Monaco GP

Monaco GP power rankings

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Although some were left unimpressed by the action on track in Monaco, we've had far worse races in recent years. With a limping Red Bull at the front, another charging through the midfield and Formula 1's most luxurious surroundings, the race promised to be a satisfying venture for those paying attention.

Moving on up

Pierre Gasly backed up his impressive performance in Bahrain by not only finishing in the points at the most challenging circuit on the calendar, but sneaking in to Q3 on Saturday and leaving his teammate for dust. 

Esteban Ocon slotted in to P6 as the best of the rest, delivering for his team after teammate Sergio Perez had a troubled race that left him in P12. Ocon is the quiet achiever of the F1 paddock, and despite being a smooth, classy and.... tall driver he continues to impress and could peak at the perfect time 

Daniel Ricciardo bossed the entire weekend, and closed the loop on an injustice two years in the making. Did you think we weren't going to mention him? Taking his seventh career victory in an under-powered car, he brings himself inline with Rene Arnoux and Juan Pablo Montoya, and looks set to overtake Mark Webber—who has 9 victories—this year, if not next (but with which team?).

Back-sliding

Max Verstappen might have pulled off the most overtakes during the race, but his crash in practice which destroyed his chances of qualifying with the front-runners. At one of the only tracks at which Red Bull had an opportunity to lead from the front, he threw away a huge load of points, and extended his run of errors and incidents, making this year the worst of his short career. 

Lance Stroll joined Charles Leclerc for making the highlight reel for all the wrong reasons. Unlike Leclerc who had a genuine brake issue, Stroll made a clumsy manoeuvre and damaged his front wing and copped a front-left puncture for good measure. At first I would have guessed he clipped the exist of the nouvelle chicane, but even worse to drive straight into the back of another driver is a blemish on his race.

Surprise reaction that Monaco is boring, come on people. F1 cars has out-grew the circuit forty years ago, we've been #blessed to have eventfully races in recent times, but to suddenly realise that Monaco is a snoozer just makes everyone look ignorant.

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Winners and Losers: Monaco Grand Prix

Big Winners:

  • Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo both proved the "overcut" was the best strategy today, unfortunately for their teammates only one driver per team can pull it off. Vettel delivers Ferrari's first win in Monaco for 16 years, and Ricciardo earns yet another podium -- probably much more than he realistically expected.
  • Carlos Sainz finished the race where he started in a workmanlike effort that further strengthens his case for a sideways promotion to another team in 2018.
  • Haas haven't quite taken the step forward this year that we all hoped they would. Despite numerous retirements helping them along the way, having two cars in the points is a solid result.

Big Losers:

  • Monaco's New Podium was a bust. After leaving the Monaco royals standing around like stunned mullets, the drivers finally appeared on the raise platform only to be led back to street level what felt like two or three hours later for their interviews. It was disorganised chaos, and although the little ceremony on the steps always felt like it lacked grandeur, at least it was expedient. 
  • Jenson Button had a return to forget. Despite qualifying fast enough for P9 he started the race from the pitlane, was stuck behind Pascal Wehrlein at the arse-end of the grid and made what could generously be described as an overly optimistic (aka embarrassing) overtake attempt that almost resulted in Wehrlein being thrown into the marina. The only thing stopping Button from being The Biggest Loser this week is that he's again waving farewell to the sport and truly had nothing to lose.
  • The British Media couldn't help but whinge and carry-on, choosing their words carefully and conditionally to avoid calling Ferrari cheaters (but implying as much by doing so), all because their golden boy had a bad day. Red Bull's strategy, not to mention the look on Kimi's face, is enough proof the tactic wasn't premeditated. Are Ferrari happy with the result? Probably everyone apart from Kimi would be. Was it all about Hamilton? Truth-bomb: Most things aren't.

