2011 Monaco Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel has further extended his championship advantage with an outstanding win on the streets of Monaco today. It is the German’s fifth win of the season, his seventh win in the last eight races, and his 25th career podium finish. He is seemingly unstoppable, even if the race wasn’t (more on that shortly…).

The Red Bull driver managed to hold out a challenge from Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button by electing not to pit during a mid-race safety car interruption. Instead, he opted to retain track position ahead of Jenson Button (who did pit), running a 56-lap stint on the soft ‘prime’ Pirelli tyres against much fresher-shod opposition.

The leading trio of Vettel, Alonso and Button was in a race of their own, with Vettel having his work cut out to keep the pair behind him. But his fortunes took a turn for the better when the race was red-flagged with only six laps to go, with the rules allowing for fresh tyres to be fitted. The race was effectively handed to him on a plate at that point.

With the entire field allowed to fit new tyres, Vettel was able to ease to victory by 1.1 seconds from Alonso and Button.Vettel led into Ste Devote

At the start of the race, Vettel had converted pole into an early and comfortable lead from Button and Alonso – who managed to leapfrog Mark Webber for third off the line. It looked like Vettel would have the race under control, until a botched pit stop by his Red Bull crew saw Button take over the lead after the first round of pit stops.

Vettel had also used his stop to switch from the ‘super-soft’ rubber to the ‘soft’ Pirelli tyres, while Button had continued on another set of the ‘super-soft’ rubber. This meant that Button had to pit again, while Vettel could theoretically assume the lead when that happened later in the race.

On lap 32, Button pitted in response to a pre-emptive call from his McLaren team, who suspected a safety car may be deployed for the retirement of Timo Glock, whose Virgin Racing entry peeled off the track at the Swimming Pool complex with broken suspension.

As it was, the Safety Car was not deployed, but it emerged two laps later when Felipe Massa crashed heavily at the tunnel after being forced off-line by Lewis Hamilton as the pair disputed the minor placings. The Brazilian hit the wall hard and destroyed his Ferrari.

Hamilton barges Massa out of the way Just seconds later, Massa'd car looked like this
Hamilton barges past Massa at Loews Hairpin, and only seconds later, Massa’s Ferrari emerged from the tunnel looking decidedly second-hand… Hamilton was handed out a penalty for which he later refused to take the blame.

In fact, he and Hamilton had a run-in a few corners before, when the Briton attempted what can best be described as an optimistic passing move on Massa at the Loews Hairpin that saw Hamilton climb over the kerbing and thump Massa’s Ferrari in the side.

Understandably, Hamilton was found to have caused an avoidable collision with the Brazilian and was hauled in for a drive-through penalty, much to his protestations.

Hamilton had actually been involved in a lively scrap with Michael Schumacher early in the race as the pair disputed ninth place. Schumacher had made a poor getaway when his car bogged down off the line, but he embarrassed Hamilton by cheekily passing him Hamilton forces his way past Schumacherfor ninth at Loews on the opening lap!

But Schumacher’s firm defence of ninth could only last so long as he was chewing his rear tyres, and Hamilton set about making his move, forcefully passing (gesticulating very unnecessarily at Schumacher along the way) Schumacher with a bit of DRS assistance into Ste Devote.

Schumacher himself pitted, fell down the field and began a steady climb back into the points (passing Rosberg with a repeat of his move on Hamilton at Loews, no less) before he retired on the same lap as Massa with smoke seeping from his Mercedes GP car.

With Vettel and Alonso not pitting during the safety car, Button emerged in third, while fourth and fifth were occupied by Adrian Sutil and Kamui Kobayashi, who hadn’t made their first pit stops and had timed them to perfection to look on course for a solid points’ haul.

Behind them, Webber sat in sixth, having staged a steady climb up the field after his first pit stop – on the same lap as Vettel’s – proved equally sloppy.

When the racing resumed, Button was left to try and find a way past Alonso, who was trying to do the same to Vettel. It was a thoroughly entertaining scrap.

Equally exciting – although largely ignored by the TV cameras – was the battle for fourth between Sutil, Kobayashi and Webber.

With around ten laps to go, Kobayashi made his move into Mirabeau, sliding wildly and collecting Sutil’s right-rear tyre as he forced his way by. Sutil’s pace dropped away and Webber was through almost immediately, and it would appear as though he was struggling with a slow puncture, as he rapidly fell back into a train of cars comprising Pastor Maldonado, Vitaly Petrov, Lewis Hamilton and Nick Heidfeld.

The crash that red-flagged the race On lap 68, Maldonado found a way past Sutil at Tabac and Hamilton did likewise to Petrov, and Sutil slid wide into the barriers, his right-rear tyre now shredded. And as the train entered the Swimming Pool complex – with the lead battle also in the mix trying to lap this group – Sutil slid wide and came back onto the track, Hamilton lifted in avoidance, and he was hit up the back by Jaime Alguersuari, who in turn swiped Petrov into the wall.

When Petrov was unable to extricate himself from his Renault, the race was red flagged with 72 laps having been run. With the teams allowed to work on their cars, everyone’s tyres were changed and the McLaren mechanics even had time to repair Hamilton’s severely damaged rear wing.

Petrov, meanwhile, had been extracted from his car and was taken to hospital complaining of pains in his left ankle. The team later confirmed he had suffered no significant injuries or fractures.

