The German driver started from pole position after beating his team-mate Lewis Hamilton in qualifying by just under one tenth of a second. Rosberg had been quick all weekend, setting the pace in all three practice sessions.
Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber made it a Red Bull Racing lock-out on the second row, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso. Sergio Perez, Adrian Sutil, Jenson Button and Jean-Eric Vergne completed the top 10 on the grid.
Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo and Romain Grosjean were the first drivers to be eliminated in the Q2 drop-zone, after a damp second session. Valtteri Bottas was the lead Williams in 14th, with Giedo van der Garde impressing for Caterham in 15th and Pastor Maldonado in 16th.
Paul di Resta, Charles Pic, Esteban Gutierrez and Max Chilton all failed to make it out of Q1. Jules Bianchi did not set a time after an engine failure and Felipe Massa did not even get out of the garage as Ferrari was unable to repair his car following a big crash in third practice.
Despite controversy on Sunday morning after details of Mercedes and Pirelli’s secret Barcelona tyre test emerged, all eyes swiftly moved to the start of the sport’s most glamorous and prestigious event. Rosberg had a decent launch from the line but his team-mate had a better one and challenged for the lead on the outside into Ste Devote. It was never going to work and Hamilton had to back off and settle into second, with Vettel maintaining third.
There was the inevitable first lap contact further back, with Maldonado pitting at the end of the opening tour for a new nosecone. Van der Garde did the same after running into the back of the Venezuelan driver at the hairpin. Teams soon switched focus to the race strategy, with tyre management kicking in as early as lap five.
Pic’s race came to a fiery end on lap nine after a gearbox failure. He parked his car just prior to the pit lane entry. Ricciardo kicked off the first scheduled stops after pitting for a fresh set of super-soft tyres on lap 23. Massa crashed heavily on lap 29 at Ste Devote. It was nearly identical to his third practice impact, but this time it was due to a suspension failure.
The safety car was deployed immediately, with Mercedes pitting both cars. Hamilton was forced to back off to avoid waiting behind his team-mate but he left too much of a gap and returned to the track behind the two Red Bulls.
It was the safety car’s first appearance of 2013 and the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG peeled into the pit lane at the end of lap 38. There was very little movement on the restart, but Perez did find a way past Button a little while later after a brave move at the Nouvelle Chicane. The race had barely got going again when it was dramatically stopped on lap 46 following a huge crash for Maldonado at Tabac, after he was squeezed into the wall by Chilton.
The impact dislodged the TecPro barrier, which was hit by the second Marussia of Bianchi. Following the track repairs, the race resumed behind the safety car. Alonso let Perez past after the Spaniard cut the chicane to retain his position following the McLaren driver’s ambitious overtake before the stoppage. The 2013 Monaco Grand Prix restarted on lap 47.
Overtaking is notoriously difficult around the Monte Carlo streets but Sutil impressed by passing both Button and Alonso at the hairpin in the second half of the race. Bianchi found the wall at Ste Devote, just prior to Grosjean colliding with Ricciardo at the Nouvelle Chicane on lap 62. The Frenchman made a terrible misjudgement under braking and hit the Aussie, taking both cars out of the race.
The safety car was deployed once again and released the pack with 11 laps to go. Perez collided with Raikkonen at turn 10, with the former retiring and the latter pitting for new tyres after a puncture. Rosberg eventually took the chequered flag to claim his first Monaco Grand Prix victory on the route that once took him to school as a child.
He finished four seconds clear of Vettel, with Webber completing the podium. It was a missed opportunity for Hamilton, who finished fourth, with Sutil rounding out the top five. Button, Alonso, Vergne, di Resta and a recovering Raikkonen completed the point’s finishers.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic