Lots of contact, debris cautions, trips into the wall, full-course yellows and a red flag – these are the kinds of racing terms you unbox when you want to have a conversation about NASCAR... or the Formula One grand prix of Monaco. In this case we're not talking about the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, we're talking about 78 laps in the South of France that even featured a fallen camera cable just like that stock-car race.
This year, Mercedes-AMG Petronas drivers treated their chassis' like busses instead of F1 cars, Romain Grosjean treated his Lotus like a battering ram, Sergio Perez kept sticking his McLaren's nose in places and eventually got it smacked, and maybe the size of the drivers' mirrors should be changed instead of the tires as there were almost as many firsts as there were crashes. Plenty of F1 fans wish Monaco were removed from the calendar, yet even though it doesn't specialize in traditional thrills, that doesn't mean nothing happens during the parade through – and into – the barriers.
Related GalleryRace Recap: 2013 Monaco Formula One Grand Prix
When Nico Rosberg claimed pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix, it meant Mercedes-AMG had taken the number one spot in the last four races, and it's Rosberg that's claimed the last three of those. The problem that Mercedes would have at any other track on the calendar – even in overtake-phobic places like Hungary and Valencia – is that Mercedes can't hold onto its lead in the race because of how the car abuses its Pirellis. In the last race, Rosberg went from pole position to fifth position at the flag and Lewis Hamilton might have well have been driving in the opposite direction to traffic, falling from second at the start to 12th at the finish.
In Monaco, where even the best cars in the field have a tough time getting around slowpokes, Mercedes would have its best chance to convert pole position to the stop step on the podium, and it would do it by following The Tortoise Dictum: "Slow and steady wins the race."
In wet and dry qualifying conditions that rained some surprises on the grid, Rosberg lined up first ahead of a "struggling" Hamilton, followed by the Infiniti Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, then Kimi Räikkönen in the Lotus, Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari, Sergio Perez in seventh outqualifying his McLaren teammate Jenson Button in ninth, Adrian Sutil in the Force India in eighth and Jean-Eric Vergne getting his Toro Rosso into Q3 for the first time in his career in the tenth spot.
Ferrari driver Felipe Massa would be starting from the back of the grid because of a major crash on the front straight when he locked his front wheels and slid into the left side of the track, caromed off the barriers and then slid into the barriers on the outside of the first turn at St. Devote. His mechanics couldn't get the car rebuilt in time for him to set a lap time. A diplomatic but very unhappy Paul di Resta would start from way down in 17th because his race engineer didn't call him in for a new set of intermediate tires in Q1 and he didn't make the cut. Giedo van der Garde would get his Caterham into 15th, the first time a Caterham has been in Q2 all season and the team's highest grid spot since Heikki Kovaleinen got 13th on the grid in Belgium in 2010.
When the lights went out there was a furious race to the front corner that didn't change the order, and then the Mercedes' slowed things right down. Rosberg qualified with a lap time of 1:13.876, but in the race lapped at a 1:22 or 1:23 pace to be kind to his tires. No one could get around him and so everyone spread out in order to be in clear air and tend to their Pirellis. There were 2- and 2.5-second gaps between cars and radio messages were engineers telling drivers to use higher gears so as not to spin out of corners. Commentator Martin Brundle said, "My mum's a great driver and I reckon she could drive as fast as that."
The only action was a move that Button pulled on Sutil to claim a place, and van der Garde's first lap collision with Maldonado that cost the Caterham driver a trip to the pits. The order at the top didn't change otherwise until Webber was the first of the leader to pit on Lap 26, and most of the top ten save for Rosberg and Hamilton followed suit.
On Lap 30 Massa had a crash that looked like an instant replay of his incident the day before, locking up on the front straight and slamming into the barriers on the left side and at St. Devote. That brought out the safety car, and that brought Rosberg and Hamilton into the pits. Hamilton, though, dropped back so far – he said he was trying to leave space for the pit crew to finish Rosberg's car – that when he emerged from the pits he slotted in behind Vettel and Webber, who were now second and third, and that's exactly how the top four positions would look at the end of the race. Hamilton tried to get around Webber for a few laps until his team told him to cool it over tire issues.
Elsewhere it was carnage and the occasional pass. Perez began stalking the Nouvelle Chicane to pass, getting Button with a clean move and then Alonso with a controversial move, then trying to do the same with Räikkönen near the end of the race. He came from so far back that when Räikkönen turned in, Perez got trapped between the Lotus' rear wheel and the barrier. The incident damaged the McLaren's brake ducts and Perez retired five laps from the end, a sixth-place finish lost in the carbon dust.
A few laps later Max Chilton in the Marussia pulled over into Pastor Maldonado in the Williams, sending the Williams airborne and then into the barriers, causing the barrier to detach from its mooring and block the track. The race was red-flagged, and during the 25-minute break all of the runners got new tires.
The restart didn't change the order, but the Force India drivers would: Sutil passed both Alonso and Button at the Lowe's Hairpin, di Resta was coming up through the field from the depths, passing a number of cars into the first turn. Sutil would finish fifth, di Resta would get from 17th to ninth at the finish.
Button also managed to get past Alonso, the Ferrari driver balked up into the last turn behind Sutil and in going wide allowed the McLaren through. Alonso said that, unlike the previous races, he just didn't have the pace on Sunday.
Then came Grosjean's fourth crash of the weekend, when he went straight on into the back of Daniel Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso coming out of the tunnel. Ricciardo was defending the position in the middle of the circuit, when he braked for the turn into the Nouvelle Chicane, Grosjean didn't and clobbered the Toro Rosso. Ricciardo's race was done right there – he radioed his crew and said "You can probably guess the driver" – Grosjean would retire a few laps later with a broken floor.
After all the non-racing of the day – lap times didn't really get respectable until Lap 51 – it was Räikkönen who made a storming drive to close the race. The Finn had to pit because of a puncture after his incident with Perez. That dropped him to the back, and he was 16th with six laps to go. His streak of 33 consecutive finishes wasn't at stake, but his string of 22 points finishes was. He picked off the cars in front at seconds per lap, claiming the last points-paying position in tenth because Nico Hülkenberg in the Sauber was driving on his tires' steel belts and couldn't hold the Lotus off. One more race in the points and Räikkönen will tie Michael Schumacher's record.
The final order was Rosberg, Vettel, Webber, Hamilton, Sutil, Button, Alonso, Jean-Eric Vergne in eighth with a quiet race in the Toro Rosso, di Resta and Räikkönen. The win gave Rosberg the second of his career and undoubtedly the sweetest of his career, 30 years after his father won the same race in a Williams, and jumped him up to fifth in the Driver's Championship. On the leaderboard, Vettel's second place put more distance between himself and rivals – he's at 107, followed by Räikkönen with 86 and Alonso with 78.
The Constructor's Championship got an Infiniti Red Bull boost as well; they're now leading with 164 points, followed by Ferrari with 123, Lotus with 112 and Mercedes with 109.
That's another year in the books for Monaco – the fourth in a row with an appearance from the safety car, which might have had to pit for tires itself. We'll see you in two weeks with a live report from the Canadian Grand Prix.