In Monaco the most glamorous race of the year started behind the Safety Car in wet conditions and the drivers had to adapt quickly to the drying track. During the first half polesitter Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull Racing built a solid advantage ahead of the two Mercedes cars. Many of the drivers failed to negotiate the tight corners and the wet conditions, including Kimi Räikkönen, whose Ferrari clipped its front wing under the front tyres, yet he dragged it across the iconic Tunnel in a display of foolishness.
However, when called by his engineers into the pits for the second time Red Bull were not ready for Ricciardo’s pit stop and had to frantically fetch fresh tyres. This “human error”, as Dr Helmut Marko branded it, ended up costing him victory — a whopping 14-second stop placed him behind Hamilton for the remainder of the race despite a failed attempt at overtaking him after Hamilton overshot the Chicane on the 37th lap. That, and a spot on strategy from Mercedes which involved going straight from wet tyres to slicks, meant that Ricciardo had to settle for second place, appearing visibly sombre on the podium.
Max Verstappen had become F1’s youngest winner in the previous Grand Prix after being promoted to Red Bull from sister team Toro Rosso. This time around he had a tough time dealing with the curvy Monaco streets, crashing out in both qualifying and the race, showing that despite having the raw speed his skills need some honing.
The podium was completed by the Mexican Sergio Pérez (Force India), who drove a brilliant race starting from seventh, fighting against Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) for third. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) managed fifth place; though Monaco’s characteristically slower track compensates for the down on power Honda engine, this shows another step in the right direction for McLaren after last year’s woes.
Nico Rosberg, while still leading the championship, did not shine in this race and finished seventh after Nico Hülkenberg of Force India passed him in the final corner of the race. His lack of pace, caused by a presumed brake malfunction, meant that he had to let Hamilton through in the early stages of the race so as to prevent Ricciardo from getting away, a pass that turned out to be crucial. Rosberg’s lead over Hamilton in the World Championship standings was also reduced from a comfortable 43 points to 24.
Formula 1 will head to Canada in two weeks time where Lewis Hamilton will aim to use his newly found momentum to erode Nico Rosberg’s lead even further.