Sebastian Vettel resisted immense pressure from Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button to take victory in an incident-packed Monaco Grand Prix.
By winning the famous race in the streets of the principality, the reigning world champion extends his lead in the standings with a massive 143 points. This is a remarkable achievement from the Red Bull Racing driver.
Vettel opted against pitting during a mid-race safety car period, and ran an impressive 56-lap stint on the super soft Pirelli against all expectations, gaining track position over previous leader Jenson Button.
That left him ahead when the race was red-flagged, at which point Sebastian Vettel, second placed Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button – who had dropped to third after pitting just before a mid-race safety car – were all allowed to fit new Pirellis on the grid.
By discarding the old tyres for fresh new rubber, it sealed the victory for the Red Bull driver. The eventual winning margin was 1.1 seconds ahead of his Ferrari rival, who was a similar distance clear from the McLaren.
The race went down to a six-lap sprint following a red flag for a crash involving Vitaly Petrov, Jaime Alguersuari and Lewis Hamilton, that was triggered by Pastor Maldonado passing Adrian Sutil for sixth position at Tabac.
The one-stopping Sutil, who had ran fourth for quite a while but was dropping back on old used Pirelli, smacked into the armco exiting Tabac and punctured his right-rear tyre. While trying to avoid the slowing Force India, Petrov ran into the back of Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso, which in turn hit the rear of Hamilton’s McLaren.
Alguersuari and Petrov hit the barriers hard, forcing the race to be stopped with six laps to the flag and necessitating Petrov’s extrication from the Renault by the medical team.
Having lost the lead to Button thanks to a sluggish pit-stop on lap 16, Vettel opted against pitting when Felipe Massa’s mid-race crash brought out the safety car.
Button, who had already stopped twice by this stage, was clearly the faster driver on his fresher Pirelli, but had also lost track position to Alonso during the safety car period.
Button made his third pit-stop on lap 48 after becoming stuck behind Vettel, but reduced an 18-second deficit to less than a second with eight laps to go. His problem, however, was that Alonso’s Ferrari was in between them.
Button’s hopes of race victory rested on his rivals tyres going off before his, as both Vettel and Alonso switched their strategies and opted against making further pit-stops. The red flag and subsequent tyre changes on the grid put paid to that, however.
Mark Webber finished fourth, having dropped as low as P14 early on due to a 15-second stop as Red Bull pitted him on the same lap as his team-mate. Webber’s two-stop strategy left him with fresher rubber than many of the cars around him during the second half of the Grand Prix, allowing the Australian to pass Kobayashi, Sutil, Petrov and Maldonado within the final 15 laps.
Kamui Kobayashi ceded fourth to Webber after missing the chicane with two laps to go, but still collected the best result of his career. As for Maldonado, the Williams driver was on his way to finishing sixth, but he crashed out at Ste Devote with five laps remaining following contact with Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton’s rear wing was damaged in the Petrov/Alguersuari accident, but the mechanics were able to fix it during the red flag period.
His race was very frustrating. Passed by Michael Schumacher’s slow-starting Mercedes at Loews hairpin on the opening lap, he lost a significant amount of time when the German’s rear tyres dropped off at an alarming rate within ten laps.
Even after passing the seven-time world champion at Ste Devote with a great move, his pace was compromised as he became bogged down in a seven-car battle for fourth place behind Sutil.
Hamilton, Webber and Felipe Massa all came together at Loews on lap 34 – an incident that Hamilton was deemed to have caused and received a drive-through penalty for – but by that time Massa was out, the Ferrari driver having hit the wall in the tunnel as Hamilton passed seconds later.
Hamilton eventually finished sixth, ahead of the lapped Sutil, Nick Heidfeld’s Renault, Rubens Barrichello’s Williams and the Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi.
Paul di Resta finished in P12 after receiving a drive-through penalty for the same reason as Hamilton – colliding with a car at Loews – but the Force India driver also damaged his car in the incident with Alguersuari and was force to pit for a new nose/front wing.
Schumacher did not make the finish, his Mercedes grinding to a halt just ahead of Alonso as the safety car came out for the Massa crash. Timo Glock was the only other retiree, the Virgin driver’s right-rear suspension failing just before half distance.
Vettel’s fifth win from six starts extends his dominant start to the season. But Formula One will reflect on an incident-packed weekend in Monte Carlo, which ends with two drivers, Vitaly Petrov and the non-starting Sergio Perez, recovering from injuries.
Race results from Monte Carlo, 78 laps:
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 2h09:38.373
2. Alonso Ferrari +1.138
3. Button McLaren-Mercedes +2.378
4. Webber Red Bull-Renault +23.100
5. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari +26.900
6. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 27.200
7. Sutil Force India-Mercedes +1 lap
8. Heidfeld Renault +1 lap
9. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth +1 lap
10. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap
11. Rosberg Mercedes +1 lap
12. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes +2 laps
13. Trulli Lotus-Renault +2 laps
14. Kovalainen Lotus-Renault +2 laps
15. D’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth +2 laps
16. Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth +3 laps
17. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth +3 laps
18. Maldonado Williams-Cosworth +5 laps
Fastest lap: Webber, 1:16.234
Petrov Renault 68 laps
Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 68 laps
Massa Ferrari 33 laps
Schumacher Mercedes 33 laps
Glock Virgin-Cosworth 31 laps
Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1 lap
World Championship standings, round 6:
1. Vettel 143
2. Hamilton 85
3. Webber 79
4. Button 76
5. Alonso 69
6. Heidfeld 29
7. Rosberg 26
8. Massa 24
9. Petrov 21
10. Kobayashi 19
11. Schumacher 14
12. Sutil 8
13. Buemi 7
14. Perez 2
15. Barrichello 2
16. Di Resta 2
1. Red Bull-Renault 222
2. McLaren-Mercedes 161
3. Ferrari 93
4. Renault 50
5. Mercedes 40
6. Sauber-Ferrari 21
7. Force India-Mercedes 10
8. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 7
9. Williams-Cosworth 2
Next race: Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal. June 10-12.