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Monaco GP: Winners and Losers

Sunday 29th May 2011

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Monaco GP: Winners and Losers

Monaco GP: Winners and Losers

Sebastian Vettel should go straight into the Monte Carlo casino and start betting big stakes. Because right now he just can't lose. Even when his team put the wrong tyres on...

Star of the Race
Jenson Button, McLaren, 3rd

Button was the fastest man on Sunday, but was a victim of circumstance in the timing of the Safety Cars. He did nothing wrong and put in a blistering series of laps after his first tyre stop, but still ended up third. What was most impressive, was his reaction after the race. He wasn't moody and resentful, he was upbeat and positive and a very good loser.

And if I was Prince Albert I'd be wondering why he was quite so familiar with his fiancée.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 77: Mark Webber on Kamui Kobayashi
Defending around Monaco is supposed to be 'easy', especially if you're on the same set of tyres. Webbo's move into the tunnel chicane, in what is clearly a difficult braking area give the weekend's scrapyard count, was cleanly executed. Whether that was thanks to KK taking avoiding action over the kerbs is hard to say.

Winners

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1st
How appropriate that the roulette wheel should decide the winner of this GP. Vettel got triple lucky. The biggest slice of luck was being given the wrong tyres at his first pit-stop on Lap 16. He was due to get Options and he got Primes. This mistaken strategy was perfect providing he could make them last over 45 laps. With the help from the Massa Safety Car he stretched 45 just a bit further, and then, when the excrement was about to hit the fan, we got the red flag.

This was flukier than guessing the right time to change tyres in a wet/dry race. This was outlandish good fortune.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 2nd
As Jenson Button said after the race: "...he was definitely going to have a go." Jenson was hanging back waiting to see what panned out when Fernando Alonso finally made his move on Sebastian Vettel. The moment when Vettel's tyres went over the cliff never came about thanks to Petrov's unfeeling legs and the conversion of a Safety Car to a Red Flag. Alonso, looked the most likely out of Vettel's two pursuers to take the win. And while Button had the freshest tyres of all, he was going to have to go some to get past Alonso.

It's a real pity, because that could have been one of the defining moment of the seasonKamui Kobayashi, Sauber, 5th
Kamui's a lucky boy to escape with 5th place but nobody would begrudge Sauber the points after this weekend.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren 6th
It's very rare that I can listen to Lewis Hamilton moaning after a race and think, well yes, he's absolutely right. Today was one such occasion. The language he couched his complaint in was not great. He knows full well that you can't use that 'f' word 'live' on television. Unless you're going to follow it with ...lickin' chicken.

It's true, right from Saturday qualifying Massa was messing about. Drivers know that if another car is following them that there are certain places to get out of the way and Massa could have got off the throttle going up to Beau Rivages and let him pass, but he chose to make it more difficult and get out of the way at the very last moment.

I can remember races at Monza where people have waited that long to get out of Massa's racing line (in fact it was probably Alonso at Renault in the Alonso vs Schumi days) and been penalised. It wasn't an actionable obstruct, but it was getting that way.

During the race Lewis minded his own business through Sainte Devote, allowed Petrov past him without getting stupid and was rammed by Schumacher in the first corner. Later in the lap, Michael pulled a demon move on him and he accepted that he'd been overtaken and didn't fight.

Michael returned the compliment, giving Lewis room when he came past him at the last minute into Sainte Devote on Lap 9. It was good, hard racing.

When Hamilton tried to get past Massa at the hairpin on Lap 33, Massa simply closed the door. They replayed the footage from Hamilton's car and you can see Massa move his helmet to look in the mirrors. Then Massa took an unusually tight angle into the hairpin when Lewis was already launched into the move. Massa knew what was coming and he made the accident even worse.

If Mark Webber is not going to be penalised for crashing into Hamilton midships like he did in Singapore - the event being put down to a racing incident - then there's no way Lewis should be penalised for what happened at the hairpin with Massa today and certainly not with Maldonado at Ste Devote.

Driver stewards were supposed to solve all this, but Alan McNish either had brain fade or was overruled or they're running on a new set of rules for 2011 divorced from the 2010 season (NB surely they can get someone better qualified to judge F1 than McNish whose major career was in sportscars. How long is it before we get Perry McCarthy or Tiff Needell as the driver steward?).

It's no surprise that Lewis thinks he's being got at by being penalised for these incidents. He is. On the evidence from Monaco there's clearly one rule for him and one rule for everyone else.

What makes it even more ridiculous is the incident between Sutil and Kobayashi going into the Mirabeau. Kobayashi comes from way too far back, completely misjudges the move on the Force India, gets nowhere near Sutil before he thumps his left front wheel into Sutil's right rear. Yes, not even alongside before turn-in! He pushes Sutil wide, damages his car and takes the place. After the race he's only reprimanded. He did the equivalent of a touring car kiss and got away with it. Madness.

