It was a confusing race, with two Safety Cars and a red flag with just six laps remaining, but Sebastian Vettel wasn’t confused at all, leading away from pole and eventually taking his fifth win from six starts this year. It was not an easy victory for the world champion, as a slow pit stop lost him the lead to Jenson Button in the McLaren, but while the Englishman stopped three times to change tyres and Fernando Alonso, who was second in the Ferrari made two pit stops, Vettel drove an amazing 56-lap stint on the same set of tyres and still fought off everyone come the chequered flag after 78 laps. However, it has to be said that as everyone was allowed to fit new tyres before the final re-start, any chance Alonso and Button had of catching the Red Bull disappeared.
Sébastien Buemi earned himself and Scuderia Toro Rosso another point today in Monaco, repeating his tenth place from last year. He is now 13th in the drivers’ classification, however, the team has been overtaken by Force India in the constructors’ race as Adrian Sutil hauled in six points for a seventh-place finish today, so we are lying eighth in the team contest.
The Safety Car was required after 34 laps, when Massa crashed in the tunnel shortly after he, Hamilton and Webber had all come together proving that you can get three cars round the hairpin, but not without damage. As Button and Alonso took the opportunity to pit for a second time, Vettel stayed out and on fresher rubber, the McLaren man was soon up on the Red Bull’s gearbox, while team-mate Hamilton was given a drive through for causing the crash with Massa. At this point, Sebastién and Jaime were running in eleventh and thirteenth places respectively. Button changed tyres for a third time on lap 48, which left Alonso to pursue Vettel, with the gap coming down with every lap, but catching someone and passing them are two very different skills in Monaco. On paper at least, a two-stop strategy looked to be clearly the fastest way to get to the end of the 78 laps and that’s what our guys did, with Jaime pitting on laps 29 and 56 and Séb on 33 and then again on 62.
Then came the accident that led to the final Safety Car, which was then changed to a red flag, with everyone lining up on the grid for a six-lap sprint, starting behind the Safety Car. At Tabac, Sutil hit the wall and picked up a puncture and in the confusion, Petrov hit Jaime, who ran into Hamilton. Fortunately, Petrov was uninjured, but the Renault man was in pain and they took time to extricate him, hence the decision to red flag the race. With everyone allowed to do what they wanted to the cars, fitting new tyres even, any advantages of closing in on a car ahead that might be suffering more tyre degradation than your own was thus negated and we were not expecting much.
However, when the race restarted, Sébastien was eleventh, but once Maldonaldo crashed out, the Swiss driver was promoted to a point scoring tenth. Unfortunately, Jaime could only watch the final laps from the garage. It was a very busy garage when the race was interrupted, because Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren was on track just behind our work area and so there was a constant stream of McLaren mechanics running in and out, shouting “thanks, thanks a lot,” as they rushed a new front and rear wing through our garage to repair the badly-damaged car.
Monaco is a unique venue, being a tight and twisty street circuit, but even so, the way the race rolled out points to some interesting battles in Montreal in a fortnight’s time. Pirelli will be bringing the same Soft and Supersoft tyres to a low downforce, hard braking track, so let’s see what we can do at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit, a strange mix of town track and race circuit, where our Sébastien finished a fine eighth last year.