This was typical Monaco. As chaos reigned throughout the field, Nico Rosberg drove with supreme serenity and authority at the front. The Mercedes driver led every single lap and, to round off a superb victory, Rosberg did it 30 years almost to the day after his father Keke won the same race for Williams.
When Rosberg took his third pole position in succession, there was the possibility this time that the tyre disasters in Spain and Bahrain might not be repeated. Monaco is a very different proposition on the tyre front to either Sakhir or Barcelona.
Saying that, while the street surfaces of Monte Carlo are unlike any other F1 track from a tyre point of view, they present a unique series of challenges that could prevent Rosberg from scoring his second GP career win.
Having held off Lewis Hamilton into the first corner, Rosberg left his Mercedes team-mate to deal with Sebastian Vettel as the Red Bull driver immediately attempted to make up for a mistake during qualifying that, Vettel felt, had denied him pole. But this was Monaco. Vettel, try as he might, could not find a way through.
The overriding strategy seemed to be making the tyres last. Computers showed that the fastest race would be run by stopping three times but no one in their right mind wished to risk getting stuck in traffic on a circuit where overtaking is extremely difficult.
By running between two and three seconds slower than back-markers who had stopped for fresh tyres, the leaders showed a one-stop strategy was the aim. Failing that, tactics might be changed by the intervention of a Safety Car. And the chances of that were high on the narrow streets.
Sure enough, on lap 30 Felipe Massa had an identical accident to one during practice as he dumped his Ferrari into the barrier at Ste Devote. The Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber, third and fourth, had just stopped for tyres but the Mercedes pair came in immediately. Rosberg retained his lead. Hamilton, who was slow to arrive in the pit box, immediately lost two places to the Red Bulls – and he wasn’t happy about it.
The worry about making these tyres last for the remaining 48 laps would be answered not long after half distance when a collision between Max Chilton’s Marussia and Pastor Maldonado sent the Williams into the wall at Tabac, spraying the crush-proof barriers all over the road. There was no alternative but to stop the race. Happily for the leaders, the rules allowed tyre changing while waiting on the grid.
Now Rosberg had to deal with a re-start – which he did with ease, keeping the Red Bulls at arm’s length as the pace picked up noticeably. Indeed, drivers were into attacking mode, sometimes with disastrous results.
Sergio Perez was the most ‘active’ as he became involved in a number of incidents, mainly at the Harbour Chicane. Just before the Red Flag, Perez had got alongside Fernando Alonso as they fought for sixth place. The Ferrari, running wide to stay ahead, was forced by officials to eventually concede the place, a move which seemed to demotivate Alonso who was to finish an uncharacteristically lacklustre seventh.
That might have been even lower had Perez not collided with Kimi Räikkönen (yes, at the chicane!) and punctured a rear tyre on the Lotus (Räikkönen making a storming recovery on fresh tyres to claim a point for 10th on the last lap). Meanwhile, the damage to Perez’s McLaren was enough to lead to his retirement from fifth place.
Rosberg was untroubled by such disorderly behaviour as he scored a popular and well-deserved win. Vettel was happy with second, particularly as he extended his championship lead on a day when his closest title rivals, Räikkönen, Alonso and Hamilton, had succumbed to the usual vagaries of this extraordinary Grand Prix.
Job done, Rosberg, who has lived most of his life in the Principality, was off to join his proud dad at a beach party. Only in Monte Carlo.
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