Fernando Alonso wins his home race in Spain, Kimi Raikkonen with a stunning drive to second place and Felipe Massa claims the final place on the podium after a good drive. McLaren yet again have made small improvements to their car in order to gain their way back to the front and picked up some much needed points for the team. And people are still wishing that Sebastian Vettel still does not have the pace with his Red Bull in qualifying…
Before heading to Spain, Mclaren’s Paddy Lowe has left the team and his contract with the team earlier than planned to go to the Mercedes AMG F1 Team. For McLaren, Paddy will be missed by the team and the drivers for his input and dedication. But never the less, Lowe will be missed by McLaren massively and will Lowe’s departure affect the team throughout the season? We shall only see.
Also, the tyre debate [I called it tyre-gate] that is ongoing with Pirelli from the Spanish Grand Prix does not look like being stopped. As I mentioned in my F1 News piece last week on the blog, many pundits, fans, teams, drivers or anyone associated in the sport has spoken out about the situation. As I discussed last week, Pirelli is now making tyre changes to the compound as soon as Canadian Grand Prix. This is itself has been debated heavily by everyone within the sport and we’ll see how this situation develops throughout the coming weeks.
In terms of the circuit, The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most unique, challenging and demanding in terms of downforce and concentration for the teams yet most exciting circuits not only in motorsport but also on the Formula One calendar. This is one of the two circuits on the calendar that have a special aero package needed for the cars to compete here. The drivers and engineers know that you need good brake cooling and there are no room for mistakes around here.
This Grand Prix will be one full of questions of who again can go longer on their tyres, who can save the most tyres for the race on Sunday, which car has got their car set up the most competitive and race ready? Have McLaren and Williams made a significant step forward with their upgrades in their fight to get back to the front?
Alongside these questions, questions if Red Bull, Lotus or Mercedes will be able this weekend to help their own fight in the championships, can McLaren small improvements on their cars help them this weekend before Canada where step 3 of their 3 step upgrade programme is planned to take place on the car, who will be competitive from the off, who has the quickest car and who will win this race on Sunday?
The race weekend begins now….
Strap yourselves in. The new season begins now…
Practices 1, 2 and 3
The main headline from the Practice sessions is that Nico Rosberg in his Mercedes look like the driver-car package to beat this weekend as weather conditions and tyre management test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.
Practice 1 saw Nico Rosberg top the timesheets with a time of 1.16.195 followed closely by Alonso with a gap of 0.087 seconds, Grosjean in a fantastic third with a gap of 0.185 seconds, Massa in fourth with a gap of 0.199 seconds and Hamilton with a gap of 0.274 seconds. Pastor Maldonado impressed the paddock by topping the timesheets in 6th place with a gap of 0.798 seconds behind Rosberg. The McLarens of Button and Perez could only manage 8th for Jenson and Sergio managed 9th place. The Red Bull’s of Webber and Vettel could only manage 7th and 10th places. The shock of the session was Raikkonen only managing to gain 11th place and Paul Di Resta only getting 12th place.
Within Practice 1, the drivers were pushing the limits of the street circuit. Grosjean, Guiterrez, Hamilton and Webber experienced lock ups while pushing the limit. Meanwhile Bianchi and Sutil both at Turn 1 managed to hit the barriers while pushing for the limit [Sutil broke off an endplate on the rear wing]. Meanwhile, Gideo Van Der Garde was fined for speeding in the pitlane.
Practice 2 saw Nico Rosberg again top the timesheets with a time of 1.14.759 followed by Hamilton with a gap of 0.318 seconds, Alonso in third with a gap of 0.437 seconds, Massa in fourth with a gap of 0.519 seconds and Webber in fifth with a gap of 0.645 seconds. Paul Di Resta again managed to achieve a top 10 finish with a 10th place for Paul with a gap of 1.287 seconds behind Rosberg showing that Force India may have the pace to get some good championship points this weekend. Button and Perez could only manage 8th and 12th places indicating that both maybe do not have the pace needed to have a strong weekend, but could be in the hunt for some much needed points for the team and to carry on working through their upgrade programme.