In football you have to accept that referees make mistakes because they make decisions in the blink of an eye. In F1 they can see replays and make decisions hours after the race. You don't need four cameras, telemetry or driver testimony to work out that Kobayashi stuffed up Sutil's race good and proper by a crap attempt at overtaking.

Do we want Kamui to stop trying? No. Do we want Lewis to stop entertaining? No. But as Lewis opined, he's trying to put on a show and when a genuine racing move fails to come off he gets penalised for it.

As always, Lewis was electric to watch. Listening to him was much harder.

Adrian Sutil, Force India, 7th
I'd like my car to be made of whatever Adrian Sutil's car is made from, because he always had major impacts and still brings it home

Losers

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, DNF
Massa is a driver who, given the 50/50 of being overtaken or having a collision, will opt for the collision. We saw it in Australia when he forced an over-enthusiastic Jenson Button over the kerbs, rather than give way. We saw it today at the Lowes/Station/Fairmount hairpin when he saw Hamilton in his mirrors yet moved his car into the accident. And we saw some mullet-headed driving of epic proportions when he followed Nico Rosberg all the way up the hill to Beau Rivages and lost part of his front wing on the back of Rosberg's Mercedes - at 180mph. Think Mark Webber at Valencia and how high he got in the air. The road curves to the right there with a steep drop down the hill to the right. An airborne Ferrari 150 Italia wouldn't have necessarily landed back on the track it would have gone straight on...

When he lost control of his car in the Monaco tunnel Massa had the perfect excuse that his wing had been damaged by Lewis, but it just looked like he got wide on the marbles.

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, DNF
Poor old Michael Schumacher. You knew he was doomed from the moment that Eddie Jordan predicted "he might even sneak onto the podium today". EJ is the anti-four-leaf clover.

Michael had a fabulous qualifying ruined in seconds. For such a great starter, the one place where he needed it, he bogged down. There was a little gem of an overtaking move on the opening lap, and both Hamilton and team-mate Rosberg were generous with space at the hairpin, but ultimately he was let down by badly graining rears. Plus his airbox catching fire. And that place he stopped looked familiar...

Vitaly Petrov, Renault, DNF
How embarrassed must Vitaly Petrov have been to be taken to the medical centre and found to have no injuries? Charlie Whiting ought to make some discreet enquiries because his failure to get out of the car could have cost Ferrari a valuable win. And how much better would Aldo Costa have felt if the car that had been slated a week earlier could have won F1's Blue Riband event.

If Petrov had got out in reasonable time, then we could have had one more lap of Safety Car then a brilliant dash to the finish, rather than Vettel being handed a set of new tyres.

Pastor Maldonado, Williams DNF
Given that he had 'Taz' on his gearbox and Williams haven't scored a point in five races - their worst ever start to a season - you'd have thought that Pastor Maldonado might have been less resistant to the advances of a driver who probably should have been on pole. He could have banked the points for a two-car points finish, 7th and 10th. But he went for 6th and they just got 9th. Ah, experience.

Monaco GP Organisers
The barrier that Perez and Button hit should have been moved further back after Jenson Button's Honda accident in 2003. There seems to be no real reason why it can't. It's not like they're short of money to make track changes.

Martin Brundle
After the race Martin Brundle's adopted this phrase: "I don't think that's how we called it in commentary." Giving the impression that their commentary was quite an accurate barometer of what happened in the race. During the Monaco GP there were so many examples of Brundle and Quagmire getting sucked into the detail of what was going on, then announcing it wrong.

How many millions of viewers around the world were shouting, "Look with your eyes! Button's just passed Vettel as he exited the pitlane!" They hadn't got a clue. It took a whole lap for the penny to drop.

They got so many things wrong this race that the BBC producer couldn't leave them uncorrected and had to get Quagmire to explain to Brundle that McLaren didn't react to the Safety Car, Button had already come in.

There was other stuff, plus the reference to Senna versus Mansell again - "Nigel did have the widest Williams that day," said Brundle, meaning "Senna did have the widest McLaren that day". But like so much else, it went uncorrected.

BAFTA-Award Winning EJ
That's not to say the BBC coverage was poor. It was amazingly good and their BAFTA award is fully justified. The best bits of all are actually on the forum after the race transmission. The sequence of Eddie Jordan being thrown into the Red Bull pool were fantasticly funny to watch, not neccessarily the first, but definitely the second time round when Norbert Vettel couldn't resist the target-of-opportunity - EJ bending over trying to shake water out of his earpiece.

There were great fears all round that the Jordan hairpiece - that nobody talks about (apart from John Watson) - was going to be left floating in the deep end as Eddie got chucked in. Quagmire was heard to say in reverend tones, "It's holding in place amazingly well" and then all you could hear was the sound of Jake Humphrey choking back the laughter desperately trying to keep a lid on it.

The BBC access to the Red Bull party was like a team of football presenters going off to celebrate in the Barcelona changing room after the Champions League. It doesn't get much better. Especially when the firmly resistant-to-immersion Quagmire got his white trousers wet.

Andrew Davies

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