Well, that wasn’t quite Senna vs Prost, was it? Maybe inevitably what happened off track (and on the radio) this weekend was bound to prove more compelling than what happened on track, but rest assured Hamilton vs Rosberg (BFFs no longer) is going to make this year’s championship a lot more interesting than Vettel vs Webber ever was. Just so long as Lewis can keep the inside of his helmet a sterile zone.
It all started to go wrong for Hamilton on lap 26 when the safety car made its second appearance of the afternoon. Until then Hamilton had looked content to play a strategic game behind Rosberg. But the second safety car won it for Rosberg.
The first on the opening lap was for Perez and Button coming together at Mirabeau; but the second, more spectacularly was for Adrian Sutil who so nearly had the Wendlinger/Coulthard/Perez/Kyvat accident coming out of the tunnel, but opted as ever to do his own thing and hit the barriers on the left before the chicane. It was a shame for Sutil who had seemed to be the recipient of this year’s ‘see, you can overtake at Monaco…’ award.
For Hamilton, obliged to stack behind Rosberg in the pits the second time around after Sutil had spread the carbon, it was a new low in what’s proved to be a testing weekend for his relationship with the team. “I knew I should have come in the first time around…?” he said, to paraphrase. And then “But why didn’t you call me in…?” Falling out with your teammate is one thing, falling out with your team is a whole different dimension of self-destruct. But one that’s not unfamiliar to Hamilton.
The back to back pit stops meant a race to the end for the one-stopping Mercs who here more than anywhere else this season (and contrary to predictions) were in a race of their own. Lewis had complained earlier in the race that he was “getting D-rates”. Having checked Urban Dictionary and listened to the team’s response (anyone?) we have to concur with Martin Brundle that maybe Lewis wasn’t getting the full KERS. Rosberg meanwhile we discovered was burning too much four star. Lewis, you will remember, has won all his races on less gas this year.
Revenge, alienation, malice… and now with 30 laps to go two W05s both nursing issues. It could not have been shaping up better. Lewis duly delivered, putting his W05 inside the DRS margin of Rosberg’s Arrow. And the messages kept coming; Lewis’s side of the pits spilling the secrets from Nico’s monitors and Nico’s team reciprocating. Niki Lauda confirmed before the race rumours that Hamilton had indeed turned his W05 up to an unpermitted 11. With that extra gas in the tank, would he pull the same stunt again and even if he did, could he find a way by?
Er, no. Of all things to happen, Hamilton was slowed by something in his eye. He’d complained before the stop, actually some time before the stop, that his rears were already useless. Maybe it was that and not the stray eyelash that ribbed us of a race today. Hamilton’s left eye did look uncomfortable on the podium, but not as uncomfortable as the two Mercedes drivers looked on the podium.
Behind — just behind — Daniel Ricciardo continues to show a combination of pace and patience that will serve him well when (and it’s not ‘if’) Red Bull and Renault rediscover their mojos. His teammate (remember him, German bloke, won a few championships?) meanwhile didn’t have the chance to build on a more promising qualifying run. Vettel is getting all the bad luck right now; it might be easy to feel sorry for him if he wasn’t dealing with it all with such bad grace.
That left Ferrari and, inevitably, Fernando Alonso in fourth and strangely invisible ahead of Nico Hulkenberg who had to hold off Button’s McLaren. This time out however it was Kimi who had looked more fighty for Ferrari, jumping Ricciardo’s slow-starting Red Bull at the start and slotting in behind the Mercs once Vettel had retired his sickly RB10.
But that second safety car period didn’t go well for the Finn, who stopped late and then, having collected Max Chilton, stopped again. Just like last year, Kimi somehow managed to haul his way from the very back in to the points only to run out of road passing Magnussen at the hairpin. That (and that fact eight cars failed to finish this afternoon) let all kinds in to the top ten who maybe hadn’t expected to score this afternoon and none more so than the ever-classy Jules Bianchi who scored Marussia’s (nee Virgin) first points — two of them.
Marussia looked a very, very happy team today. Mercedes AMG Petronas is anything but right now. And it’s only just started.