Monday, May 25, 2009

Monaco GP: Winners and Losers

Sunday 24th May 2009

Star of the Race
Jenson Button, BrawnGP, 1st

Yeah baby. Button made F1 history on Sunday, not just by winning the fifth race in six starts, though that was impressive enough. Neither was it by sticking his car on pole with a gem of a lap on the heaviest fuel load of the top cars. No, it was driving one of the most exhausting grands prix on the calendar, parking in the wrong place, then sprinting up the start/finish straight to the Grimaldi's royal box (incidentally couldn't quite see the President of the FIA in there...could you?) as though he hadn't even been in the car.

In the press conference Raikkonen and Barrichello looked like they'd been put through a Regular Wash on 50C without the spin cycle, while Jenson looked cool. It was an impressive win and yet another race victory where he opened a gap and was able to control the race and adapt his pace to the cars behind him. Five wins from six races is very impressive for a "milestone" and tells you all you need to know about Flavio Briatore's insight into the sport.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 7: Nico Rosberg, Williams on Felipe Massa, Ferrari

With Vettel running slower and slower, Felipe Massa knew he had to get past the Red Bull and made the mistake of trying the outside line at the tunnel exit chicane, something that never looked likely to succeed.

When he missed his braking point and skipped the chicane he knew he had to let Vettel back past him. Nico Rosberg glued himself to the back of the Red Bull, but there is precious little space between the chicane and Tabac, the next turn. Felipe moved to take the line behind Vettel and found a very brave Rosberg on the inside where his car wanted to be and had to give way. It must have bee a stunning pass to see on the track and it's to Massa's credit that both cars got through unscathed.

Rosberg had a good race but probably had an eye on 5th not 6th place.

Winners

Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP, 2nd
A great start from Rubens but by his own admission he got too close to Button in the early stages and grained his back tyres.

Vettel did it too, so it will be a comfort to the German that the most experienced GP driver made the same mistake. At the end of the first stint Jenson already had a margin that would last him the race.

Considering how much better his team-mate has been, Barrichello is still in there with a good chance of becoming World Champion. One retirement from Jenson and it's Game On.

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 3rd
Another slight Ferrari hiccup with the Scuderia failing to choose the supersoft tyres at the start. Knowing that both Brawns had fuel to run longer than them it was a surprise they didn't do everything they could to get ahead at the start. Button was shocked when he realised they were on the prime (soft) tyre not the option.

Still, it was a good race from Raikkonen and though he seemed about as happy as a Laplander whose reindeer have sunk mysteriously through the tundra, it was Ferrari's best result of the year.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 4th
Massa was lucky to get away with a spin in qualifying that could have put him out in Q1 but more or less held it together. In the race he was also lucky not to get a drive through from the stewards for regularly cutting the swimming pool exit chicane. Unnoticed by the BBC commentary team he was doing it as early as Lap 19. Charlie Whiting had specifically told drivers not to.

Even after a couple of warnings he didn't look to have changed his line by much. However, the only person who might have taken advantage is Mark Webber and it's doubtful if Felipe had gone the whole way round the chicane every lap the result would have been any different.

Mark Webber, Red Bull, 5th
The old stager kept it on the island, but just had too much to do after a poor grid slot compromised his race. At least the Red Bull strategist managed to get him past Kovalainen and Rosberg in one neat move. That went part of the way to making amends for Vettel starting the race with his petrol tank already on reserve.

Fernando Alonso, Renault, 7th
What's that coming over the hill is it a...Sutil? Alonso did the most fabulous automotive double take when he came out from his pit-stop, suddenly realising there was a Force India on track next to him and jerking sideways. Otherwise a very quiet race.

Losers

Sebastian Vettel. Red Bull, DNF
Vettel looked destined to finish behind Alonso or worse from the moment the fuel levels were revealed on Saturday afternoon. With the Red Bull scheduled to stop five laps before anyone else it was an odd strategy choice. In the end he didn't last more than 10 laps anyway before he had to get some new Bridgestones. His slide into the barriers of Sainte Devote was very uncharacteristic. One to be chalked down to experience

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 12th
McLaren looked like they were just testing bits on the car today. It was almost like a day off for Lewis. He tried very hard to end Nick Heidfeld's run of consecutive finishes but even that didn't come off.

Sebastien Buemi, DNF
That's two races in a row where Buemi has been involved in a collision. This time it was a GP2 kind of accident, ramming Nelson Piquet Junior (who could well have picked up a point) into the Sainte Devote run-off. Again, it was a great surprise that the stewards didn't investigate it as an avoidable accident. Are the rules there only to be applied to key figures in the sport at key moments or what?

Safety Car Fans
For Berndt Maylander's army of fans (if you can call several people an army) it was a poor race. Several crumped cars but nothing substantial enough to bring out the Safety Car. Normally they'd just shrug their shoulders and say, "Well, there's always the SC feast of Canada". But of course there isn't this year.

BBC Coverage
I've yet to meet someone who likes the Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard punditry combination and it was more of the same this weekend. The backslapping, cliquey-ness of the old days of F1 should be turned down from Level 9 to Level 2. That's not my view, that's the views of casual F1 fans I meet. We didn't get that with Rider and Blunders at ITV, though it would have been interesting to hear Mark talk and walk at the same time... Steve.

The combination of DC and Mike Gascoyne was a lot more serious and Gascoyne gave a far greater insight into the cars. It seems like a no-brainer to replace EJ with the Rottweiler

Similarly, Crofty's Red Button practice sessions with Anthony Davidson are a joy to behold. Radio 5 Live commentator David Croft is so much better than Jonathan Legard who is increasingly fixated with the word "tidy", as in: "That's a tidy lap from Massa." Jenson Button had a tidy lead at one stage, in fact anything that was slightly above average became "tidy". Try spotting them. It takes your mind away from the tedium.

Andrew Davies

Source : Planet F1

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