Practice Session, FP1:
Everyone was a bit tensed coming to Monaco as with the amount of slipping, sliding and torque coming from the 2014 cars, it could have been dangerous in the streets of Monaco. Amazingly we did not see many crashes in the first session and drivers paved their way carefully. Hamilton lead his teammate Rosberg but Ricciardo was a lot closer to the Mercedes duo. The SFI duo started their weekend on a good note with a top 10 finish as Perez ended at P8 and Hulkenberg at P10; they also did some long runs keeping the rainy weather in mind ahead of FP2.
A very different second session largely due to rain as for the first 35mins there was no car to be seen on track. Things got together slowly but still the action was not as much as it is normally during the afternoon session; there was not enough time for teams to do the long runs in the end. Alonso took advantage of the mix track conditions to top the timesheets with Hamilton at P2 & Vettel at P3. The SFI drivers too did little number of laps as Perez ended P6 & Hulkenberg right behind at P7; a session not reflecting the actual pace and positions of the cars.
It was warm and sunny again in Monaco on Saturday morning. This one hour of practice became very crucial for all the teams to collect as many data they can before qualifying and the race. Naturally, all the teams ran a lot of laps and it was very close at the top between the Mercs & the Bulls. Hamilton lead the way with Ricciardo at P2 and Rosberg at P3. Perez continued his good performance as he ended at P7, once again ahead of his teammate Hulkenberg who ended at P8; both completed a total of more than 40 laps for the team.
Things were looking pretty close at the top in Monaco than any other races this year. Red Bull’s were taking the fight to the Mercedes and how things stood, it could have been a 3 way battle for pole. As for SFI, both looked comfortable to be in the top 10 and from the FP’s results, the team would have certainly hoped for both cars to be in the top 10.
All 22 cars at one go on the narrow Monaco track, it was excitement and tension at the same time for the drivers, teams and fans. The action got going and the first sort of casualty was the rookie Kvyat who brushed at the wall coming out of the tunnel; though he managed to get going after that and managed to get into Q2 as well. Both the SFI cars made it through to Q2 safely in the end while the Sauber, Caterham & Marussia duo didn’t managed to get into Q2; Bianchi sure looked like making through, he was doing a fine job out there.
Even before the start of Q2, Massa was out of the session due to the last session’s coming together of him & Ericsson. So it was one car less in Q2 as the drivers set their eyes on the final leg of qualifying. Things got a bit tensed towards the end of the session as Perez made the cut to Q3 at the expense of his teammate Hulkenberg; surprisingly the German said post qualifying that he was happy with the lap but then he missed out by few hundred of seconds. It was also to be noted that both the STR’s made it through to Q3.
Well, I should say that this qualifying went towards an anti-climax end. Everyone had set their initial times on their first run and were preparing themselves for their second run but no one could manage a clear lap in their second run due to Rosberg bringing out the yellow flags. That ironically sealed the German’s pole position leaving Hamilton a bit furious to say the least. Ricciardo lined himself at third alongside his teammate. Perez only managed P10 in the end, a lap which he said, that he made few mistakes which compromised his position.
Not the ending one would have thought about, certainly not if you are Hamilton. I don’t think Rosberg did that on purpose but his pole certainly dented his friendship with Hamilton all the more. Red Bull slowly are moving their way up, they still need to do a lot more work to beat Mercedes though. Once again SFI had only one car in the top 3, something or the other is happening where we see one car bowing out in Q2 itself. But points are scored on a Sunday where the team doing an excellent job till now.
The anticipation before a Monaco race is fully justified, such an iconic track and so many great races in the past seasons. The expectation from the 2014 race was no less and with the regulations changes, the expectation rose a notch higher because no one knew how the car would behave in the full race distance. The start however was smooth one for most of the drivers as nothing massive happen in the first few corners, Rosberg took the lead from Hamilton as Raikkonen made a big leap ahead of Vettel, Ricciardo & Alonso who lost positions. Further down the line, Perez was out on the first lap after he touched Button; the Mexican's race was over then and there. He became the second casualty of the race as the first honours went to Maldonado who couldn’t even start the race. Hulkenberg made a steady start in the other SFI as he moved up a place to be at P10.
Rosberg maintained his lead over Hamilton for most part of the race; behind them Raikkonen lost his way as Ricciardo firmed his position at P3. His teammate had a sad story to tell as he suffered another DNF to his name dropping him to P6 in the championship. The battle for the last five places was firmly on between sole remaining SFI, STR duo, McLaren duo & Williams duo but there was a surprise in all of this as the Marussia of Bianchi too was running in points at one stage towards the end after several DNF’s from the race. It was indeed a typical middle part of a Monaco race where everyone loses his way someway or the other; it was a bit chaotic too.
Hulkenberg meanwhile was doing his part nicely in the race; he was running a good P8 one moment when his attack started. While Vergne & Massa dived into the pits before Hulkenberg came to overtake them, it was a brilliant move on Magnussen before entering into the tunnel which won him track position ahead of the McLaren. It was a risky but calculated move from the German which paid off to gain track position. He quickly moved up to P5 and started his race to the finish driving a steady race but he had a battle in the hands for the last part of the race as the McLaren’s were chasing him well.
Rosberg took an easy victory in the end after Hamilton lost his way towards the end due to some issues with “dirt” in his eyes (hearing something of this sort for the first time). Ricciardo almost overtook Hamilton but finished a fine P3 after a troubled start to the race. The moment of the race surely went to Bianchi & Marussia who got their first ever F1 points after finishing P9. Yes, they were helped by many DNF’s but it should be noted that the French driver was there to take the points; earlier his overtake move on Kobayashi was another difficult move done which was done nicely by the driver. Hulkenberg ended a fine P5 stretching his points finish this season to 6 out of 6; he was in a lot of pressure from Button but he held him off fair and square to bring home 10 points.
The driver battle is still on between Hamilton and Rosberg as the German driver took back the lead in the championship. Hulkenberg is maintaining his good run with P5 in the championship. As for the team, another point scoring race firms SFI's place at P4 and they are a good 13 points ahead of McLaren. SFI are without doubt in the mix of a good battle, they are in the mix with Ferrari, McLaren & Williams at the moment. This is no doubt their best ever start to the season scoring in all the 6 races so far. The calendar now moves on to Canada, the first of the American races on the calendar which is yet another iconic track having a lot of history and the famous “Wall of Champions”; the two weeks wait will be a bit long but worth it.
Thank you for reading.