The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX: Monaco : One in the Eye for Lewis

03-06-2014

report by Alan Brown

 

To many F1 fans Monaco must be the highlight of the Grand Prix Calendar. Your scribe was lucky enough to attend the Historique Monaco Race two weeks earlier, and if the 72nd running of the main Grand Prix matches the excitement of ERAs and Alfas battling it out around the principality, we could expect a great race.

Just before the meeting we heard the sad news of the death of three times world champion  Sir Jack Brabham. Black Jack as he became known, was the first Australian Grand Prix Driver to win the Monaco Grand Prix, only to lose it a few years later, crashing a car of his own construction into La Rascasse just yards from the chequered flag.

In contrast with normal convention, free practice always takes place in Monaco on Thursdays to allow the GP2 race and Porsche Super Cup qualifying to occur on Friday. This in turn permits the track to re-open to road traffic by 14.00 hours on Friday, thereby presumably allowing hard pressed Monegasques to finish their working week and still be able to drive home safely!

Hamilton was quickly on it in FP1 being a whisker ahead of Nico. Ferrari’s were placed 4th and 6th in the expected driver order unlike Red Bull’s where again Vettel failed to outpace his new team mate. At the chequered flag, tweets ‘rained’ in about the weather and the prospect of showers for FP2. Indeed FP2 was interrupted initially by rain, and even hail, but to the delight of Ferrari fans, Fernando made the most of the tricky track conditions, to finish at the top of the time sheets, with Lewis and Vettel almost half a second adrift. The Ferrari Chairman felt he needed to come out at this point and declare publicly his total support for the Spaniard who must have been feeling a bit unloved that day.

Sparks flew in qualifying both on and off track. First we witnessed Ericsson forgetting his brake pedal, and were it not for the hapless Massa cushioning the Swede’s approach velocity into the tight Mirabeau bend, we might well have seen the adjacent Hotel shoved over the border into Italy. Marcus finished up with a sharp penalty leaving his Caterham starting the race from the pit lane.

More controversially, Nico later also misjudged his approach speed into the same Mirabeau corner in the dying seconds of the final shoot out, but this time better car control allowed him to make full use of the escape area. The incident however brought out waved yellows and put paid to Lewis finishing what looked like his first ever pole winning lap here. The suggestion this was all a deliberate ploy by the German to deny his team mate the grid position he was so desperate to secure, was nonsense, and the steward’s inquiry confirmed so. However the incident added extra niggle to the already ruffled relations between the two Merc team mates. The media went on predictably to over-hype the whole issue beyond all proportion.

Next up in final qualy were the Red Bulls with the Aussie outshining his team mate again. To be fair on Sebastien his car was already brewing problems that would return to haunt him on race day. The two Ferraris circled throughout qualifying, always looking like they would bag places on one of the first three rows but alas not the front one. Fernando finished far closer to the cars ahead of him on 1.16.686 than Kimi on 1.17.389. The gap in fact between Fernando and the pole sitter was interestingly the same as between the two third row Ferraris. Vergne was 7th after a pacey qualifying performance which earlier had seen him go P1 in the first session. Magnussen, Kvyat, and Perez rounded off the top 10.

Weather on race day was somewhat cooler than Saturday. At the start on the run down to T1 at Sainte Devote, Kimi got the jump on a slow starting Ricciardo and Fernando who reported a KERS problem, to make up three places and tuck in behind the two Mercs. Nico ensured he did not waste his hard won pole by leading the way up front. However this soon became a race of attrition as Button on the first lap clipped the rear of Perez’s Sauber taking the Mexican into the barriers on the approach to the hairpin. This signalled the start of a busy afternoon for the safety car.

Vettel was next to see his weekend terminated with power loss reported on only Lap 4, and after pitting and re-joining, his race was over for good by Lap 8 reportedly through a broken turbo shaft. Kvyat left the party on Lap 12 retiring in the pits. Next to leave on Lap 25 was Sutil fishtailing wildly side to side on the fast descent down from the tunnel and making hard frontal contact with the barriers. Whilst the Sauber managed to pirouette safely down the escape road, many of its components were strewn over the track resulting in another safety car period.

Most drivers used this as a chance to quickly pit and change tyres. Nico was first in and out of the Mercedes Garage with an exasperated Lewis waiting his turn behind rueing the fact he had not been called in the previous lap (or dare I say making that call himself!). The sequence upfront therefore remained as before with Nico leading Lewis.

Fernando was enjoying a quiet afternoon in 4th place neither being challenged from behind or having the speed to get to grips with Ricciardo’s Red Bull some 20 seconds up the road. Poor Kimi faired less well after his strong start in third place. After contact from Chilton in the safety car period the Finn developed a puncture requiring a second pit stop shortly after his first tyre change which dropped him right down the field by the time the safety car came in. His progress to re-gain position was then interrupted by an altercation with Magnussen at the hairpin with both cars wedged against the outside barrier. Kimi was handed a reprimand and finished eventually a lap behind in 13th place. He did however walk away with the consolation of securing fastest lap of the race of 1.21.146.

More power units could then be seen barbecuing themselves including those of Bottas and Vergne to take the total list of retirees to a staggering 8. By the flag Nico had a commanding lead even after a period of enforced fuel saving. Lewis was falling into the clutches of Ricciardo complaining of dirt in his left eye but held on for second place. Daniel completed the podium slots. A big cheer went out to the Marussia Team with Bianchi scoring their first ever points in 9th place.

After a moody prize collecting performance from Lewis he no doubt rushed round the corner home to see if the equivalent of an ASBO exists under Monegasque Law? If so, he could surely apply to slap one on his German neighbour, firstly to stop him playing football outside in the street (Princess Grace Avenue) which seemingly occurs quite often to Lewis’s chagrin, secondly to prevent future theft of pole positions in the local big race (this one clearly belonging to the Brit), and finally to ban Nico carrying pea shooters that could be used to give opponents, or should I say ‘colleagues’, an eyeful.

Montreal here we come!

 

Fernando Alonso: “Finishing just off the podium today was a
good result, especially after a difficult start and the various incidents during
the race. At the start, something in the motor didn’t work, but even if I’d had
full power, there was no room to overtake. The three cars ahead of me deserved
to be there as they were really uncatchable.  Sure, the gap to the
leaders is still significant, because like us, they are still moving forward on
the development front. ”

Kimi Raikkonen: “This was a  very unlucky day for me, a real shame after
getting a good start and managing to  move up to third place. The car was
handling well and had a good pace.  Unfortunately, in a Safety Car period, my
car was hit by Chilton’s Marussia and  I had to make an unscheduled stop as
my right rear tyre was damaged and that meant the end of any chance of
getting a good result. ”

Pat Fry: “Today in Monaco, luck was not on our  side, especially in Kimi’s
case. Mercedes and Red Bull showed they have a  greater potential than we
do, but thanks to a really good start, I think that  Kimi, who was third at
the first corner, could have finished on the podium.  Fernando also got away
well, but a few moments later and for  all of the first sector, his car suffered
a temporary drop in power.  Fortunately, he managed not to lose too many
places and after that, he ran a  rather solitary race. ”