Kimi Raikkonen took his second consecutive win of the season at the Monaco Grand Prix, the McLaren man leading from pole to flag and too far ahead of the rest to be troubled. Williams had a grand time to see Nick Heidfeld and Mark Webber come home...
Kimi Raikkonen took his second consecutive win of the season at the Monaco Grand Prix, the McLaren man leading from pole to flag and too far ahead of the rest to be troubled. Williams had a grand time to see Nick Heidfeld and Mark Webber come home second and third respectively, Heidfeld's best result to date and Webber's first F1 podium finish.
It was a clean start, with pole sitter Raikkonen beating Renault's Fernando Alonso to the first corner to hold on to the lead. Webber lost out, dropping to fifth, while the second Renault of Giancarlo Fisichella moved up to third. Further down the grid, Felipe Massa got a good start to beat Sauber teammate Jacques Villeneuve and the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello to take ninth.
By the end of lap two, Juan Pablo Montoya, who started at the back, had got his McLaren up to 12th. The top three started pulling away, Raikkonen and Alonso trading fastest laps but Kimi was widening the gap between them. Toyota's Ralf Schumacher, who was also a back-starter, had moved up behind the Red Bull of Tonio Liuzzi just outside the top ten.
The opening stages were fairly static and Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan was the first to have a troublesome time. He dived into the pits early after contact with the barriers -- he was then in and out of the pits in rapid succession with various problems before finally giving up and retiring with damaged hydraulics.
At the front Alonso was quicker than Raikkonen in the first sector but Raikkonen was making it up in the later stages of the lap. Ralf was still stuck behind Liuzzi and Montoya behind Barrichello but then an incident occurred that changed the whole outlook of the race.
Christijan Albers' Minardi spun at Mirabeau and came to halt across the track. David Coulthard's Red Bull was first to arrive at the scene and could have perhaps avoided it but he was hit from behind by the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher. The pair of Saubers arrived, followed by Montoya and there was a bit of a traffic jam.
Massa, Villeneueve and Montoya all managed to escape unscathed but Coulthard was forced to retire with a broken rear wing and diffuser damage. Michael also had to pit for a new nose cone and the safety car was deployed while the Minardi was cleared, although Albers did manage to rejoin the race.
"It was unfortunate but that's racing, especially at Monaco," said Coulthard. "I could see what had happened but Michael behind me obviously couldn't and hit the back of me, breaking my rear suspension. It's very disappointing."
The two-stoppers headed into the pits while the safety car was out and it was rather confusing when the race restarted to figure out who was doing what. The order was Raikkonen and Toyota's Jarno Trulli, who both hadn't stopped, from Alonso, who had, then Webber, Heidfeld and Massa, who had stopped, and Villenevue, who hadn't.
However, on track it was all muddled up as Barrichello and a few others who were one-stopping were scattered amongst the actual race order. The whole confusion was good for Raikkonen, who sped off at the front and bad for Alonso, who was stuck behind Trulli and being caught by the pair of Williams drivers.
Fisichella lost out as he had to wait in the pit lane as Alonso took his stop and the Italian dropped to eighth. More Minardi trouble followed when Patrick Friesacher lost it coming out of the tunnel and spun, hitting the barrier but coming to a halt relatively unscathed.
Raikkonen was lapping nearly three seconds quicker than Alonso but the question remained as to whether the Spaniard was on a two-stopper or not. He had a very long way to go if he was not pitting again and his tyres already seemed to be giving him trouble. Webber and Heidfeld were right behind the Renault and it was all getting a bit heated.
Raikkonen and Michael, who was outside the top ten, were trading fastest laps and Kimi finally took his one stop around lap forty, with enough of an advantage to easily rejoin in the lead. After the top five, Fisichella, who had got himself up to sixth, had a train of Barrichello, Montoya and Liuzzi all getting impatient behind him until they took their stops.
Montoya jumped ahead of Barrichello in the stop, then Barrichello got a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Massa was the first of the two-stoppers to go in again, quite early, but he rejoined still in the points in seventh. Ralf and Michael were stuck behind Villenevue at the edge of the top ten.
Webber was now really pressuring Alonso and had a look at the Renault but decided against it. Michael did likewise to Ralf at the same place but ended up skipping the chicane instead. Heidfeld came in for his second stop and Webber was so held up by Alonso that Nick rejoined in front of his teammate.
Liuzzi's tyres were failing, which caused him to hit the barriers and he retired to the pits. Behind Fisichella patience was starting to fray; Montoya was all over the back of Trulli, having got past Massa, and Villeneuve was harassing Felipe.
