Detailed review of the weekend below:
A warm start to the proceedings on a Thursday of the weekend. As it normally happens in Monaco, FP1 & FP2 are done on Thursday as opposed to Friday’s. Tyres were still a talking point as teams tried the soft tyres around the street circuit. But the general consensus was that teams won’t need many pit stops because of the nature of the track. Rosberg maintained the one lap advantage of Mercedes topping the time sheets with Alonso P2 & Grosjean at P3. SF1 stood at a moderate position to start their weekend as di Resta ended P12 & Sutil P13.Both were in the top 3 of the speed trap.
Teams continued their work during the second session of the day. It was normal session as we saw teams starting with a run on soft tyres and then changing to super soft’s. Also, towards the end of the session, teams do a long run stint on high fuel to gather as much data they can for their race day strategies. Rosberg continued the Mercedes dominance ending at P1, this time Hamilton joined him at P2 making it Mercedes 1-2 as Alonso took P3. SFI showed bit of improvement as di Resta ended P10 while Sutil P11, it seemed like they had a bit of work to do as McLaren were slightly better place at that time. Though the team’s race pace looked strong in long runs.
A gap of Friday for teams to work out as much as they can, rare time teams get to assess the data they get from FP1 & FP2. There were lots of incidents as Grosjean, Massa & Sutil all had off moments damaging their car ahead of qualifying. Rosberg was untouchable yet again, making it 3 in 3 for him and his team with P1. Grosjean ended P2 even though he didn’t run towards the end while Vettel ended P3. di Resta ended P8, looked much better than McLaren as Sutil ended P15 who couldn’t run of the super soft after his incident.
The pole battle was not so open as one would have thought. It was clear that Rosberg was the man to beat, Hamilton could have or maybe Vettel but with the sheer one lap place of Mercedes, it would have been tough for anyone. SFI looked a bit off pace with regards to one lap pace but I thought they were good enough to make it to Q3, perhaps with both the cars. Or at least one car was surely on to get through to Q3.
Different view greeted the fans at the start of the first qualifying session as it was drizzling in Monaco. Teams naturally had to bring in the intermediate tyres for the first time in the weekend. Each lap by drivers got them a good grid position as it became natural that the last driver on fresher tyres will beat everyone or at least most. Maldonado ended P1 followed by Vergne at P2 & Alonso at P3. Sutil made it safely to Q2 but a wrong call by the team left a disappointment for di Resta as he ended P17 and out in Q1. His tyres were dead by the end and thus had to pay the price. Van Garde made it to Q2 for the first time for Caterham.
The circuit at the start of second session was still damp as teams opted for intermediate run to start off but towards the end everyone went for the super soft tyres which the correct choice considering the drying track. Vettel blew to P1 as Kimi got P2 and Rosberg P3. Sutil got through safely to Q3, his first after missing out in few of the previous races. Van Garde in his first attempt in Q2 ended in a good position at P15 beating the Williams of Maldonado who had topped the first session.
Though it was still cloudy but the track was dry enough for good run the super soft tyres. After having used intermediate mostly, teams had extra sets of tyres for them to run twice at least. But teams went on split strategy as some did 2 running while few opted for 1. Mercedes got back to form in the dry track as Rosberg made it third race in the running getting to pole as Mercedes made it 4 out of 4. Hamilton ended P2 making it yet another Mercedes 1-2 as Vettel fell short to end at P3. Sutil ended P8 sandwiched between the McLaren, good show by him after his misfortunes lately.
The rain could have spoiled Mercedes party but their prayers worked as rain subsided giving them some dry running towards the end of the session. Rosberg continued his superb form to get the pole as expected though he was concerned about them maintaining lead in the race. One of the SFI car made it to Q3 which was expected though there was some disappointment of di Resta not making to Q2, clearly had the pace to. Also, kudos to SFI mechanics to get Sutil’s car ready in Q1 after FP3 shunt.
Perfect weather, perfect Monaco atmosphere for the race but it wasn’t the perfect mood or maybe I can add mindset for racing as the news with regard to secret Pirelli test of Mercedes dipped the excitement. Surely, teams and drivers were a bit affected upon reading the news. Still the race had to go on while the off track things would take care of itself. The race was intriguing with the prospects of only one stop, it meant things would go slow at the start. That’s what happened for most part of the race as drivers went on tyre saving mode in order to prolong their stint on the given tyres. Only one change happened in top 10 as Button overtook Sutil on lap 1. Rest of the field remained the same as Rosberg led the way from Hamilton & Vettel.
A Massa accident brought about some stir as we had the first SC period in the race as well as the 2013 season. The only big change was Hamilton losing out to the two Red Bulls in the pit stop as Vettel & Webber moved ahead. We got some action after the SC came in as Hamilton tried all his might to get ahead of Webber but failing to do so. As teams settled in, into racing mode there came a huge accident involving Chilton & Maldonado as whole of a barrier came out bringing out the red flag. The teams got a free time to change tyres as we waited for the racing to resume. But soon enough the second safety car was out as Grosjean hit Ricciardo at the exit of the tunnel. Rosberg was leading Vettel, Webber & Hamilton while whole lot was happening behind the top 4.
Sutil was running in a good position behind the McLaren duo after the first safety car and the red flag period. Till that point all was going right for him and the team and he must be hoping to finish off well after his previous problems in races. He was running in the lower half of the points’ position for most of the race. As for his teammate di Resta, he made a good start getting ahead of 3 drivers at the start moving to P14. He stopped early but the pace of the car was strong as he moved up the field. It also included a good move on Massa before the Ferrari driver was involved in the crash. He was running P11 by the end of the second safety car period moving up 6 positions from where he started.
Towards the end of the race, the drama wasn’t over as Perez & Kimi were involved in a scrap as Perez retired few laps later while Kimi went behind the field with a puncture. It ended the long day of tangles Perez had with several drivers including his teammate Button & Alonso. In all the scrap behind the field, Rosberg was on his way to his second victory, which he got it easily in the end with Vettel ending at P2 and his teammate at P3. Kimi was out from point scoring position but no one knew what happened in the end as he gained 6 positions over the last 8 laps to end P10 and snatch a point from Hulkenberg. Chilton secured P14 finishing as best of the news teams battle with van Garde ending at P15.
The post second SC period we saw a different Sutil all together as gained two positions overtaking Button & Alonso at the same corner. It was a move which not many would have thought of but he was soon caught as McLaren radioed Perez about Sutil gaining positions in that corner. With Perez getting a DNF and Kimi falling back, Sutil gained two more places to move up to P5 and ending on that taking in 10 points. His teammate di Resta was static at P11 and trying his might to get ahead of Vergne but he couldn’t in the end but gained two positions with other incident thus getting into points and ending P9. Surely, the team welcomed the result on his side more after the qualifying disappointment. A haul of 12 points, double point finish was the best result the team would have hoped for in the iconic and dangerous Monaco circuit.
For once we could say that the off track events was surely heated as the on track racing. Rosberg and Mercedes got the win but not many would be happy about that. Mercedes would surely take the win after the previous race disappointments. Red Bull would be seen smiling as Vettel & the team lead the championship with a fair margin after both Lotus & Ferrari scored low. As for the midfield battle, SFI made it 6 races ahead of McLaren in the CC, extending the lead to 5 points. There is some battle in hand now, I feel SFI might just edge out McLaren by the end of 2013 season. In DC, di Resta maintained his P8 position as Sutil moved to P11. Thankfully there is a 2 week break for everyone to catch up with the big off track events. But in the end it is the race weekend we want, two weeks and roll on Canada.
Thanks for reading,