Practice 2 sees more incidents and spinning throughout the session. Romain Grosjean while pushing the limit smacked into the barrier at the first corner while carrying too much speed and causing some damage to his Lotus. Also, Alonso at Racasse while on a flying lap missed Hulkenberg on track luckily.
Practice 3 saw Nico Rosberg again top the timesheet with a time of 1.14.378 followed by Grosjean with a gap of 0.661 seconds, Vettel in third with a gap of 0.883 seconds, Alonso in fourth with a gap of 0.908 seconds and Hamilton in a fifth with a gap of 0.933 seconds. Pastor Maldonado also impressed the paddock with 9th place with a gap of 1.483 seconds behind Rosberg. Again, the surprise of the session is Paul Di Resta managing to grab 8th place with a gap of 1.216 seconds behind Rosberg showing that he does have good pace within the Force India car. The McLarens of Perez and Button could only make 11th and 12th places, which show that McLaren may have a fight on their hands to get into Q3 and to gain some championship points today.
Within the session, both Massa and Grosjean have crashed into the first corner again after trying to push the limit on the circuit. Will Massa and Grosjean be able to make qualifying? We shall see. Also, Sutil again into Mirabeau corner went into the barrier, causing some damage on his Force India. Meanwhile, Raikkonen himself going into Mirabeau corner lock up his right front tyre.
You would be stupid not to bet against the Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg to gain pole position again this weekend. As both drivers seem to be excelling in qualifying at the moment and the momentum is with them from claiming Pole Positions in three rounds of the championship so far and for topping the timesheets in all three sessions this weekend. Alonso, Massa, Vettel, Webber and Raikkonen also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top five places at the moment.
Button and Perez even with the second step of their 3 step upgrade programme and making good and solid progress with points finishes in previous races, seem to be struggling. It seems from looking at their performances that the pace is coming slowly and steadily and both drivers I will admit will struggle to even make Qualifying 2 or maybe even the points in the race and it will take a lot of skill and talent to do that in a car that is not capable, unless a bit of unexpected rain happens (which is very unlikely). However, I think that Force India have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix and could qualify well here to be in the hunt for some decent points this weekend. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…
Before heading into qualifying, Felipe Massa has a five place grid penalty for changing his gearbox after experiencing damage during Practice 3. But the main concerns heading into the session is will Massa and even Grosjean be able to make the qualifying session after the damage they suffered within Practice 3? We shall see.
It looks like Mercedes is looking like the team to beat heading into the session look set to challenge Ferrari, Mercedes, Lotus or Red Bull for pole position today. But Force India or Toro Rosso may spring a surprise and throw a spanner into the works based on their early pace and promise within the Practice sessions. And it is looking likely that it will be a challenge for the Williams drivers of Bottas and Maldonado to clear Q1 and also the McLaren drivers of Button and Perez to clear Q2 as both teams do not have the pace within their cars to challenge the top teams this weekend.
There is a queue of drivers waiting to leave the pit lane on the Intermediate tyre as the threat of the wet weather hangs over the session. Let the battle for Pole Position begin…
In Q1, Pastor Maldonado in his Williams with a quick time, Vergne is second with a gap of 0.247 seconds behind, Alonso is third with a gap of 0.260 seconds behind, Grosjean is fourth with a gap of 0.286 seconds behind and Button is fifth with a gap of 0.292 seconds. The big surprises of the session was Bottas who finished the session in 9th place, Van Der Garde making Q2 for the first time this season and Paul Di Resta who did not make Q2 since Belgium 2010. At the end of Q1, we lose Di Resta, Pic, Guiterrez, Chilton, Bianchi, and Massa.
Within the session, Jules Bianchi while trying to start his programme to do a flying lap had problems with air box in his Marussia that caused him to stall his car and forcing him to stop.