Villeneuve made a decidedly rash move at Ste Devote and went in far too deep, forcing Massa off the track. Villeneuve hit the barrier, although Massa managed to avoid any contact and keep going but it ruined both their races, knocking them outside the points.
"I just did my job," Massa commented afterwards, saying he was not angry although he didn't look too happy. "The tyres were a problem and he (Villeneuve) tried at the wrong moment. He could have waited because he must have seen my tyres were bad. It was not fantastic."
The next bit of action was Trulli having a go at Fisichella at the inside of the Loews hairpin and getting past the Renault. Not only did he get past but so did Montoya, Ralf and both Ferraris. Who says you can't overtake at Monaco? Fisichella, struggling with his tyres, dropped all the way from fifth to 10th in just a couple of corners.
Trulli got out of shape at the chicane and the Toyota mechanics were going bonkers. He had seemingly sustained some damage at the hairpin and had to pit for check over but there was no apparent problem. Meanwhile, Alonso was still only just holding off Heidfeld and Webber -- but not for long.
Heidfeld had a look at the chicane, while Barrichello had a look at Ralf at the same place, but they all held station. Next time around Heidfeld just flew past Alonso into the chicane and made it look easy, to take second place. Struggling with the tyres, Alonso then had Webber to contend with.
Same place next time around Webber pulled exactly the same stunt as Heidfeld but didn't make quite such a tidy job of it. Alonso skipped the chicane and stayed in front, which surely looked like he would have to cede the position. But he didn't.
Another lap around and Webber again charged at the chicane but this time he was the one that skipped it! Would he have to cede a position to Alonso, who surely already had to cede to the Williams? Who knows, but Webber got the better of the altercation and went into third.
Up front, Raikkonen was sailing serenely on his way to the chequered flag and his second win of the season. A fine drive by Kimi, who was just far too quick for anyone to even get near. Hedifeld and Webber deservedly took second and third, a great result for Williams.
"It is of course a special race," said Raikkonen. "A few years ago I got so close but I couldn't get past Montoya at that time but now finally it happened so I am very happy. It is just the same, you get ten points from this race, but this is a special place and everyone looks in a slightly different way when you win in Monaco. For sure, we will have a good party tonight."
Heidfeld was naturally very happy with his best result so far: "It feels fantastic, it is the best result I have ever had in Formula One and it makes it even more special that it is here in Monaco," he grinned. "It is one of my favourite circuits, one of the most difficult circuits in the world, so it is very nice."
Webber was not too pleased about yet another poor start. "Both of us on the podium is a fantastic effort for BMW and Williams, considering the start of the season hasn't been easy," he said. "The start was a joke, it was very frustrating that I didn't get away at all, the clutch didn't really work at all, so that was a shame."
At the end Montoya was catching Alonso at a rate of four seconds a lap. Behind him Barrichello was all over Ralf and Michael was right with them. Somewhere unseen Michael got past Barrichello and Alonso crossed the line for fourth with Montoya on his rear wing and the other three right behind.
It had been a fairly sedate race until Albers' incident bought out the safety car and then it turned into a real battle all the way, which was much more exciting than one would usually expect from Monaco. Raikkonen, the Williams pair, Ralf and Montoya all did very good jobs, while Alonso did his best to control the damage.
The result didn't have a huge impact on the drivers' standings -- Alonso still leads with an advantage of 22 points over Raikkonen, who has moved up to second by one point over Trulli. From Webber in fourth to Coulthard in tenth there's 10 points separating them.
However, McLaren gained in the constructors' standings and is second to Renault, the gap just 12 points. If Montoya hadn't been demoted to the back it probably would have been even closer. Williams stays fourth behind Toyota but closed the gap to eight points.
It was the first race that Red Bull didn't score any points and Ferrari's three didn't improve its position but at least it was something. Sauber was the biggest loser as Villeneuve's random lunge on teammate Massa put them both out of the points. Massa finished ninth and Villeneuve 11th.
Trulli and Fisichella disappeared to 10th and 12th, while Jordan and Minardi got one car home apiece, Tiago Monteiro 13th and Albers 14th.
There's only one week until the European Grand Prix at the N?rburgring and we can expect the battle to be rejoined just a fiercely. BAR will be back in action and the championship is still wide open. Final top eight classification: Raikkonen, Heidfeld, Webber, Alonso, Montoya, R. Schumacher, M. Schumacher, Barrichello.