Posted by Carrot on May 29, 2011 | No Comments
Red Bull gambled in Monaco, going against the current season mantra that more stops are better, to take the win with a risky strategy to allow Sebastian Vettel to record his first Monaco win in what is surely looking like his second championship winning year. The strategy was not however a result of genius, a miscommunication between the pit wall and the mechanics meant Vettel was put on the wrong tyres, and ultimately he was able to make it work to take the race win.
Taking pole by a massive amount in qualifying yesterday before the Sergio Perez crash, though not by the margin Red Bull have become used to in previous races, Vettel was able to lead away and deal with the attacks by Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Mark Webber on the other hand had a much worse day. Mugged off the line by Alonso he was unable to unlock the pace of the tyres on the first stint and got stuck in the midfield for most of the race, eventually clawing his way back to fourth.
Fernando Alonso scored Ferrari’s highest finish of the season so far, with second, not particularly impressive based on how the Scuderia judge these things. The drive from Alonso was impressive, utilising a similar strategy to Vettel but with a longer first stint, before chasing down Vettel and holding off Button in the closing stages. Felipe Massa was less impressive, off the pace of Alonso again this weekend before ending up in the barriers to bring out the first safety car of the race. Not all of the blame can be placed on Massa for the crash, but he was far down the order compared to his team mate which landed him in that situation.
The weekend was encouraging for McLaren even though they finished behind Red Bull and Ferrari. Jenson Button had good pace throughout and could actually fight for the win, if this race is any indication, McLaren have begun to haul in Red Bull. Button drove excellently, making use of the clear air and fresher tyres, unfortunately the final safety car negated his advantage and chance to move up the order. Lewis Hamilton’s weekend was less good to say the least. Penalties in qualifying and the race coupled with strategy failures by the team meant he ended up sixth at the chequered flag. After the race it actually managed to get worse, angry over the events of the weekend Hamilton opined that it was his race that was the reason why the stewards had penalised him that weekend and at previous races in the principality. Now whether that was meant in jest or with some angle of seriousness hidden behind a joke wasn’t clear, but that’s going to be the lead story in the sports pages of every English speaking newspaper tomorrow. Hamilton may have seriously harmed his career with one remark said in anger, I certainly hope it all just blows over, but it might not.
Kamui Kobayashi recorded Sauber’s best finish of the season to underline their performance. The result will be a joy to the team after Sergio Perez’s accident in qualifying that ruled him out of the race. The other points positions were taken up by Adrian Sutil for seventh in the Force India, Nick Heidfeld in the Renault in eighth, Rubens Barrichello in ninth to take Williams’ first points of a disastrous season and Sebastien Buemi picked up the final point in tenth.
The two serious accidents this weekend, Perez in qualifying and Vitaly Petrov in the race that caused the second safety car and the red flag, cast doubts on the ability of Monaco to continue to hold a race in the top flight of racing. While both myself and the drivers love the track and the location, if competitors are going to be injured while racing we need to stop justifying the race’s place on the calender with nostalgia and start using raw data. The layout and challenge are certainly a great spectacle, but it is a city centre for the rest of the year. If they aren’t going to alter things to increase safety it might be better to recreate the track at a purpose built location so we can change things for safety reasons without having to wade through a load of bureaucracy and not knock down shops, bars and hotels. I’m not sure Valencia would get the same special dispensations that Monaco has seemed to get over the years, special treatment needs to end. The Perez crash in particular needs to be looked at and the crash structure at the exit of Nouvelle Chicane needs drastically altering. Nico Rosberg had a lucky escape from a similar crash in practice. Marshals putting back barriers that had obviously been deformed and weakened so qualifying can continue is not to be encouraged. It was a great race, but if the circuit is no longer up to hosting a full race safely, Formula 1 needs to look at giving the slot to a newer race track with better procedures and layout to keep the drivers safe.
The season so far has certainly given us some exciting racing, but the results are chillingly similar. Vettel is only seven points from a maximum total at this point in the season, winning five out of the first six races. In 2009 Button won the championship after winning six of the first seven races. It’d be a brave man to put money on Vettel not retaining his title. Things are just as good for Red Bull, even though Webber has yet to show the pace he had last year, today Red Bull still scored more points than any other team. The on-track action might be better, but this season could easily be as big a whitewash as the 2002 season when Michael Schumacher was driving for Ferrari.
Two weeks now until our trans-Atlantic jump to the Canadian Grand Prix. DRS allowed overtaking at Monaco, and the tyres allowed even more. When they came into Formula 1 Pirelli were told to recreate the same degradation that made last year’s race in Canada so exciting. Seeing how the new compounds cope there is certainly going to be fun, added to the fact that there’s going to the possibility of two doses of the DRS per lap. Racing should be good, see you there.