Sebastian Vettel has further extended his championship lead after taking victory in the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix.
After being beaten off the line by team-mate and pole-sitter Kimi Raikkonen at the start, Vettel took advantage of a better strategy in the race to lead after the pit stops.
Just before the race begun, Jenson Button was treated to a special radio message from Fernando Alonso, the former being told to take care of the car while saying he would pee in the seat. The two conversed just before Button went to start the race from the pit lane.
It was all serious faces as the five red lights came on, with Raikkonen leading from pole as he kept Vettel at bay. Valterri Bottas couldn’t improve his position and the two Red Bulls stayed behind.
At the end of lap one, the Ferraris checked out, Raikkonen a second ahead of Vettel who was a further two seconds ahead of Bottas. Looking back in the pack, Lewis Hamilton gained a spot on the opening tour thanks to a sloppy start from Stoffel Vandoorne.
Raikkonen was clearly pushing, his fastest lap a full half second ahead of Vettel’s. The German soon turned up the heat, matching Raikkonen’s pace and putting a three second gap on Bottas.
In the pits, Button was unhappy when Pascal Wherlein was released in to his path, causing the Brit to lift to avoid contact. The Sauber pilot was given a five second penalty for his team’s mistimed release.
Ten laps in, the biggest movers and shakers were Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat, the former gaining two places and the latter losing as many. Only two drivers (BUT and WEH) had stopped so far with clearly low degradation on the ultra-soft Pirelli rubber.
Back at the front, Vettel started gnawing away at his team-mate’s lead, closing in on Raikkonen at around 0.4 seconds a lap. Both drivers were well clear of Bottas who was lapping at the same speed of his fellow Finn but a long way down the road.
The first retirement of the race was to be Nico Hulkenberg, the Renault’s power unit sending up smoke signals at the start of the lap, causing the Hulk to pull out at Portier. Sergio Perez had to come in to change his front wing after some contact, dropping him down the order.
For the first time since lap one, the front two cars were split by under a second at the start of lap 27. The pair ranged up on the back of the first backmarkers, being slowed by awkward timing which allowed Bottas to reel in one second in just a lap.
Temporary delays thanks to backmarkers didn’t change the order but it did narrow up the field at the front. Max Verstappen was the first of the top five to come in at the end of lap 32, coming out on super softs.
The Dutchman’s stop triggered Bottas to come in to stop the undercut, he too coming out on the red marked tyres with a very small gap between the two. A longer stop for Verstappen meant he effectively lost the chance to fight early.
Daniel Ricciardo set the fastest lap of the race on lap 34 and again a lap later, looking to get an overcut on his team-mate and the second Flying Finn. Both he and Vettel soldiered on while those who had pitted were stuck in traffic.
In the lead and with a very clear track ahead of him, Vettel smashed the fastest lap of the race by half a second, racing with the clear intent to win from the pit lane. Bottas and Verstappen were left to battle which aided Ricciardo to come out well clear of them both.
With the impressive laps, Vettel got his car in to the lead ahead of Raikkonen after the pit stops. Verstappen was seriously unhappy with Red Bull for allowing Ricciardo to easily jump him and Bottas who were still squabbling.
Hamilton’s stop of the race came on lap 46, coming out seventh which was far ahead of the prediction Mercedes gave him before the race. Vandoorne was able to remain in the last points scoring position after following Hamilton for most of the race.
Though Vettel was legging it out front, Raikkonen was being caught by Ricciardo who was flying in the Red Bull. Drivers were being given warning of a raised man-hole cover at turn one while, at 55 laps in, there was still yet to be a safety car.
Further warnings were issues of the track surface breaking up at turn one on a resurfaced patch which was only completed last night. It didn’t seem to be worrying Ricciardo who was flying, coming within half a second of Raikkonen with only 20 laps to go.
The first safety car of the race came on lap 60 as Wherlein rolled on to his side at Portier, jamming up against the barrier. The culprit was Button who had tried to get past but the pair locked wheels, taking both cars out of the race.
Verstappen was the only driver in the lead pack to pit under the safety car, bolting on the ultra-soft tyre and retaining his spot in the line behind Bottas. As the race resumed, the order on track was Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Bottas, Verstappem, Sainz, Hamilton, Grosjean, Kvyat and Vandoorne in the top ten.
A mix of cold brakes, cold tyres and a cold brain sent Marcus Ericsson in to the wall at Sainte Devote under the safety car, the Swede trying to pass the field to unlap himself. His car was craned off track to minimise the time under safety car.
The race heated up again on lap 67, Ricciardo almost got caught out at the first turn, running wide and allowing Bottas and Verstappen to range up. Vandoorne wasn’t so lucky, understeering while being passed by Perez and sticking the McLaren in to the barrier.
Vettel pulled out a sizeable lead from Raikkonen who managed to get clear air from Ricciardo who was attacking him before the safety car period. While the leading Red Bull put a gap on the Mercedes of Bottas, the second one could not get past the wide and long Silver Arrows.
A late incident between Kyvat and Perez at La Rascasse left the Toro Rosso driver to retire and the Force India pilot to be fired up at his team for “forcing” him to pass. The move took him out of the points while Stroll also retired with five laps left.
Perez, with fire in his belly and ultra-soft tyres, put in the fastest lap of the race with a 1:14.8 (a new race lap record) though he was last of the runners. Ricciardo closed to within a second in the dying stages but couldn’t get past Raikkonen.
At the front, it was Vettel’s day as the German and four-time champion crossed the line to win his second Monaco Grand Prix and the first for Ferrari since 2001. Raikkonen made it a Ferrari one-two while Ricciardo took third.
The top ten was rounded out by Bottas, Verstappen, Sainz, Hamilton, Grosjean, Massa and Magnussen.
Image via Scuderia Ferrari
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