Monaco GP 1998: From bad to Wurz

In reviewing the '98 season there were always going to be a few tentpole races; Spa, Monaco, even Hungary. I've tried to avoid spoilers as much as possible, but a race diary from Mika Hakkinen on the official Mclaren blog at this years' Monaco Grand Prix got a lot of traction and was difficult to avoid. Reading it now and watching the 1998 race it's easy to see why Mika was so keen to return to that weekend, where he took pole and won without incident when those around him were losing their heads.

It's known as the jewel in F1's crown and the race every driver wants to win. As usual the pitlane was full of celebrities, and none other than Liz Hurley appeared on the broadcast to declare her affections for, "the Irish guy". The track is renown for being unforgiving, and to quote a Hakkinen-ism, it looked just as "narrow, tight, sinuous, tortuous, bumpy, yumpy" that day as it ever has.

Despite the boffins predicting that only half to field would finish the actual start of the race was uneventful, and again it seemed that Coulthard's starting prowess had abandoned him. Giancarlo Fisichella showed that his qualifying pace was genuine, bravely defending against the charging Schumacher amidst rumours that the Ferrari's were heavy with fuel allowing them to go long on race strategy and pull in for a splash and dash when required. 

On lap 18 Coulthard suffered a spontenous and catastrophic engine failure that saw him drop out of the race. Big points were on offer, and if Schumacher was going to reign in the Mclarens he needed the blessing of the Monegasque Yacht-Gods that day. 

Eddie "ladies man" Irvine tank slapped Heinz-Harald Frentzen at the hairpin, shoving the German into the barriers. (Eww, what a bully!) The mean streets of Monaco are truly the wild west of F1, and today overtaking at the hairpin is like walking a tightrope. After an early pitstop Schumacher found himself behind the Benetton of Alexander Wurz and, needing to overtake to salvage his chances of a podium, he threw his car up the inside only to lose the inside line on the following corner as Wurz made a contest of things.

Switching back on the approach to Portier Schumacher demanded the inside line and commanded the racing line in what would have been the overtake of the season had it not resulted in damage to his rear suspension. Confusion reigned as Michael pulled into the pits, and eventually he rejoined the track... albeit three laps behind the leaders.

Wurz wasn't quite out of the woods, and a mysterious excursion through the tunnel saw him emerge without either of his front wheels. A replay from his on-board camera showed him bursting into the light only to crash into the barriers, slide straight across the harbour chicane and into the wall on the other side. I don't think I'm exceeding my authority as a humble observer to say that Wurz's efforts to steer through the chicane without his front wheels redefines the word futile.

With the final phase approaching and most of the field looking to consolidate their position, the commentary turns to another pressing issue in the sport during that era... the Tyre War. At its best a tyre war introduces unpredictability and pushes innovation, at worst it unfairly disadvantage genuinely credible outfits with no course for remedy. I wouldn't mind seeing it return to the sport, however the current approach to tyre wear would thus need to be reconsidered, as two companies producing degrading tyres seems too difficult to regulate, and too easy to circumvent.

In P5 and with the finish line in sight, light plumes of smoke emerging from Jean Alesi's car was probably the very last thing he wanted to see. A few laps later he retired his car (on the racing line, for what it's worth) and for a moment he looked poised to leap into the harbour. With Alesi out of the race the final world championship point was handed to none other than Pedro Diniz, the son of a Brazilian Supermarket owner who grew up dreaming of showbiz.

As the chequered flag flew wildly through the air, so to did Mika's hands with a fever that only a Monaco winner can summon. Following him home was Fisichella who capped off a brilliant weekend and Ferrari's Eddie Irvine having bullied his way to a podium that he'll never forget, and the first of three trips to those auspicious stairs in four years.

After the race, Mika writes in his recap, he thought to himself, "Mika, you're won the Monaco Grand Prix. Not every driver can do that. So you're good enough to win the World Championship. You are. You really are. Now go and win it, Goddammit!"

The next step on Mika's road to glory is the Canadian Grand Prix where I will, presumably, take far less screenshots...