Vettel marches to victory for the fourth time this season

vettel-marches-victory-fourth-time-season  It was another Red Bull Racing (RBR) and Sebastian Vettel show at Round 6’s Monaco Formula One Grand Prix in the French Principality. Following the 1 – 2 results at the Spanish Grand Prix the previous weekend, RBR were simply picked up where they left off with another sterling qualifying session where Vettel gained an easy pole position from team mate Mark Webber and Jenson Button.

Even on the slowest circuit in the F1 calendar, the Red Bulls had a fair share of challenges from similar rivals; the McLarens and Ferraris. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was quickest in Thursday’s practice, but his pace dwindled slightly in qualifying which saw him finishing fourth and a second-row start, alongside Button.  But, on the raceday, everything didn’t matter, after all it was Monaco….

The pole sitter blasted off into the lead as usual, but Alonso (above right) nearly repeated his Spanish start for the lead when he again went all out for it. This time, the Spaniard only managed a position up from his fourth place start when he successfully trapped Webber as the field turned the first corner. Vettel led until the first stop rolled about, when the 2010 F1 champion lost a position to Button while exiting the pits. Button, on the other hand, pulled in front and got away from Vettel rather quickly at the start of the second stint of the race. “Our first pit stop was not spot on and we lost the position to Jenson ( Button). I was surprised when Jenson came in and we had to react, he was pulling away on the soft tyres while I was on the hard tyres. I thought ‘don’t give up’ and kept pushing to close the gap,” Vettel disclosed in post-race.

Before the 30th lap, Felipe Massa, having pitted on lap 26, had dropped to 11th and found Lewis Hamilton on his rear view mirrors, and a few laps later, the Brazilian’s car was damaged when Hamilton tried an impossible move as he attempted to pass the Ferrari at the tight hairpin. With a damaged car, Massa was powerless and the Briton forced him wide in the tunnel, onto the dirt and into the barrier. The accident called out the safety car and the field bunched up with Button (above), Vettel and Alonso in the leading positions.

In the late second stint on lap 48, Button pitted for a third time, which left Alonso 6.2 seconds behind Vettel. From then on the gap diminished until it reached 0.2 seconds on lap 61 of the 78-lap race. Vettel would later testify that the safety had helped him to victory, “The safety car helped us, but it was no walk in the park to do roughly 60 laps on the same set of tyres. Towards the end of the race the tyres I had were nowhere close to fresh – but I saw the only way to win the race was to stay out. I had 20 laps where I was under pressure from Fernando (Alonso) and Jenson (Button).”

With about 10 laps remaining, Alonso did not give up the chase until a multiple shunt between Force India’s Adrian Sutil and Renault’s Vitaly Petrov brought out the safety car for the second time. Petrov, after his final stop, was stuck behind a very slow Sauber driven by Kamui Kobayashi. After picking off Kobayashi, he closed in on Sutil who was defending his position very agressively. Petrov was cautious due to the tight lanes of the French principality track, but Sutil would not yield, and Petrov was the unfortunate one being forced into the steel barriers.

After the safety car cleared the field, the cars formed up on the grid for what would effectively be a six-lap sprint to the flag. Vettel, who had done a very long stint on the Prime tyre, held his ground well, but Alonso in second did not have a good restart. When the chequered flag waved, Vettel got his fifth victory of the season. “A fantastic result and a huge honor to put my name on the list of Monaco race winners. We fully deserved this win, we took the risk and we got the reward.”

Alonso was just 1.1 seconds behind the winner and Button a further 1.2 seconds away in the final podium spot. Behind the podium trio, Webber (above) was fourth, followed by Kobayashi fifth, his best ever F1 result, Hamilton sixth, Sutil seventh, Heidfeld eighth, Williams’ Rubens Barrichello in ninth, and Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi tenth. Hamilton was given a 20 second penalty for causing the accident with Massa, but still maintained his sixth position.

The star of the Monaco Grand Prix would be Alonso who secured his and the team’s best finish of the season. The top three all adopted different strategies, changing tyres once, twice and three times respectively and at the chequered flag, just 2.3 seconds covered them.

McLaren expected better from their drivers at Monaco, but Button’s third and Hamilton’s sixth were all they could muster. But, more crucially, Hamilton picked up points to stay with Vettel in the Drivers’ standings, 85 to Vettel’s 143 points. In the Constructors ranks, McLaren dropped points to RBR, with RBR in the clear by 61 points.

Button did his part for the Monaco GP weekend and was satisfied with his third place outcome. ““With 10 laps to go, it was looking like either myself, Sebastian [Vettel] or Fernando [Alonso] could win the race: Sebastian’s tyres were going off and Fernando was pushing him really hard. I could tell that Fernando was getting ready to have a go into Turn One – it was fun to watch because they were either going to crash or there was going to be an opportunity for me to try and get through as they battled each other. Any of us could have won at that point. But after the red flag for Vitaly [Petrov]’s big accident, all the teams were able to fit fresh tyres – which meant we couldn’t do anything because the three of us were all on the same pace and I’d lost my advantage.”

Hamilton had a rough race and was penalized for his incident with Massa during the first stint. The former champion was not a happy-camper in post-race, “It had been a disappointing weekend. In the race itself, I made some strong moves on three drivers – Michael [Schumacher], Felipe [Massa] and Pastor [Maldonado] – and I got penalized for two of them. With Felipe [Massa], I went up the inside at the hairpin, he turned in early and we touched. The penalties were frustrating: it’s really tough to overtake around here, and you rarely get an opportunity to do so. I was racing my heart out and just wanted to put on a good show for everyone.”

In the bottom five, Lotus’ Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen finished 13th and 14th respectively, ahead of Virgin’s Jerome d’Ambrosio and the two HRTs of Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan.

The next Grand Prix moves across the Atlantic for the Canadian GP in Montreal in less than two weeks’ time.

1 Sebastian Vettel RBR          2:09:38.373
2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +1.1 secs
3 Jenson Button McLaren   +2.3 secs
4 Mark Webber RBR +23.1 secs
5 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber +26.9 secs
6 Lewis Hamilton McLaren +47.2 secs
7 Adrian Sutil Force India +1 Lap
8 Nick Heidfeld Renault +1 Lap
9 Rubens Barrichello Williams +1 Lap
10 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso +1 Lap
11 Nico Rosberg Mercedes    +2 Lap
12 Paul di Resta Force India  +2 Lap
13 Jarno Trulli Lotus     +2 Lap
14 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus     +2 Lap
15 Jerome d’Ambrosio Virgin     +3 Lap
16 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT     +3 Lap
17 Narain Karthikeyan HRT      +4 Lap

Drivers standings
1  Sebastian Vettel  143
2  Lewis Hamilton  85
3  Mark Webber  79
4  Jenson Button  76
5  Fernando Alonso  69
6  Nick Heidfeld  29
7  Nico Rosberg  26
8  Felipe Massa  24
9  Vitaly Petrov  21
10  Kamui Kobayashi  19
11  Michael Schumacher 14
12  Adrian Sutil  8
13  Sebastien Buemi  7
14  Rubens Barrichello  2
15  Sergio Perez  2
16  Paul di Resta  2

Constructors rankings
1 Red Bull 222
2 McLaren 161
3 Ferrari 93
4 Renault 50
5 Mercedes GP 40
6 Sauber 21
7 Force India 10
8 Toro Rosso  7
9 Williams 2