In Q2,Vettel tops the timesheets with a time of 1.15.988, Raikkonen was second with a gap of 0.052 seconds, Rosberg was third with a gap of 0.147 seconds, Hamilton was fourth with a gap of 0.277 seconds and Alonso was fifth with a gap of 0.522 seconds. Button and Perez managed to get 7th and 10th place for McLaren. Sutil and Vergne both set brilliant times to gain 6th and 9th places. At the end of Q2, we lose Hulkenberg, Riccardo, Grosjean, Bottas, Van Der Garde, and Maldonado. The battle for pole position is on…
In Q3, Rosberg tops the timesheet and claims a brilliant pole position with a stonker of a lap with a time of 1.13.876 , Hamilton was second fastest with a gap of 0.091 seconds, Vettel was third fastest with a gap of 0.104 seconds, Webber was fourth fastest with a gap of 0.395, Raikkonen was fifth fastest with a gap of 0.946 seconds, Alonso was sixth fastest with a gap of 0.948 seconds, Perez did a brilliant lap to claim seventh fastest with a gap of 1.262 seconds, Sutil was eighth fastest with a gap of 1.507 seconds, Button was ninth fastest with a gap of 1.771 seconds and Vergne was tenth fastest.
It would seem that Mercedes genuinely has the pace to challenge for the race win again this weekend which I am absolutely not thrilled about. However, both sets of drivers seem to have the cars underneath them to do this. You cannot discount Hamilton or Vettel to be challenging also for the race win in order to keep their seasons off to a flying start. Webber and Raikkonen could also be the dark horses to take the win away from Mercedes and Ferrari to gain some points on his rivals for the championship.
Sutil, Button, Vergne and Perez could also have a decent race tomorrow and pick up some much needed points for Force India, Toro Rosso and McLaren before heading to the next race in Monaco. Will it rain tomorrow? Nope. Who will win the Grand Prix tomorrow? I really don’t know (hoping for a Button win!). Who will lead the championship after this race? Will it be Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen, Alonso or Hamilton? I don’t know. The Grand Prix has been set up nicely, just like the last race. Let’s see what happens…
Prior to the race, a formal protest has been lodged by Red Bull and Ferrari against the Mercedes team regarding the team doing a 1,000km tyre test with Pirelli after the Spanish Grand Prix. Ferrari and Red Bull believe that Mercedes has broken racing and testing regulations. Meanwhile, the Mercedes team have publically stated that this test was signed off by the FIA and they have the documentation to prove this claim. We shall see what happens at the end of the Grand Prix.
Also, Max Chilton has a grid penalty and is to start from the back of the grid. The F1 world is watching and waiting to see if the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix will live up to expectations and who will be the winner? Here we go…
During the formation lap, Jules Bianchi in his Marussia has yet again got problems with his car and has to start the race from the pitlane. All 22 drivers are lined up on their grid positions, five red lights and its GO!!!!!!!!
Rosberg gets off the line and covers Hamilton and Vettel to keep his position and leads into the first corner. Hamilton did try and overtake Rosberg for the lead of the Grand Prix but just could not get past. While this is going on, Vettel has made a cracking start off the line and tries to take Hamilton for second place before the first corner but can’t get past.
Meanwhile further down the field, a battle between Button, Perez and Sutil is ongoing around Mirabeau (especially between Jenson and Sergio just like in Bahrain). Charles Pic in his Caterham has contact at the Lowes hairpin with another car. Also a battle between Vergne, Bottas and Di Resta is ongoing. Pastor Maldonado in his Williams pits at the end of the lap. Lap 2 sees Rosberg leading the race by 1.2 second ahead of Hamilton. On track, Vettel is still trying to pass Hamilton. At the end of the lap, Van Der Garde pits his Caterham due to his front wing being damaged.
The next lap sees a battle ongoing for fourth place between Webber, Raikkonen and Alonso hotting up on track. By Lap 6, Rosberg is still maintaining his lead to Hamilton by 1.2 seconds. At this stage of the race, the top 12 are covered by 10.2 seconds, which could mean that all the drivers seem to be pacing themselves in this race. Over Team Radio at Marussia, it seems that Max Chilton has been asked by the team to speed up his pace in the race as this seems to be affecting Bianchi who looks to be going faster at this stage in the race and cannot get past.
Lap 7 sees Rosberg lead by 1.1 seconds away from Lewis. On track, Perez has run off two sections of the track in order to keep his team-mate behind him. At the end of the lap, Bottas pits his Williams for new tyres. By Lap 8, Raikkonen is now seen to be gaining on Mark Webber.
