Would you class the win of Nico Rosberg at Monaco over Lewis Hamilton the ‘defining moment’ of the season? Yes, from a statistical point of view, you could do, as the majority of drivers that have won in the principality go on to secure the drivers’ title at the end of the season.
While the drivers that have won in Monte Carlo during the 2010, 2012 and 2013 seasons, with today’s winner and now Porsche LMP1 driver Mark Webber, have not gone on to win the title, there is still a lot to play for, especially as there are thirteen races still to run, so not so much ‘defining moment,’ more like ‘important footnote.’ But it could be the ‘catalyst’ that Nico needs to get back on the right path to getting his first title.
Hamilton is unhappy for several reasons it would appear, one of which being that his unbeaten run has come to an end after four wins in a row. No driver that has a winning streak wants to see it come to an end, especially with the way that Mercedes have clearly got the jump on everybody else. Spare a thought for Vettel on that as well, with his nine-race streak abruptly ended in Melbourne by a mechanical issue.
One of the other issues may lie in the definition of the so-called friendship between he and Rosberg. Lewis was correct when he told SkyF1’s Natalie Pinkham after the race, that they are “colleagues” when it comes to getting points and scoring as many 1-2 finishes as possible, but is there more than meets the eye that they will actually let on?
Drivers, even if they are in the same team, will not really be friends when they are at the track. As Ayrton Senna said in the interview with Jackie Stewart back in his day: “We are competing to win,” which shows that both Nico and Lewis know they have a job to do. But comments such as “I’ll take a page out of his book” from Lewis after qualifying would only increase the frenzy around the situation from a media perspective.
The fact of the matter is that Nico won from Lewis on a level-playing field. He controlled the race from the minute he led the 2008 champion into Sainte Devote on lap one, and never looked seriously pressed, aside from the fuel saving strategy that had to be employed. More to the point, qualifying is key to a win if you are fighting at the front of the pack when this race comes around. That was until the dust in Lewis’ eye brought the potential of an exciting battle to a premature end.
The respective opinions of the two drivers have been heard by the upper management, so both Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff will have wanted to hear both sides of the story, but will clamp down hard if necessary. Just imagine if Toto became John Kimble from Kindergarten Cop, wearing a long trench coat and holding a pump-action shotgun in his hands, saying to his two drivers that: “I’m the party pooper.” Both drivers will have been told that under no uncertain circumstances will stupid and reckless behaviour on track be tolerated.
It will firm up his position as the Motorsport Head, with the Stuttgart board of directors keeping a close eye on what happens. If they race clean, hard and fair, that’s fine, but any issue that could compromise the team may be ironed out very quickly. Toto may only have been in charge for the last 18 months, but his neck is on the line every time they go racing as nothing is certain in motorsport.
Vettel is clearly exercising his frustration of having further technical problems with the RB10, which would normally unsettle most people. The four-time champion was resolute in at least battling on, in what has been a character-building season so far, but to again hear his radio comments showing frustration, he is still showing that his belief still lies with the team. It may have been a disappointment for his 100th start with Red Bull, but there is that intense desire to keep on going, no matter what may happen
Daniel Ricciardo is having another great turn of form, with him firmly showing that he is a class act as a Formula One driver, even though he got quite literally mobbed by his teammate and a Ferrari into the first corner, but managed to at least keep the focus on his race and even challenge the 1-2 domination that Mercedes have enjoyed so far.
Ferrari also had their fair share of ups and downs, with Räikkönen on the cusp of beating Alonso early on until a puncture and a near collision with Kevin Magnussen into Loews forced the flying Finn to pit again. Fernando himself, like Daniel, kept steady and consistent, finished a credible fourth having stayed out of any trouble.
Magnussen and Button made the very best of what they could, with the Brit making one of his well-documented fight backs to a welcome sixth place, as the Dane took the last point on offer. The incident with Perez heading towards Loews was clearly a racing incident and did not affect his progress to a great charge. There were also some great overtakes at places you wouldn’t normally expect, with Räikkönen flying around the outside into Sainte Devote and Sutil doing the same move as a few others last year into the Nouvelle Chicane after the tunnel. Hülkenberg made the most daring move of the race, overtaking Magnussen into Portier, which shows that risks have to be taken in racing, especially with the difficulty that Monaco presents every year.
This race also saw the highest amount of retirements this season so far, with Pastor Maldonado not even able to make it to lights out, while both Saubers of Gutierrez and Sutil hit the barriers. Toro Rosso’s flight were plagued by exhaust issues, which does not make up for the fact that both Kvyat and Vergne could have potentially scored points after a very strong performance in qualifying. Poor Bottas, however, suffered the most public of failures, with the first major Mercedes power unit setback for Williams happening with just 20 laps to go.
One of the major stories of the race was Jules Bianchi keeping his cool to guide his Marussia team to its first points in Formula One, after five years of struggle, having joined the sport alongside Caterham and HRT in 2010. The rate of attrition had in some ways helped, and even with the five-second time penalty added after he crossed the finish line, it was one of those moments that shows that hard work and perseverance pays off.
Reports about Caterham being put up for sale by owner Tony Fernandes does not help the squad from a motivational point, but it does shows that even in this new efficiency arena that if Marussia can do it, so can they. The season does have a few more races for them to have that chance, with both Marcus Ericsson and Kamui Kobayashi getting to the end, with the Swede just shy of the points in 11th.
Finally, we cannot forget the noble tribute that was paid to the late Sir Jack Brabham on the grid before the race got underway. It shows that the family of Formula One runs deep and shows that without the past, we would not have seen the sport evolve to what it has become now, especially as what Black Jack achieved as a ‘garagista,’ taking on the big boys at their own game and winning in a car that was of his own creation. He leaves behind a legacy that will stand the test of time.
Now onto Montreal in a fortnight, where we will see if Lewis gets the bit between his teeth and returns the favour to his team-mate.
Images courtesy © Octane Photographic