2012 Monaco Grand Prix does the full Monte Carlo [spoilers]
With an unprecedented six world champions on the grid holding a total of fourteen titles between them, this season has been one big wild card. So far five different drivers from five different teams took the checkered flags in the five races so far. And not all of them rank among the aforementioned champions.
But if the season has been unpredictable until now, would Monaco – traditionally the least predictable grand prix of all – prove even more so? Keep reading to find out.
Qualifying on Saturday initially saw Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher – five-time winner of the Monaco Grand Prix (tied with '60s ace Graham Hill and second only to Ayrton Senna) – land on pole. The stewards penalized him five grid positions, however, for causing a collision, bumping Red Bull pilot Mark Webber up to pole and Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Romain Grosjean (Lotus) and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) along with him. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) qualified seventh ahead of champions Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) and Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) with Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) rounding out the top ten. McLaren's Jenson Button, meanwhile, could manage no better than thirteenth place.
Pastor Maldonado (Williams) had qualified ninth, but was dropped to the back of the field for an unscheduled gearbox change and for having crashed into Sergio Perez (Sauber), who in turn failed to set a qualifying time but was allowed to start from the back alongside the culprit.
The start of the race on Sunday saw Grosjean ping-pong off of Alonso and into Schumacher. Both the multiple champions sped away unscathed, but Grosjean took out Maldonado, Pedro de la Rosa (HRT) and Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) along with him in the ensuing spin. Together with the four early retirements came the safety car, which was recalled just a lap later once the damaged cars were cleared from the closed streets of Monte Carlo. Vitaly Petrov would soon join them as his Caterham suffered critical electrical issues.
Meanwhile up front Webber wasted no time in opening up a lead over his pursuers that would only widen in the opening stint. The first round of pit stops followed before the half-way mark, but Vettel held out in an inherited lead. As the others rejoined behind him, the reigning champion remained the fastest even on old tires. After he finally went in for fresh rubber on lap 46, he rejoined in a solid fourth place, just ahead of longtime rival Hamilton.
On lap 63 the long-anticipated rain materialized into a light drizzle but amounted to little more than that. Neither did the initial pole position materialize for Schumacher, who retired into the Mercedes garage having failed once again to land a single podium finish since returning from retirement now three seasons ago. Toro Rosso rookie Daniel Ricciardo would soon follow, with Marussia newbie Charles Pic having retired as well. After Button spun out with precious few laps to go, it would make a total of nine drivers failing to finish the race.
Ultimately Webber took the checkered flag in a flawless performance from pole – his second win in Monaco and the sixth driver in as many races to win this season. Rosberg demonstrated his win in Shanghai to have been anything but a fluke as he came in second, with Alonso showing solid Ferrari form with his third-place finish to round out the podium.
The remaining points went to Vettel, Hamilton, Massa, di Resta, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen and Senna, with Perez, Vergne, Kovalainen, Glock and Karthikeyan in the minority of drivers to finish outside the points.
The results leapfrog Alonso into the lead with 76 points ahead of Vettel and Webber who hold 73 apiece. Hamilton trails with 63 ahead of Rosberg's 59, Raikkonen's 51 and Button's 45. With Felipe Massa still offering little help, however, Ferrari sits third in the constructors' standings with 86 points (the same as Lotus), with Red Bull in the lead at 146 and McLaren holding second at 108. The circus sails next for Montreal on June 10.
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