Lap 9 sees Rosberg leading by 1.9 seconds. Towards the end of the lap, Pic is limping his way to the pit lane and experiences an engine fire near the pit lane entrance that may cause the safety car to come out. At the end of the lap, Di Resta pits for new tyres, just in case the safety car does come out regarding Pic.
By Lap 11, a battle for sixth place is ongoing on the track between Alonso, Button and Perez. Rosberg is leading the race by 1.5 seconds. Three laps later, the battle for sixth place is the battle to watch on track. Alonso, Button, Perez, Sutil, Vergne and Hulkenberg are trying hard to attack for the position, yet defend their current position on track.
Lap 18 and Rosberg has a 2.4 second gap to his team mate. By Lap 22, the lap has decreased to 2 seconds to Hamilton. At this stage of the race, 10.9 seconds covers the top 7 drivers, which would seem that the drivers are watching and managing their tyres. At the end of the lap, Riccardo pits for new tyres. On Lap 23, Chilton also pits for new tyres.
Lap 25 sees Rosberg leading the race by 2.2 seconds. At the end of the lap, Webber and Van Der Garde pit for new tyres. The next lap sees Paul Di Resta make a cracking move on Felipe Massa for 15th place. At the end of the lap, Massa, JB and Raikkonen pit for new tyres. By the end of Lap 27, Hulkenberg also pits for new tyres.
Lap 28 and Rosberg has a 2.8 second lead. Di Resta again makes a cracking move on Guiterrez for 13th place. At the end of the lap both Guiterrez and Alonso pit for fresh rubber. The next lap sees a battle for 8th place on track between Raikkonen and Alonso taking place. At the end of the lap, Vergne and Perez pit for some fresh new rubber.
Lap 30 and Felipe Massa has again gone off at Sainte Devote with the same carbon copy accident that he experienced in Practice 3 on Saturday. While trying to brake, the front locks up and slams him into the barrier forcing the safety car to be deployed. At the end of the lap, Maldonado, Grosjean and Sutil pit for new tyres. The next lap sees Rosberg and Hamilton make their pitstops and rejoining the race back in 1st and 4th places. Lap 35 sees Van Der Garde unlapping himself behind the Safety Car. At the end of the lap, Bianchi pits for new tyres.
Lap 38 and the safety car is going in at the end of this lap. Lap 39 and we are back RACING!!! Rosberg has a 0.9 second gap to Vettel. On track, Hamilton tries to pass Webber for position and cannot make it stick. Also, Alonso is also trying to pass Raikkonen but cannot do so. By the next lap, a battle for 5th place is ongoing between Raikkonen, Alonso and Button.
By Lap 42, Rosberg is leading Vettel by 1.6 seconds. Alonso while trying to pass Button manages to touch him, but Perez while this is going on manages to pass his team mate for position. Lap 44 sees Perez on track trying to pass Alonso for position and Alonso uses the escape route to defend his position.
Lap 45 sees Rosberg leading by 2 seconds. On track, Vettel and Webber are battling for second place. Maldonado and Chilton on track get involved into an accident that throws Maldonado straight into the barriers and Chilton loses his front wing. This accident has left the barrier in need of repair and the FIA have no choice but to stop the race until the barrier is fixed on Lap 46. Meanwhile, Maldonado and Chilton’s accident is currently being investigated by the stewards. Also, the incident between Perez and Alonso on Lap 44 has been resolved and Alonso is to hand the place back to Perez as soon as the race is underway again.
After a break, the racing begins again on Lap 47. Perez has now been allowed past Alonso to claim the place he should have been in. By Lap 48, Chilton has been given a drive through penalty for his part in the incident with Maldonado. Lap 49 and Rosberg is leading the race by 0.5 seconds. On track, Alonso is trying to regain the place he had to give back to Perez but cannot do so.
Lap 50 and on track the battle for 5th is hotting up. Raikkonen, Perez, Alonso, Button and Sutil are battling on track closely together for this position. The next lap sees Hamilton again trying Webber for third place into Turn 1 but cannot do so. Lap 52 sees Button losing a place on track to Sutil.
