Mark Webber took his second victory around the streets of Monte Carlo yesterday after a four-way fight for victory resulted in the closest ever finish to a Monaco GP.
With the top four cars separated by just two seconds at the chequered flag, Webber became the sixth different winner of a 2012 Formula One season that has broken the record books.
- Mark Webber won his first race of 2012 – his second victory at Monaco.
Starting from pole position after Michael Schumacher’s 5-place grid penalty, the Australian stayed ahead of the first corner carnage caused when Lotus’ Romain Grosjean failed to negotiate the narrowing gap between Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari and Schumacher. The Franco-Swiss driver was spun into an early retirement as he bounced across the track, collecting Kamui Kobayashi who in turn hit a fast-starting Jenson Button. Despite his stunning victory in Barcelona Williams’ Pastor Maldonado once again blotted his copybook when he misjudged his braking point for the St.Devote corner and smashed into the back of the unfortunate Pedro De La Rosa, taking both cars out on the spot.
At the front Webber steadily built a gap to the 2nd placed Rosberg who left Lewis Hamilton trailing him in 3rdandunable to keep up the pace. Initially Felipe Massa appeared to have the edge over illustrious team-leader Fernando Alonso as the two Ferrari machines ran in 5th and 6th during the opening laps, but Alonso soon stamped his authority as he closed up to Hamilton as the field approached the pitstop phase of the race. Rosberg blinked first and despite warnings of rain approaching the circuit chose to go to a new set of dry Pirelli soft tyres. Responding to the move by the Mercedes team, Hamilton pitted the following lap behind Mark Webber. Whilst Webber was able to exit the pits securely in the lead, Hamilton was passed by the flying Alonso who had stayed out a lap longer to obtain the crucial undercut on the Mclaren driver.
Whilst Hamilton was unable to stay with the pace of the cars in front, Sebastian Vettel had started the race on the alternative soft Pirelli tyre before switching to the faster super-soft compound at his first pitstop. Running longer than everyone else, the World Champion demonstrated his superb skill by building a 17 second gap to Mark Webber before pitting, enabling him to jump ahead of both Felipe Massa and the increasingly docile Lewis Hamilton.
Whilst Hamilton looked solid in 5th, his team-mate Jenson Button was unable to recover from his compromised start and was unsuccessful in his bid to pass the slower Caterham of Heikki Kovalainen for 13th place. The 2009 World Champion was unable to pass the Finn during the pitstop phase and a botched overtaking attempt at the swimming pool chicane late in the race resulted in eventual retirement from a mixture of damage and mechanical woes.
Struggling on his worn super-soft tyres Kimi Raikkonen was attempting to salvage something from a weekend to forget
for Lotus by staying out until the forecast rain shower arrived. It didn’t arrive in time to save Raikkonen, and the 2007 World Champion was forced to pit for new tyres just before the rain put in an appearance, his strategy ruined and leaving him down in 14th place. As the drizzle began to fall, Webber slowed up significantly at the head of the field and Rosberg, Alonso and Vettel closed right up on the Australian who won the 2010 Monaco Grand Prix.
Jean-Eric Vergne missed out on a substantial points haul for Toro Rosso as he pitted from 7th place to take the risk of fitting intermediate tyres in anticipation of more rain; unfortunately for the Frenchman his gamble failed and the point scoring positions slipped through his grasp.
Webber managed to maintain his pace long enough to complete the race at the head of the field and take the 3rd Red Bull victory in a row at Monaco, following on from his own success in 2010 and Sebastian Vettel’s fortuitous 2011 triumph. Rosberg was happy but not satisfied with his 2nd place, believing Mercedes had the pace to win this weekend. ‘It was a strong race for Nico and our team, and we were in with a chance of winning until the chequered flag, but Mark did not put a foot wrong all afternoon ahead of Nico.’ said Norbert Haug, the vice-President of Mercedes motorsport after the race.
Fernando Alonso took his 3rdpodium of the 2012 season and moved to the top of the championship table after another calculated run in the erstwhile-average Ferrari. ‘I’m very happy with the way things have gone this weekend.’ said the
beaming Spaniard who celebrated as if he had won the race in Parc Ferme. ‘We leave Monaco heading the Championship: if I’d been offered that after the Mugello test at the beginning of the month, I’d have signed for it there and then, but if I’d been told that after Melbourne, I would never have believed it!’ His team-mate Felipe Massa also showed improved pace to run the 2005/2006 World Champion closer than he has done for many months. 6th was his reward and signals the beginning of a new start in the eyes of the Brazilian who was runner up in the 2008 title chase. ‘A driver always wants to do the maximum so I can’t be delighted with sixth place, however these are important points. I really hope my championship has turned around and that, from now on, I can always be in the fight for the top places, as was the case here in Monaco.’ Force India enjoyed a late race surge in speed which culminated in a superb 7th-8th place double points finish for Scot Paul Di Resta and team-mate Nico Hulkenberg.
As always though, the last words should go to the winner of this prestigious event. ‘There were a few key stages around the stops that were interesting. Sebastian had his tyres very hot and was quick at that point and I couldn’t get mine going, but once he pitted I reverted my attention back to Nico and just looked after the rears until the end of the race.’ claimed the ever-relaxed Mark Webber. ‘Then the rain came, which around here is very, very tough. But we had composure and experience and great team work on the pit wall. It’s a tough nut to crack this race, but we did it again. I had both hands on it today and I wasn’t going to let go.’
Webber may have had both hands on the Monaco Grand Prix, but it remains unclear just who has their hands on the 2012 world title.
Monaco GP 2012 Top Ten
- Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Renault
- Nico Rosberg (DEU) Mercedes GP
- Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari
- Sebastian Vettel (DEU) Red Bull Renault
- Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mclaren Mercedes
- Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari
- Paul Di Resta (GBR) Sahara Force India
- Nico Hulkenberg (DEU) Sahara Force India
- Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus Renault
- Bruno Senna (BRA) Williams