Nico Rosberg has joined the ranks of the late Graham Hill and Ayrton Senna by claiming a third successive victory at the Monaco Grand Prix, beating home Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.
In truth, it was the least convincing of the German’s wins on the street circuit, with victory handed to him after a shocking decision from the pit wall to call race-long leader Lewis Hamilton into the pits for afresh set of tyres during a late Safety Car interruption.
Hamilton had utterly dominated the race until that point, launching cleanly from pole position before steadily pulling away from the chasing Rosberg and Vettel.
By the late stages of the race – and despite concerns over rising brake temperatures – the championship leader had a lead of over twenty seconds to Rosberg and looked set to break what has been something of a hoodoo at the circuit where he’s only claimed one podium since his 2008 race win.
A huge accident for Max Verstappen at Sainte Devote changed the complexion of what had been a rather dull and processional race until that point. The Dutch teenager had made a second tyre stop, swapping to the Super Soft Pirelli tyres and was on a rapid charge. Having further underlined his already impressive credentials with bold overtaking moves on Pastor Maldonado and Nico Hülkenberg, the next man in his sights was Lotus’ Romain Grosjean.
He made a late lunge at the end of the start/finish straight, but misjudged the move and clobbered the back of the Frenchman’s Lotus. The contact ripped the front left wheel off Verstappen’s car, and he ploughed head-on into the barriers at the circuit’s first corner. Fortunately he emerged uninjured, but the Safety Car was dispatched so the marshals could extricate his STR10 which had been buried in the Safer barriers.
Then came one of the more inexplicable strategic calls to have been witnessed at Monaco. At a circuit where track position is absolutely key, Mercedes called Hamilton in to switch him back to Super Soft tyres on the run to the chequered flag.
His lead wasn’t enough to have him emerge back in front, and he narrowly slotted into third place behind Vettel’s Ferrari. With the race resuming with a handful of laps to run, Hamilton’s hopes were destroyed.
No amount of apologising from the team’s engineers and senior figureheads could change the fact that this was a victory lost by a terrible decision in the heat of the moment. Hamilton’s expression on the podium said it all, although he did at least keep his cool in the podium interviews and showed a measure of grace rarely seen by drivers who’ve been shafted by a shocking strategy call.
Daniil Kvyat finished a career-best fourth for Red Bull Racing, inheriting the position from teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who was allowed past the Russian in the late stages of the race so he could have a crack at the Vettel/Hamilton scrap for second. The Australian clocked the fastest lap of the race while giving chase, but couldn’t get close enough to attempt a passing move on a frustrated Hamilton.
Kvyat had the advantage over Ricciardo for almost all of the race, making a blinding start from fifth on the grid to outbrake the Australian into the first corner. The youngster pitted much earlier than Ricciardo in switching to the Soft Pirelli tyres, and made the undercut work by easily keeping track position when the team leader made his visit to the pits.
Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen and Force India’s Sergio Pérez finished where they started in sixth and seventh respectively, although Räikkönen was frustrated at a rather rough pass by Ricciardo at Mirabeau where the two drivers came close to interlocking wheels.
There were finally some big smiles in the McLaren camp thanks to Jenson Button, who brought the McLaren-Honda partnership its first points finish of the season with a sterling drive to eighth place at a venue where the car’s deficiencies could be masked by sheer talent.
That being said, the Woking squad’s reliability gremlins still reared large for teammate Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard had already copped a five-second stop/go pit lane penalty for a clumsy first-lap passing move on Hülkenberg, which saw the German’s Force India bumped into the barriers at the outside of the corner.
Later on, the two-time World Champion would suffer another gearbox familiar, pulling off the circuit at the Sainte Devote run-off in almost identical fashion to his stoppage in qualifying.
Felipe Nasr added to Sauber’s points tally with a fine drive to ninth place, while the Grosjean/Verstappen collision promoted the sister Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr – who impressively recovered from his pit lane start – into the final points’ paying position.
Hülkenberg’s rather wretched race ended with an eleventh-placed finish ahead of Grosjean, who was forced into a spin-turn at Sainte Devote after being his by the aforementioned Verstappen. Grosjean’s teammate Pastor Maldonado continued his shocking run of reliability-induced retirements, notching up his fifth DNF in six outings this year when he pulled into the pits with overheating brakes.
Marcus Ericsson ran a rather anonymous race to finish thirteenth in the second Sauber, beating the Williams of Valtteri Bottas, with whom he’d squabbled for the entire race.
Williams will be glad to leave Monaco after one of the team’s worst performances in the last eighteen months. With neither Bottas nor teammate Felipe Massa having qualified well, both drivers were set to struggle in the race. Massa finished a lapped fifteenth, having been forced to pit at the end of the opening lap after damaging his wing in an unsighted incident with another driver.
The two Marussias ran reliably and slowly to bring up the rear of the field, two laps adrift. This time, however, it was Roberto Merhi who claimed the intra-team bragging rights for the first time this year, beating home teammate Will Stevens.
|Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco 2015 – Provisional Classification (78 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||78||1:49:18.420|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||78||+ 4.486|
|3.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||78||+ 6.053|
|4.||Daniil Kvyat||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||78||+ 11.965|
|5.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||78||+ 13.608|
|6.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||78||+ 14.345|
|7.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08||78||+ 15.013|
|8.||Jenson Button||McLaren Honda MP4-30||78||+ 16.063|
|9.||Felipe Nasr||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||78||+ 23.626|
|10.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||78||+ 25.056|
|11.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08||78||+ 26.232|
|12.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||78||+ 28.415|
|13.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||78||+ 31.159|
|14.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||78||+ 45.789|
|15.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||77||1 lap behind|
|16.||Roberto Merhi||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||76||2 laps behind|
|17.||Will Stevens||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||76||2 laps behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Time|
|DNF.||Max Verstappen||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||62||Collision|
|DNF.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda MP4-30||41||Gearbox|
|DNF.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||5||Brakes|
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team