Formula One Monaco Grand Prix 2012 Review
The Monaco Grand Prix may be the crowning jewel on the Formula 1 calendar every season, but truth is, it’s nothing more than a procession of multi-million dollar, high-performance vehicles trying very hard to go quickly around the streets of Monte Carlo. And no, I don’t blame the circuit or the race or anything in particular. It’s just that, that is how the grand prix has evolved, and that’s where the charm of the race lies. The narrow street circuit remains as punishing towards any overtaking maneuver as it was 80 years back, and the guard rails ensure that there’s absolutely no room for error for the drivers. Much like the Spanish Grand Prix a couple of weeks back, it has always been qualifying to the front row that has mattered in this race, and that’s what mattered again for a resolute Mark Webber as he completed a splendid 78 laps and clinched the second Monaco victory of his career.
With this, the 2012 season enters the record books, having seen 6 winners in the first 6 races of the season, something that has never happened in Formula 1 before, in its 60 long years of existence.
Mark Webber’s run to victory was flawless. After inheriting a pole position from Michael Schumacher yesterday, the Red Bull of the Aussie spelled perfection from lap one. He held it together all too well to drive home his 8th Grand Prix victory, his first since Interlagos, last November. Things were also rosy for Nico Rosberg as he breezed to an easy second place, from a P2 on the starting grid, his second podium finish of the season and of his F1 career. Things were however far from good for team mate Michael Schumacher, as his bad luck worsened over the weekend. Despite being the fastest in Q3, he suffered a 5 place penalty owing to a collision in Spain, and started at P6. A collision at the first corner of the first lap with Lotus’ Romain Grosjean and later a fuel pressure problem spelled disaster for the seven time world champion, forcing him to retire, spoiling all hopes for a podium finish. Schumacher thus remains on the championship table at a dismal 18th position – with only 2 points to his account. A pity, for the erstwhile champion and the hundred thousand fans around the world whom he had moved to tears with his sparkling qualifying run on Saturday.
For Ferrari, things looked cheery. Fernando Alonso kept his cool throughout the race to finish third, and thus tilted the driver’s championship to his favour. The Spaniard now leads the table by 3 points over the Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber, tied at 73. Felipe Massa had a lot pressure building up on him, with people even speculating on Ferrari firing him for 2013. He put up a half decent run in an attempt to rubbish all such rumours and finished 6th, adding valuable points to his otherwise unimpressive season tally.
If one team had the hardest luck it was either Lotus or McLaren. For Lotus, with Romain Grosjean starting from the second row, and being one of the top gunners for the podium, things got dirty at the very beginning. In an attempt to cut Schumacher’s Mercedes at the very first corner, his rear suspension broke off, sending his Lotus into a spin that resulted in a melee within a few seconds of the start. A bitter Grosjean retired soon after. Kimi Raikkonen held on till the end of the race, but couldn’t get any better than a ninth. Given that both Lotuses had come off really strong in the season, with Kimi and Grosjean consistently performing well in the past few races, the race today did come as a big disappointment. Such was the story with McLaren, if not worse. Though they remain 2nd on the constructors’ table, they would be dismayed by Button’s lack of pace all through qualifying (given that he was sidelined at Q2 itself), starting at 13th, and finally retiring from the race following a puncture. A frustrating weekend indeed for the Briton, who had incidentally clinched a victory at Monaco in 2009, which he still prizes as one of his cherished wins. For Lewis Hamilton also, who started the race at P3, the race would be sour. He would go on to finish a dismal 5th, adding 10 points to his tally, and still falling short by 10 points of the second placed Red Bull duo of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel. Which brings us to the most interesting run in the first half of the race. That of Sebastien Vettel. Starting the race at 9th on soft tyres, as opposed to the super softs donned by most of the other drivers in the beginning, the defending world champion went around a good 10 laps more than the average before he went in for his first pit stop. His strategy worked, but not quite as well as he had hoped it would, but when he came out, he was p4, and he had gained 5 vital positions. This provided a decently good ending to Red Bull’s weekend dominance, gliding them to a comfortable lead in the constructors’ championship.
For Pastor Maldonado, the surprise hero from Spain a couple of weekends back, Monaco turned out to be a disaster. He had a 10 place grid penalty owing to a collision with Sergio Perez in practice, and another 5 place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change. As a result, he started the race from the very last row. He got off to a good start from the rear, but his run was cut short by a collision in the first lap, and he retired.
As the race progressed, the weather would come in to a play a crucial role. The unpredictable forecasts put the teams’ pit stop strategies at a premium. The tyre wars kicked in as well, with most teams at a loss to choose between the softs and the super softs. After a lot of anticipation, it finally rained in the waning laps of the race. But by then, it was too late to make any significant strategy change.
- The Grand Prix gave a direction to the constructor’s battle. Red Bull should be eyeing their third consecutive championship now.
- Not all hopes were lost for a struggling Felipe Massa as he won vital championship points.
- Force India continued to salvage points with Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg finishing 7th and 8th respectively. A very rewarding weekend for a team that only keeps improving with every race.
- Michael Schumacher’s season keeps getting worse and worse. For apparently no fault of his at all.
- Jenson Button’s dismal retirement means he’s having his worst season since 2008.
- The much anticipated breakthrough and maiden victory for Lotus didn’t happen. Monaco would have been the closest to a home victory for Frenchman Romain Grosjean. He had the position on the grid to capitalise upon as well. Hard luck, Romain.
[image : telegraph]
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