Alguersuari hit the back of Hamilton’s McLaren, and damaged the Briton’s rear wing before the Spanish driver crashed into the barrier. Petrov who was right behind the Toro Rosso, tried to avoid the carnage ahead of him, but had nowhere to go and slammed into the barrier just behind Alguersuari. It was Petrov though that seemed to come off worse in the crash.
This brought the safety car out for the second time, but after the race officials were briefed about Petrov’s condition, they decided to play it safe red-flagged the race.
All cars stopped at the start/finish straight, teams brought their trolleys to the cars, and were permitted to work on the cars, as well as change the tyres. Meanwhile, the medical team came to assist and remove Petrov from the car. It has been reported since that he is ok, despite being knocked unconscious initially as the accident happened. The Russian is said to have had ankle pain, but has sustained no serious injuries.
After the collision chaos had been cleared from the track, the race resumed with just six laps to go. There were no significant changes to the final line up from then on, but Hamilton was under investigation by the stewards for a second time.
He attempted to overtake Williams driver Maldonado at the outside of Sainte Devote on lap 74. However, this plan did not seem to follow through with the intended result. Unfortunately, Maldonado became the victim of Hamilton’s action and he crashed out of the race after he was hit by the McLaren. It has since been confirmed that Hamilton had 20 seconds added to his final time, but this has not affected his sixth place finish.
Towards the back of the field where the newest teams are concerned, not for the first time and continuing from last season, Team Lotus out performed their closest rivals. Of the two drivers in the team, it was Jarno Trulli who pipped Finnish team mate Heikki Kovalainen to the higher grid slot. The Italian ended up in 13th position, while Kovalainen came closely behind in 14th place. Jerome d’Ambrosio lined up alongside the pair, and secured 15th place in the only Marussia Virgin car to finish the race. The Hispania Racing team managed to complete the race with both cars. Vitantonio Liuzzi came in 16th place, and Narain Karthikeyan was in 17th position.
The 58th and very eventful Monaco Grand Prix certainly did not disappoint with the action it delivered on the track. The drivers now have two weeks to prepare themselves for the next challenge in Canada.
With Vettel still the man proving to be unstoppable, his five race victories so far this season has increased his lead in the Drivers’ Standings. He now has a massive 143 points, leaving Hamilton trailing in second place with 85 points, and Webber is not far behind in third position with 79 points. Button’s podium finish today, also means he is closing the gap on Webber. He is now creeping up behind, with a tiny margin of 3 points separating them.