Lap 53 and Rosberg has increased his lead to 2 seconds ahead of Vettel. By Lap 55, the gap has increased to 2.5 seconds. On track, Sutil is trying to get past Alonso. On Lap 57, Sutil manages to make a brilliant move on Alonso to take seven place in the race.
Lap 60 sees Rosberg leading by 3.4 seconds. On track, Bianchi’s problems continue with a lock up. Two laps later, Rosberg has increased his lead by 3.9 seconds. An incident between Romain Grosjean and Daniel Riccardo has taken place leaving significant damage to both cars. The safety car has been deployed again to let the marshalls get rid of the debris. By the end of the lap, Grosjean pits to fix the damage on his Lotus. By Lap 65, the incident is under investigation from the stewards.
Lap 67 and we are RACING again. Battles between Sutil and Alonso and Di Resta and Vergne are taking place. Lap 69 and Rosberg is leading by 1.8 seconds. An incident between Perez and Raikkonen results in front wing damage to Raikkonen’s Lotus and throws Perez into the barrier. Lap 70 and Raikkonen after the incident is suffering a puncture and will have to pit. And Button is able to pass Alonso on track.
Lap 72 and Rosberg leads by 2.5 seconds. At this stage of the race, 4 seconds covers the top 4 drivers. The next lap sees Button try and pass Sutil for position on track but cannot do so. Lap 74 and Sutil while trying to pass Perez makes contact and the contact is enough for Perez to have to retire his McLaren.
Lap 75 and Rosberg has a 4.4 second lead to Vettel. The battle for second hots up between Vettel, Webber and Hamilton. A lap later, another battle on track for 7th place is hotting up between Alonso, Vergne and Di Resta. 78 laps are complete and Nico Rosberg wins the Monaco Grand Prix exactly 30 years after his Dad Keke won with a brilliant drive, Sebastian Vettel finishes in second place 3.8 seconds behind Rosberg, Mark Webber claims the last podium finish with third 6.3 seconds behind Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton finishes fourth 13 seconds behind Rosberg, Sutil again with a brilliant drive to get fifth place 21.4 seconds behind Rosberg, Button gets a creditable sixth place 23 seconds behind Rosberg, Alonso finishes in seventh 26.7 seconds behind Rosberg, Vergne drove a good race to finish in eighth place 27.2 seconds behind Rosberg, Di Resta gets ninth place 27.6 seconds behind Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen storms through the field after suffering a puncture to claim the final point in tenth place 36 seconds behind Rosberg.
Sebastian Vettel leads the Driver’s championship with 107 points, Raikkonen is second with 86 points, Alonso is third with 78 points, Hamilton is fourth with 62 points, Webber is fifth with 57 points, Rosberg is sixth with 47 points, Massa is seventh with 45 points, Di Resta is eighth with 28 points, Grosjean is ninth with 26 points, Button is tenth with 25 points, Sutil is eleventh with 16 points, Perez is twelfth with 12 points, Riccardo is thirteenth with 7 points, Hulkenberg is fourteenth with 5 points and Vergne is fifteenth with 5 points.
Red Bull lead the Constructor’s championship with 164 points, Ferrari is second with 123 points, Lotus is third with 112 points, Mercedes is fourth with 109 points, Force India is fifth with 44 points, McLaren in sixth with 37 points, Toro Rosso in seventh with 12 points and Sauber are eighth with 5 points.
The Grand Prix tested the drivers throughout the race with the high level of tyre degradation, just like the last race in Spain. And now it is leaving the fans questioning the Pirelli tyres again. In the last few races, tyres in the practice sessions seem to be experiencing failures and delamination. Then into the race, more and more drivers cannot get to grips with the demands of the new compounds and are having to pit more. Which in turn does not let the drivers race each other with 100% confidence and trust into the tyre compounds, at best its 80% at the moment. Today, it was again tyre management and making sure that the tyres could last the distance and also when drivers pitted they did not lose or try to lose any places.