The wisdom of restarting the race at all with 6 laps to run is a matter best left debated for another article, as it is certainly not a precedent shown in any previous races that have been red-flagged with over 75% of the race distance run…

Certainly many fans and commentators were left questioning why the teams were allowed to change their cars’ tyres – ostensibly this is a safety measure – as it played the advantage straight into the hands of those running with very worn tyres.

Regardless, this left the field facing a six-lap dash to the finish, and we were faced with the prospect of another safety car almost immediately when Hamilton tried a passing move on Maldonado for sixth at Ste Devote. Hamilton wasn’t far enough up the inside and he duly turfed Maldonado into the wall, costing the Williams team its best finish of the season and ruining what had been a brilliant weekend for the Venezuelan.

Maldonado is biffed into the barriers Maldonado's brilliant drive came to an end
Hamilton was at it again, this time biffing Pastor Maldonado into the wall, depriving the Williams team of a hefty points’ haul that it was able to achieve… It was nonetheless a hugely impressive drive from Maldonado.

Hamilton will face the stewards after the race. A time penalty will still see him keep sixth place, and with it being potentially a second penalty in the one race, he could have faced a grid penalty or disqualification for his troubles.

As it was, the stewards elected to hand him a 20-second time penalty after the race, which moved him from sixth… to sixth. It was the equivalent of a slap with a feather and would have taught him next to nothing that treating your car like a battering ram carries severe consequences. His post-race interview tirade smacked of all the bad grace that we occasionally see from Hamilton, who resolutely failed to see that he should take any blame for his conduct.

Hamilton had approached the Monaco Grand Prix weekend with a ‘blame mentality’, firstly attacking Michael Schumacher and the Toro Rosso drivers for holding him up during the Spanish Grand Prix, and then criticising his team for not sending him out earlier in Q3, which left him vulnerable when the session was red-flagged and he qualified well down the order.

The ‘red mist’ had clearly descended, and he should be applauded for never giving up. But there comes a time when a driver should balance their aggression with a little bit of finesse and commonsense, and that was clearly lacking in Hamilton’s driving today. His comments portrayed him as the only driver on the track who mattered, and his criticism of the stewards and his fellow drivers deserve much greater sanction than he received. To suggest – even jokingly – that he was being discriminated against on the basis of his skin colour is utterly disreputable. He will earn himself no favours on or off the track from here on.

Seventh place went to Sutil, a lap adrift after managing to limp to the pits to sort out his puncture, while Nick Heidfeld, Rubens Barrichello and Sébastien Buemi completed the provisional top-ten.

Webber managed to finish fourth after passing Kobayashi on the penultimate lap, but the result was still Kobayashi’s best-ever finish, and incredibly, also the first Monaco points’ finish for a Japanese driver.

Outside the top-ten, Nico Rosberg finished a poor eleventh after running as high as fifth in the early stages of the race. He too seemed to be afflicted with the same tyre Di Resta copped a drive-through penaltywear problems as his team-mate, and the Silver car looked well off the pace during the race.

Rosberg finished ahead of Paul di Resta, who had a sloppy race that included several touches with other drivers and a drive-through penalty for causing a collision at the Loews Hairpin during the race.



2011 Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (78 laps):

Driver Team Laps Result
1. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing – Renault RB7 78 2:09:38.373
2. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro F150° Italia 78 + 1.138
3. Jenson Button GBR Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 78 + 2.378
4. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing – Renault RB7 78 + 23.101
5. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber F1 Team – Ferrari C30 78 + 26.919
6. Lewis Hamilton* GBR Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 78 + 47.210
7. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India F1 Team – Mercedes VJM04 77 1 lap behind
8. Nick Heidfeld DEU Lotus Renault GP R31 77 1 lap behind
9. Rubens Barrichello BRZ AT&T Williams – Cosworth FW33 77 1 lap behind
10. Sébastien Buemi SUI Scuderia Toro Rosso – Ferrari STR6 77 1 lap behind
11. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team W02 77 1 lap behind
12. Paul di Resta GBR Force India F1 Team – Mercedes VJM04 76 2 laps behind
13. Jarno Trulli ITA Team Lotus – Renault T128 76 2 laps behind
14. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Team Lotus – Renault T128 76 2 laps behind
15. Jérôme d’Ambrosio BEL Marussia Virgin Racing – Cosworth 76 2 laps behind
16. Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA HRT F1 Team – Cosworth F111 75 3 laps behind
17. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRT F1 Team – Cosworth F111 74 4 laps behind
18. Pastor Maldonado VEN AT&T Williams – Cosworth FW33 73 Collision
DNF. Vitaly Petrov RUS Lotus Renault GP R31 67 Collision
DNF. Jaime Alguersuari ESP Scuderia Toro Rosso – Ferrari STR6 66 Collision
DNF. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team W02 32 Mechanical
DNF. Felipe Massa BRZ Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro F150° Italia 32 Accident
DNF. Timo Glock DEU Marussia Virgin Racing – Cosworth 30 Suspension
DNS. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber F1 Team – Ferrari C30   Injured
  FASTEST LAP        
  Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing – Renault RB7 78 1:16.234

* Lewis Hamilton was awarded a 20-second time penalty applied post-race for causing an avoidable collision with Pastor Maldonado

Click here to view the current Drivers’ and Constructors’ championship standings.

[Images via Formula1, LAT, Sutton Images]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.