2015 Monaco F1 Grand Prix race recap [spoilers]
Rosberg did make a mistake but this time it was behind Hamilton, which meant he stuffed-up the qualifying attempts of rival drivers like Sebastian Vettel. So Rosberg starts second, 0.342 behind Hamilton but 0.449 ahead of Vettel in the Ferrari. Daniel Ricciardo thinks he should have been third, but a communication error with his engineers left him in the wrong engine setting for his final hot lap, so by the very first corner he'd lost the time he would have needed to get higher than fourth on the grid. The second Infiniti Red Bull Racing of Daniil Kvyat slots in behind him, ahead of the second Ferrari of Kimi "Not A Very Happy Day" Räikkönen, who just can't get it going lately.
Sergio Perez did for the Sahara Force India what the car can't do on its own, which is grab a top-ten qualifying spot. Toro Rosso rookie Carlos Sainz had qualified eighth but missed a call to the weigh bridge, so he's been slapped into the pit lane. Pastor Maldonado in the Lotus inherits his eighth place, ahead of rookie Max Verstappen in the second Toro Rosso, and Jenson Button in the McLaren. Button only got up there because of two penalties: for Sainz, and Romain Grosjean who had qualified 11th but took a penalty for a gearbox change.
Want to know how hard it is to do better on race day than in qualifying at Monaco? Even the never-say-die Fernando Alonso said, "Monte Carlo is a train of cars on Sunday, the race finishes on Saturday afternoon." Well obviously, he didn't take Max Verstappen's seek-and-destroy tactics into account.
The young Dutchman had made passing look like a real option in Monaco, getting past Maldonado at St. Devote on Lap 7 after a bit of argy-bargy on Lap 6, then taking advantage of blue flags to slink past teammate Carlos Sainz and Williams driver Valtteri Bottas while hiding in Sebastian Vettel's slipstream. He tried the same move on Romain Grosjean on Lap 65, but Grosjean locked him out. Verstappen lined up the Lotus driver over the following laps, then looked like he slipped to the inside at St. Devote in attempt to make a pass, but Grosjean braked earlier than usual and Verstappen's left front hit Grosjean's right rear. Verstappen lost his left front wheel and went straight into the barriers at high speed, but was all right.
The barrier and the car, however, weren't. That brought out the safety car on Lap 68, and that changed the entire race.
Lewis Hamilton had been leading the race comfortably until then, enjoying a 21-second lead on teammate Rosberg in second and rival Vettel in third. A bunch of team miscommunication and overthinking led to Mercedes believing Vettel might come in and pit for super soft tires, so Mercedes brought Hamilton in for a new set, thinking he had time for the stop... until he came out of the pits behind Rosberg and Vettel, neither of whom pitted.
When racing resumed on Lap 71 of 78, there was no way Hamilton was going to get around Vettel and Rosberg, even with fresh tires. He radioed his team to say, "I've lost this race, haven't I?" No one wanted to admit it, but the answer was yes. After owning the day and managing brake overheating issues early in the race, the same kind of strategy mistake that Mercedes made with Rosberg in Malaysia this time bit Hamilton, and the Brit had to settle for third. It's a terrible way to lose a race, and Hamilton was expectedly downbeat on the podium, but unexpectedly gracious in defeat, congratulating Rosberg and Vettel and refusing to blame the team, saying, "We win and lose together."
It was Rosberg's third win in a row in Monaco, a feat not achieved since Ayrton Senna did it more than 20 years ago. For Vettel, it was the third time that he has started third on the grid in the principality and finished second on the podium.
Fourth, fifth, and sixth places also got switched up after the Safety Car left the track. Kvyat, Räikkönen, and Ricciardo were in those spots, but Ricciardo had pitted for new tires during the slow-down. Attacking Räikkönen as soon as racing resumed, the Aussie slipped his left front wheel under Räikkönen's rear right at Mirabeau, and when Räikkönen turned in he got punted off the racing line and then passed. He complained to his team, but the stewards decided to take no action. The team ordered Kvyat to let Ricciardo through to attack the front three, but when they realized that wasn't possible Ricciardo gave the position back. The order of those three spots at the flag was Kyvat, Ricciardo, and Räikkönen.
Perez and Button finished seventh and eighth, the two of them together in that order since at least Lap 31. Force India will be happy for the result, and Monaco gave McLaren its first points for the season, ending a drought that has already made 2015 the worst opening to a campaign since the original McLaren outfit was formed in 1966. Sauber driver Felipe Nasr and Toro Rosso driver Sainz took the last two points-paying positions, after a race where they were either trying to defend or heed blue flags.
Rosberg's win cuts Hamilton's lead at the head of the Driver's Championship standings to ten points, 126 to 116. Vettel isn't far away with 98 points. Mercedes isn't hurt by throwing away three points, with 242 points at the lead of the Constructor's Championship, ahead of Ferrari with 158 points and Williams with 81 points.
The next race is in Canada in two weeks, and it should be intense in Quebec. We'll see you then.
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