I was happy that Jenson did have some pace to challenge today and gained some points for his efforts. I am also glad for the team that Perez managed to gain some much needed points for the team. However, the ongoing battle between the two of them was very good for the fans to watch but I believe that Perez has shown that he can fight for position. There seems to be a lot of criticism about Perez at the moment. And all I can say is that it’s a long season and it will be interesting watching Perez settle into life at McLaren. But I do agree that McLaren do let their driver’s race, which is good for us to see. However, due to speculation surrounding Martin Whitmarsh at the moment, I’m sure that Martin just wanted both drivers to bring the cars home and get the much needed points for the team.
But it shows that McLaren are taking slow and steady progress to try and get to the front of the field once again. But I am happy that Jenson managed to points for the team that should encourage the team further to look into why Jenson and also Sergio are struggling with pace and grip with this year’s car. The team this weekend I believe have made small steps into looking at solutions to help and cure this problem before the championships, race wins, podiums and even point finishes are no longer within their reach. As I said last race, I know McLaren will bounce back to the performance they and their fans crave and when that happens, it will make it all the more special. Bring on Canada where the team are bringing step 3 of their 3 step upgrade programme for the car!
Lotus this weekend may not have gained another victory this weekend but they have scored some a point from Kimi this weekend that will help their fight in the Constructors Championship. I was a bit surprised that Lotus, especially Raikkonen was not able to challenge for the win this weekend, but consistency and points scoring keeps you in the hunt for the title, as Alonso proved last season. Despite the problems of this weekend with Grosjean especially and talk of his ability as a racing driver after the incident with Riccardo, the Lotus team have managed to get again score some points, even though they are now third in the Constructor’s Championship.
Vettel, Webber and Vergne again have both had a solid weekend. First both of them showing top 10 form in the Practice sessions and then battling throughout the field to gain some solid points. I think Webber and Vergne are driving solidly this year and are improving their form from last year. Meanwhile, Vettel is consistently scoring points in every race just like Kimi and is extending his advantage in the championship.
The biggest surprises this weekend for me was the 5th place of Force India’s Adrian Sutil and the fourth place of Lewis Hamilton. Firstly, Sutil has had a rocky weekend but a brilliant start to his first season back in the sport and impressed me a lot this weekend yet again. He drove a fantastic lap in qualifying and drove a cracking race to bring home some much needed points for the team. I believe that Adrian this year has learnt his lessons from his first year and gap year from the sport and is working harder than ever to impress with his performances in the sport this year.
And surely, people will have noticed his performance this weekend. He deserved to get into the points today, he really did. He is a great driver with a lot of potential and Force India has shown this weekend that their performance since Australia is no fluke, they have a car that is able to be competitive and fight for good points in the race and I think they have the potential to improve throughout the season. And I think they could be the dark horse of the midfield teams this team and could surprise us all throughout the season.
Lewis so far in the season has impressed me (even though I am a massive Jenson fan!). Ever since leaving for McLaren, not only has he been able to out-qualify his team mate but he has been able to also consistently gain some good points for the Mercedes team. I believe that Lewis is carrying on the form he has shown from the latter half of the 2012 season and is driving solidly at the moment. And I think that Lewis drove solidly despite his mistake of slowing down before his pitstop deserved to get some decent points today despite of what is going on in the paddock with his team.
All that is left to say about this race is that Rosberg was a best driver on the field today. And Nico won exactly 30 years after his Dad Keke managed to win the race. Nico should be proud of himself. His driving was brilliant and controlled throughout the race and his restarts after the safety car showed that he is a top class talent. Mercedes unfortunately seem to have a car that is undoubtedly better than their car last year. They seem to be able to make sure that their qualifying performance is also consistent and reliable, while it seems they have improved their race pace today. It is unfortunate that this victory could be taken away from him due to the protest lodged by Ferrari and Red Bull who could argue that the advantage from the Pirelli test gave them this win. I hope it does not come to that. Nico deserves this victory. And this incident will be ongoing throughout the week and will be felt in Canada where anything can happen in the race and it usually does…
My next post will be the latest F1 News of the week which will be on the blog by the end of next weekend.