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GP Week : Issue 202
In the end, it was pretty anti-climactic. Nico Rosberg got away well enough to lead his team-mate around the Principality all day. Lewis’ chance might have come at what was to be the single tyre stop, but even that opportunity was lost, thanks to the stops all happening after Adrian Sutil brought out the Safety Car on lap 25 by hitting the wall out of the tunnel hard. Lewis was upset that an early call wasn’t made by the team, which might have advantaged him, but in the end, everyone pitted a lap later, stacking where necessary, and any opportunity was lost. Rosberg’s only issue was a need, at about three-quarters distance, to ease back for a few laps and get his fuel consumption on the right side of the ledger. “The race started well and I was comfortable but then we had to manage my fuel consumption and Lewis was pushing really hard behind me,” Nico said. “We were able to be in control of the fuel with a few laps of lift and coast. It was important for me to break Lewis' momentum of winning the last four races this weekend. That worked out very well, but it was a really tough weekend.” Late in the race, Nico got away as Lewis struggled to see clearly out of his left eye – a speck of dust/dirt apparently causing the problem. This allowed Ricciardo to close right back in with two to go, but with the Merc’s prodigious power in the right places, there was no realistic passing opportunity. Indeed, Daniel was a bit lucky to be there in third. He had made a bit of a dud start, letting both Vettel and a brilliantly- starting Raikkonen past before Turn 1. It was their respective demises which elevated him back to where he started. Vettel was first to go, losing turbo boost as early as the third lap, falling back and crawling to the pits. He re-emerged briefly ... “stuck in first gear” ... then retired for good. The reliability bug certainly has crossed the garage at RB. Kimi was so unlucky. With every indication of a deserved third in the offing, the Safety Car period brought drama. The Ferrari was somehow hit by the Chilton Marussia and one of Kimi’s fresh rears was punctured. The extra stop killed his chances. Alonso’s start was compromised by a brief engine issue, which saw him down on power for the first third of the opening lap, but even he admitted the extra power would have made no difference: “At the start, something in the motor didn't work, but even if I'd had full power, there was no room to overtake. The three cars ahead of me deserved to be there as they were really uncatchable.” In truth, the on-track action came behind this final top four, with Nico Hulkenberg, as hinted, putting together a strong race for a deserved fifth, albeit a lap down on the leaders. He’d started on Softs and, as the race ended, his Supersofts were struggling: "The last 20 laps were really tricky because my Supersoft tyres were at the end of their life and it was hard to hold off the cars behind me and stay away from the barriers. There were a few close moments when I kissed the wall, but I sur vived and managed to hold on to fifth place. Fortunately my car was quick in the right places – going into the tunnel and also through the final corner.” A typically smart Monaco drive yielded sixth for Jenson Button, to some degree at the expense of his young team-mate, who had looked good for that spot until late in the race a power unit ‘issue’, which dropped him back to an eventual 10th. Jenson closed in on Hulkenberg late in the race but, despite Nico’s tyre situation, couldn’t find a gap. Felipe Massa’s decision to gamble and stay out at the lap 25 Safety Car played its part in his rise from a P16 start to a superb seventh. The move got him out of the pack and, despite a lap 45 tyre stop under green, a smart race brought results. A first-lap puncture after contact with Adrian Sutil changed Romain Grosjean’s strategy too, but he soldiered on for a solid eighth. But the big mid-field story was Marussia and some first-ever points courtesy of a great drive from Jules Bianchi – despite a five-second penalty having to be added to his race time. Some gains from the Barcelona test and an intelligent drive brought joy – and the end-of-season rewards – to one of F1’s strugglers. This is as close as it got – after the lap 25 Safety Car restart. 29 GPWEEK.com // 29 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> MONACO PARTNERS: