Ferrari 1-2 at Monaco; Hamilton fights back to seventh

 

A historic win at a historic race: Sebastian Vettel took the victory ahead of Kimi Raikkonen as Ferrari triumphed in Monaco. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was third. Lewis Hamilton battled from P13 on the grid to claim seventh at the chequered flag.

This was the Scuderia’s 227th world championship win, and the 44th of Vettel’s career. He now leads the championship on 129 points.

As always in Monaco, so much is at stake in the few seconds it takes to get off the grid and run down to the braking zone at Sainte-Devote. However, when you have both your cars on the front row, you in fact have the most normal of starts.

Raikkonen got away well from pole on the right side of the track, pulling Vettel along behind him, who was fighting off the Mercedes. The two SF70Hs soon pulled out a bit of a lead over Bottas, Verstappen and Ricciardo. However, the hot conditions made it difficult to follow another car too closely as there was a risk of overheating. Vettel was running around 1’14” behind Raikkonen at this point, but the Ferraris began to up the pace, lapping in the low 1m 17s.

The basic strategy was quite straightforward: just one tyre stop shortly before half distance, switching from the Ultra to the Superset – therefore it was best to try and build up a small lead right away. A sixth of the way through, there was just a little more than two seconds splitting the Ferraris, while Bottas was dropping back. Things livened up on lap 15 with Vettel posted a fastest lap of 1’16”197.

Next time round, Hulkenberg’s Renault began smoking at the back in the run down to Mirabeau. The engineers started planning for a safety car scenario, but only yellow flags were required.

By lap 26, the backmarkers were already on the agenda and Raikkonen lost time getting by Button and Wehrlein who were scrapping between themselves. Vettel also got past but Bottas had made up 4 seconds and therefore the two Ferrari men responded immediately. On lap 32 Verstappen’s Red Bull kicked off the run of pit stops and next time round it was Bottas’ turn. Immediately Ferrari moved to protect its position and, as planned, brought Raikkonen in first for his stop.

Vettel thus found himself leading from Ricciardo who was pushing very hard, trading fastest sector times with Seb. Vettel’s best lap, a 1’15”587, gave a good idea of the Ferrari’s potential. Ricciardo pitted at half-distance and Vettel continued to push in anticipation of his stop at the end of lap 39. Would that be enough to get him ahead of Raikkonen? Yes, the move worked.

In Monaco, it usually takes some major incident for things to change at the front. Vettel continued to push, while Raikkonen held off Ricciardo. And then came that major incident: with just 18 laps to go, Wehrlein was hit by Button and his Sauber was tipped on its side against the barrier at Portier.

The Safety Car came out and the gaps were wiped out, including the leader’s 12 seconds over Raikkonen. Vettel asked about Pascal over the radio and was told he was okay. The Safety Car stayed out for a long time, coming in with 12 laps to go. The race was on again with the two Ferrari’s getting away well. Behind them there were some battles and Vandoorne went off at Sainte-Devote.

Lewis Hamilton

“The strategists said P10 was probably the maximum today, so it feels great to have beaten that target. To score six points, considering where I was on the grid after a disastrous day on Saturday is a good recovery.

“Today it was impossible to overtake and I tried everything to get past Carlos (Sainz) at the end. I’m just grateful to have ended up in P7. I went on the radio at the end there to make sure the team know that this battle isn’t over. We’ll be sure to push those red cars hard next time out in Canada. We’ve got a real fight on our hands, but there are still 14 races to go.”

That was a bit tense

 

Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes took his 55th career victory today – his second at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and second of the 2017 season, beating Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel into second place with Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull, third.

This race was one of the best of the year – an epic Grand Prix. Racing simply doesn’t go more wheel to wheel – and we were treated to some fantastic racing for the win.

A perfect getaway from second on the grid saw Vettel move ahead of Hamilton and into the lead. Things did not go so well for Kimi Raikkonen: at the first corner, he was tapped from behind by Valtteri Bottas and that pushed him into Max Verstappen which meant the ice man had to pull over to the side of the track with a broken front left suspension.

First one, then the other

Vettel pulled away in the early laps and behind him, Hamilton reacted. For the opening laps, the gap stayed around the two-second mark and then it looked as though the Mercedes man was trying to close with the intention of pulling off an undercut by pitting early to emerge in front. Ferrari reacted, bringing Vettel in on lap 14, fitting another set of Softs. Vettel rejoined behind Ricciardo. At the start of lap 16, he passed the Red Bull under braking and set a fastest lap of 1’24”901.

Hamilton pitted on lap 21 and went for the Medium tyres, while Vettel was attacking Bottas who was doing everything he could to keep ahead. Lap 35 and Vettel dived to the left, went on to the grass and got by at Turn 1, so the Vettel-Hamilton duel was back on. Lewis was 4 seconds down but on the harder rubber. On lap 33, Stoffel Vandoorne closed the door on Felipe Massa, went off the track and the race went into Virtual Safety Car mode. Hamilton came in on lap 37 and soon after the race was on again. Vettel went for the mandatory set of Medium tyres.

Master stroke

Hamilton was passed on the straight and yet again the duel resumed. Vettel pushed hard, really hard in the first two corners. The SF70H hung on to the lead, while Bottas retired. Vettel made the most of getting through the backmarkers to also be able to use the DRS down the main straight. But with a clear track, Hamilton made the most of his tyre advantage and the moveable wing to get ahead finally on lap 44.

But the fight wasn’t quite over, because Vettel’s rival had to look after his softer tyres. “Keep your head down,” Vettel’s engineer Ricky Adami advised his driver. But there were no more opportunities for attempting one final assault.

Lewis Hamilton: “It’s been a really good weekend and a great way to bounce back from Russia. It was the rawest fight that I can remember having in a long-time. I loved it, this is why I race. This is what made me get into racing in the first place. This is what the sport needs to be like every single weekend. To have a close battle like that with a four-time champion is awesome.

“I lost out on the start and had to watch Sebastian fly by. He was so fast out in front and it was such a push to keep in touch with him and not let him pull away. I was able to manage my tyres in the first stint and keep relatively close, then it was tricky to keep up on the Medium tyre and then after the second stop.

“We came out so close together which was super tight into Turn 1. He didn’t give me much space, it was close! I thought Seb would get me at the end of the final stint but I was able to do it. I have to congratulate my team today, with the strategy and the pit stops, as well as everyone back at the factory that has worked so hard to deliver these upgrades, enabling us to be so close in this fight with Ferrari.”

Sebastian Vettel: “My start was good, I saw Lewis struggle with wheelspin, and kept looking in the mirror to see if anybody else had a better start. The first stint went OK, then we had to pit, otherwise they might have got us with an undercut. My second stint was also pretty good: I managed to get close to Valtteri who was all over the place with his tyres. He blocked me. In the end I managed to get past, but by then I had lost an awful lot of time. Then in the last stint we did everything we could, the car was good.

“It was close with Lewis. I am happy when we have the chance to race the Mercedes cars, we can be very happy but not entirely happy today. The most important thing, though, is that we were in the fight. The team is in great form, we need to improve because we want to be ahead of them.”

Daniel Ricciardo: “I’m happy to be back on the podium today, it’s the first one of the season for me which is nice but actually the race was quite a lonely one. I didn’t have any real battles and my race was more about trying to keep a rhythm and maintain concentration.

“I got a bit fortunate with Valtteri’s problem towards the end of the race which bumped me up to third, but of course I’m still happy to be up there again and see all the smiles from the team. Today we will enjoy the podium but tomorrow we need to understand how to further close the gap to Ferrari and Mercedes.

“I want to take the positives from this weekend, we will keep working hard and chipping away. I don’t think it’s impossible to catch the leaders at some point, maybe it will take a little longer than we had hoped but we will get there. I think I got the maximum out of the car today and moving on to Monaco we will have a few more updates, which will hopefully give us another step, and at that track it’s fair to say anything can happen.”

Perhaps the last word though should go to Mercedes’ Technical Director, James Allison: “Grands Prix like that are why we go motor racing. Winning is always lovely. But when you win a proper 12-round heavyweight fight in this kind of style, and along the way answer all sorts of questions about tyre degradation, following other teams and the car’s handling – and then see a driver at the peak of his craft like Lewis was today – there’s nothing better than that.”

Ricciardo and Verstappen bring home the bacon

Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, and Lewis Hamilton celebrate on the podium.

Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, and Lewis Hamilton celebrate on the podium.

 

Daniel Ricciardo: Finish Position: 2nd, Start Position: 3rd
“I’m very pleased with today obviously. To beat one Mercedes is nice but for both cars to beat one Mercedes and the pole-sitter was really good. In the first part of the race I was sitting in third and the pace was okay but I think I really came to life in the second half of the race and that’s when I was able to show a bit more speed and capture second place.

“It was the best we could do today and I’m now happy to go into the summer break with another podium in the bag. For me the strategy worked very well, I was comfortable on the supersofts and it worked out my pace was better in the end with that tyre. Drinking out of the shoe on the podium is an Australian thing. It’s called a ‘shoey’. I said if I win a race this year I’ll do it, but just in case, I thought I’ll do it next time I’m on the podium.

“The last few races I got a bit more out of the race weekends and it’s nice to get a bit of momentum now before the summer break. Just to stand up there on the podium is the best feeling in the world.”

Max Verstappen, Finish Position: 3rd, Start Position: 4th
“The start was very strong and during the race we had good pace. We didn’t expect it to be that good this weekend so we definitely maximised the result. Strategy doesn’t always work for you but I took one for the team today and we still finished second and third and in front of Ferrari, which was the main aim.

“Rosberg just braked very late and then didn’t turn into the corner. That incident cost me a lot of time, he pushed me wide and put me in a bad situation. I then let Daniel go by as was the strategy of the team. In the end the most important thing was to score the points and move up in the Constructors’ Championship. Finishing only 10 seconds back from Mercedes is very good.

“It is still too early to say how close we can get by the end of the season as I think they may have some in reserve. It’s good to go on a little break now and spend some time with family and then be ready to go again in Spa and see all the Dutch fans.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal: “A fantastic team performance today, particularly from the drivers starting from the second row of the grid. After they both made strong starts, Daniel gave Max just enough space at turn one, though it looked pretty tight and from there on the drivers settled in to their race.

“We elected at the first stop to split the strategies, putting Daniel on to the soft tyre and Max on to the supersoft, so they were both running slightly different races. When we pitted Max to cover Rosberg he did manage to get a run on him and then obviously Rosberg picked up a time penalty down at turn six, so the objective thereafter was for both drivers to clear him at the pit stop.

“With Daniel being on the faster supersoft tyre, he quickly closed on Max who allowed him to pass after the request from the team, to not lose any time, allowing them both to get out ahead of Rosberg at the final pit stop. To finish up second and third on the podium here at Hockenheim, to have outscored Ferrari and go into the summer break with a 14 point advantage over them in the Constructors’ Championship is a great end to a really strong first half of the year.

“Time for a well-earned break for all of the team, to recharge their batteries and come back for the final nine races, where there are circuits on the calendar that will hopefully suit us. We’ve exceeded all of our expectations in the first half of the season. I don’t think pre-season any of us could have imagined to have been second in the Constructors’ Championship after 11 rounds.”

I just want to get out of here…

Daniel Ricciardo at the podium. No words needed.

Daniel Ricciardo at the podium. No words needed.

 

Poor old Daniel Ricciardo (finishing 2nd having started from Pole): “On the extremes in the beginning we were quick and I did everything I had to. I asked a couple of times how the people on inters were doing but they said that my pace was really good on the extremes so we stayed out and that was no problem. And then they said ‘box this lap’. We put the inters on and then we came out behind Lewis. Then when Lewis pitted we tried to pit the lap later to overcut him. It was all prepared and then I came into the pits and there were no tyres.

“I actually hate being like this. I hate being miserable. I got a podium in Monaco. I should be extremely happy, grateful and thankful.I’ve been fast now for two races and that’s the positive, but again no win so I’m a little bit sick of being fast and not getting any real rewards. I don’t like being the sad story. To end it on a positive note, we are fast in all conditions, which is good.”

