Photo: LAT Images
And the 2012 count continues; five races and five winners from five teams, Williams’ Pastor Maldonado being the most recent following his triumph in Spain. An eventful qualifying in Monaco set up the distinct possibility of a sixth new winner. Michael Schumacher took his first pole since 2006, but had to surrender it due to a 5 grid-spot penalty stemming from a collision in Spain with Maldonado’s Williams teammate Bruno Senna, leaving Mark Webber (Red Bull) in the first spot on the grid. Of the other top 4 qualifiers – Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), and Romain Grosjean (Lotus) – only Rosberg has already won this year, and the winner in Monaco has come from the top 3 grid spots for every race since 1996.
The 2012 starting grid also featured Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) at P9 and Jenson Button (McLaren) at P13, with the former openly airing the possibility of being part of a two race-strategy approach by his team. And just to add that last tiny bit of spice to proceedings, talk on the gird during formation centered increasingly on the possibility of rain about 30 min into the event.
Grosjean was removed from contention at the start, following a collision with Schumacher, leaving P1-4 as Webber, Rosberg, Hamilton, and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) during the subsequent safety car period. Maldonado was also taken out in the melee.
All the teams were trying to stay out as long as possible to avoid having to make a second stop to move from regulars to rains. Rosberg was the first to come in (Lap 28), with rain expected by Lap 34. Webber came in from P1 and Hamilton from P2 during Lap 30. Alonso came in from the lead one lap later and ended up outpitting Hamilton to move ahead on track.
Vettel was still running on his original tires on Lap 33, having inherited an 11.5 sec lead. Say what you will, but it is this kind of strategy and skill (regardless of how it plays out) which keep Red Bull at the top of the class. He was still on them at Lap 43 and setting personal best lap times! Had to give up the wait for rain on Lap 46, but still came out in P4, ahead of Hamilton.
On Lap 57 Hamilton was instructed to try to reach the end of the race (78 laps) without another tire change, the team describing it as “the best way to maximize our points,” but locked up the right front 4 laps later. Schumacher retired with mechanical difficulties on Lap 66, his fourth DNF of the year. Light rain started at the same time. The rain never really got going, however, and had stopped by Lap 74, with Button retired in the meantime following on-track contact with Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham).
Mark Webber came across the line in P1, making good on the sixth winner in six races potential and giving him his second Monaco victory in 3 years. The victory also put him into a second place to for the championship with teammate Vettel. He was followed to the line by Rosberg, Alonso, Vettel, and Hamilton. Alonso’s pipping Vettel for the podium moved him into the championship points lead, the two having been tied coming into the race. Paul di Resta (Force India) also acquitted himself well, finishing P7 after starting the race at P14. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) finished in sixth. The combined Ferrari showing moved them into a third place tie with Lotus for the constructor’s championship.
Driver standings - Top 10
76 - Fernando Alonso (Spain) - Ferrari
73 - Sebastian Vettel (Germany) - RBR-Renault
73 - Mark Webber (Australia) - RBR-Renault
63 - Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
59 - Nico Rosberg (Germany) – Mercedes
51 – Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) – Lotus-Renault
45 - Jenson Button (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
35 – Romain Grosjean (France) – Lotus-Renault
29 – Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) – Williams-Renault
22 – Sergio Perez (Mexico) – Sauber-Ferrari
Constructor standings - Teams scoring points
146 - RBR-Renault - Vettel, Webber
108 - McLaren-Mercedes - Hamilton, Button
86 – Lotus-Renault – Raikkonen, Grosjean
86 - Ferrari - Alonso, Felipe Massa
61 - Mercedes - Rosberg, Michael Schumacher
44 - Williams-Renault – Maldonado, Bruno Senna
41 - Sauber-Ferrari – Perez, Kamui Kobayashi
28 – Force India-Mercedes – Paul di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg
6 – STR-Ferrari – Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne
Next event: FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX DU CANADA 2012 – Montreal – June 8-10, 2012
Some of the grid girls during their down time.
...and some of the spectators at large.