F1 2016: Monaco GP race report
Lewis Hamilton won the 2016 Monaco GP by a 7.2 second lead over pole-sitter Daniel Ricciardo, to secure his second win on the street circuit and the first of the season. The Brit took the 44th win of his career ending his streak of bad luck for this season. Joining the two was Force India's Sergio Perez who finished in third place. Heavy downpours earlier in the day lead to the race starting with the Safety Car for the first eight laps till the track dried up and there was better visibility.
The 78-lap race, which almost spanned for two hours, had added drama due to the slippery surface and tricky tarmac conditions that led to seven retirements. At the front, a terrific duel unfolded between Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo, where the Aussie started the race in a textbook fashion, zipping off ahead from pole, leading for the majority part of the race, keeping Lewis at bay. And then he decided to pit for super-softs wherein a poor pitstop by the team cost him five seconds on Lap 32.
Lewis on the other hand started third behind his teammate Nico Rosberg, who had to let him through due to lack of pace and ability to keep up with Daniel. Later we learnt that the team and Nico had an agreement to let Lewis pass, since he was in a stronger position to challenge for the victory.
From Lap 32, the race belonged to Lewis, despite Daniel's flawless drive and persistent efforts to stay in his rear-view mirror. The Australian managed to close the gap to 0.03s towards the penultimate lap of the race, but on a tight circuit like Monaco where there's very little room for overtaking, it was a frustrating drive for him with the slippery tarmac not letting him take maximum risks.
Force India's Sergio Perez managed to finish third and securing the season's first podium of the season, and his first after Russia last year. For teammate Nico Hulkenberg, a pitstop followed by virtual safety car prevented the German from defending the third position he was running in. However, he managed to grab the sixth spot from Nico Rosberg on the penultimate lap as both of them exited the Rascasse on the penultimate lap.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel had to settle for a fourth place finish behind a mid-field under-dog after a weekend clouded with tyre woes and lack of grip issues. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen who was running second in the title standings till now, had a retirement after he touched the barriers at the Grand Hotel hairpin and clipped his front-wing and even made contact with Romain Grosjean before entering the tunnel.
Securing fifth and leading the rest of the pack of cars was the old-school Spaniard, Fernando Alonso. Despite being in an underpowered McLaren, he managed to keep Rosberg and Hulkenberg behind for the entire race. His teammate Jenson Button, too, managed to bring his car home in the ninth spot, getting McLaren its much needed double-points finish boost.
Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz managed to finish eighth, while his teammate Daniil Kyvat had a collision with Kevin Magnussen. The battle started back at the Swimming Pool, when the Russian tagged the back of the Renault. He then attempted to run up the inside at Rascasse - only to take them both out. Daniil secured his second DNF of the season and has been penalised with a three-place grid penalty and two penalty points for causing the collision.
Williams' driver Felipe Massa finished tenth while his teammate Valterri Bottas finished 12th. Bottas has been imposed with a 10-second penalty post the race after causing a collision with Esteban Guttierrez. Esteban finished in 11th spot, and his teammate Romain Grosjean finished 13th after the contact with Kimi crippled his chances of finishing in the points on home ground.
Joining the carnage and retirements was Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen who crashed out at Massenet on Lap 34. The 18-year-old Dutchman who was the star of the last race, had his third crash this weekend after a crash each in FP3 and Qualifying. His qualifying crash itself had crippled his chances of fighting it out at the front, making him start the race from the pit-lane.
Lotus driver Jolyon Palmer was the first retirement of the race bringing out the Virtual Safety Car on Lap 8 when he lost grip on the slippery tarmac and crashed at St Devote. Accompanying the Renault with double retirements was Sauber, with both their drivers retiring after making contact with each other at Rascasse on Lap 50.
The two Manor drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto finished 14th and 15th respectively. However Pascal was rewarded a 10-second penalty during the race for ignoring blue flags and later awarded a further 10-second time penalty for not staying above the minimum set time under the virtual safety car. The German has earned a total of four penalty points after the two penalties.
After the exciting outcome this race has produced, Lewis Hamilton has catapulted himself second in the driver's title, reducing his points deficit to his teammate to 24 points, with a total tally of 82 points. Daniel Ricciardo has moved up to third place with 66 points in total and he is followed by Kimi Raikkonen who had dropped to fourth with a total of 61 points. Kimi currently is ahead of Vettel who is in fifth by only one point.
The important take-away from this race was the way both Lewis and Daniel drove. Hamilton came out of the race saluting the Australian's talent and calling it one of the toughest races he's driven. If there is anything the race at this principality South of France taught us is that the season has become unpredictable with every race weekend and technically even the strongest team, Mercedes, are struggling with their fair share of problems.
Red Bull's renewed form can't be ignored as they bite at Ferrari's feet, and their new upgraded engine will be on Max's car, too, by Montreal, increasing their chances for more podiums and wins in the future. The next race weekend in Montreal, Canada will span from June 10-12, 2016.