Max Verstappen (DNF, started 21st): “Disappointed in myself and disappointed for the team, because they worked very hard to get the car ready and I didn’t give them the result they deserved today. We were in a good way, we were in the points and to start from the pit lane and end in the points would have been very good, but I learned from this and hopefully we can come back stronger in Canada.

“It was pretty tricky especially in the beginning of the race it was a very slippery track. It got better and better, the track was drying, and I think from then on we had great pace and I was overtaking cars, charging through the field and everything felt well. Then we put the softs on and I locked up. Unfortunately I went a bit off-line and of course then you arrive in the wet area and I was a passenger from there on.

“That’s racing in the end, it can go up and down very quickly but you shouldn’t back off because of this you should keep positive, keep pushing. I learn a lot from those moments as well and I’m already focusing on Canada now and leaving Monaco behind.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal: “A very disappointing day. We as a team owe Daniel a huge apology today as we failed to support him in the way we did to get him to his first pole position yesterday. The delay at his pit stop cost him the lead and despite some excellent driving to get close to Lewis, he couldn’t get past, as is so often the case here in Monaco.

“Max put in some excellent laps to move through the field but unfortunately came unstuck at turn three pushing to improve position. We will review and re-group and all of the team will be aiming to continue our strong form in Canada.”

 

Christian Horner and Red Bull Racing Team Manager Jonathan Wheatley before  the race, but just as pertinent 78 laps on.

Christian Horner and Red Bull Racing Team Manager Jonathan Wheatley before the race, but just as pertinent 78 laps on.

Monaco qualifying: Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo during qualifying

Daniel Ricciardo during qualifying

 

Daniel Ricciardo – Pole (Practice 3 – P4, 1:14.807): “I’m happy! I put it together when I needed to. Qualifying just built up and built up and I found the rhythm, and then that first run in Q3 was the one I needed to do. I feel I’ve been qualifying very well all year, and it’s cool to get my first pole in Formula One, this place more than any is a great place to get it at.

“Hopefully tomorrow we can convert it to the win, that’s the plan. It’s the first pole for the team in a while too, it’s a very good feeling. Coming into the weekend I believed I could be here today and it’s nice to match that belief. The lap felt good. I knew once I’d done it, it would be hard to beat because we were competitive with Mercedes and I hadn’t yet put together the best lap. It was a pretty good lap on the supersofts in Q2 so we start on those tomorrow, it should give us a bit more option in the race when to pit.

“It seemed like a bit of a freebie for us if we could do it and make it work, so why not. Sitting here now it looks good, we’ll see tomorrow what happens but I think it should hopefully give us a bit more flexibility. Today the job was pole, I’ve done that so let’s see what happens tomorrow, I’ve done what I can so far.”

Max Verstappen – 21st (Practice 3 – P5, 1:15.081): “It’s of course not the way you want to start for tomorrow. I turned in a bit too early, clipped the inside wall, broke the inside suspension and then couldn’t turn anymore. I felt quite good, in my first push lap I felt more confident than all the other laps and also in terms of car balance it was better, because my second sector was nearly two to three tenths faster than I ever did.

“It was all coming together but then into the chicane, maybe I underestimated the grip I had and turned in a bit too early. Hopefully the weather will help a bit tomorrow but if you start 21st it will be very difficult. These things unfortunately happen and you have to learn from it and continue. Hopefully there will be a lot of action tomorrow, not only from me but from others. It will be very tough but I won’t give up. The car is great, we just have to find a way to get past the people in front. It will depend a lot on the strategy, what other people do of course and the weather, so hopefully we have some luck tomorrow. Congratulations to Daniel on a great lap and his first pole, it’s great for the team.”

Christian Horner: “Fantastic and thrilling to secure our first pole position since 2013, and especially delighted for Daniel in claiming his maiden pole today. Daniel drove a sensational lap and the team perfectly executed the strategy we set in briefing this morning. It sets us up nicely for the Grand Prix tomorrow and we hope we can capitilise on this sterling performance in qualifying.

“Max has had a tough day. He just clipped the barrier on entry into the chicane and it ended the session for him. It’s unfortunate for us but just demonstrates the margins on the tight streets of Monte Carlo. He’s naturally disappointed but he’s a level-headed guy and he will bounce back and be focused on getting the best out of tomorrow’s race.”

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