It has been suggested several times that the surest way how to secure an exciting F1 race is to sprinkle the track with water. It looks like we had just about the right amount of water to create an exciting race. We had changing weather, we had changing strategies, we had the top drivers making mistakes, we had some spectacular crashes, we had few drivers scoring their first points this season and we also had tears. That was Monaco 2008.
Lewis Hamilton was the favourite to win this race but that was before the qualifying. To start from P3 was not the expected result but McLaren were confident the strategy will play in their hands. They were right, but it was the strategy Ferrari got wrong that helped at the end. To win a race in Monaco in such treacherous conditions requires some sublime skills and a fair share of luck at the same time. But looking back at the race, I must say he was three times lucky. First he hit the barrier, punctured his tyre and was lucky not to crash out of the race. Then thanks to “Trulli train” he returned from the pitlane in 5th place, still well within the reach of the front runners. And finally he managed to finish the race despite punctured tyre, probably from Rosberg’s car debris. His luck should however take nothing away from his performance. Unlike Raikkonen and Alonso for example he kept his head cool and secured his third Monaco win, first in Formula 1.
Heikki Kovalainen on the other hand seems to be McLaren’s magnet for bad luck. Software glitch just before the formation lap forced him to start the race from pitlane and relegated him to the back of the grid. Under the circumstances however the 8th place and 1 championship point is an excellent result.
Robert Kubica again made the best of the circumstances and claimed another podium for himself and BWM Sauber team. I did not see him making any mistakes in the race unlike the guys around him. He is emerging as clear number one in BMW Sauber and despite not having race winning car in his hands, only 6 points separate him from Hamilton in Championship standings.
Monaco for sure added more pressure on Nick Heidfeld. Mario Theissen did not sound too happy and supportive after qualifying and that is not good news for quick Nick. He redeemed himself a bit after excellent start, climbing as high as 5th. But then Fernando Alonso came into the picture and spoiled whatever was there still left to spoil for Heidfeld in Monaco.
It does not happen too often that Ferrari throws away the race they seem to have clearly in hands. Despite popular belief after qualifying Felipe Massa was not light on fuel. He made good start and started to run away from the field, a bit. Unfortunately Kimi Raikkonen did not manage to hold on to his second place and allowed Hamilton to sneak in between 2 Ferraris. First blow for Ferrari. Then the second blow came soon after. Kimi received drive through penalty for his his crew not clearing the grid on time. He kept on cruising for a while, it looked like he may be trying to help to create some buffer between Massa and the rest of the field. Massa however was not able to run away from Kubica (2nd at that time after Hamilton’s encounter with the wall and Raikkonen’s penalty). It stil looked pretty good for Massa though until he made the sightseeing trip off the track at Ste Devote. He was lucky to have his off time in a place with some run off area. He made it back to the track but not before Kubica took over the lead. This was the time where at all started the go bad for Massa and continued to go wrong for Hamilton. Raikkonen went off at Ste Devote too and damaged his front wing. Massa’s crew decided to change his strategy to 1 stop and filled him up to brim with expectation of more rain to come. But there was to be no more rain and one more pit stop was necessary for tyre change. Even that stop came too late after Kubica’s and form then on 3rd was the best Massa could have hoped for.
Raikkonen felt behind Sutil and looked set for 5th place. But then the Sutil incident came. Raikkonen lost the control of his car between the tunnel and the chicane and slammed his Ferrari into unsuspecting Sutil. Both cars needed a pitstop. Raikkonen returned in 9th place, Sutil had to retire. The only consolation for Raikkonen following his 2008 Monaco disaster was the fastest lap he set while chasing down 8th placed Kovalainen.
Adrian Sutil will for many remain the star of this race. He kept out of trouble and climbed from the back of the field all the way up to the 4th place. Only 11 minutes separated him from 5 points and the best result of his career. It was not to be, but Sutil reminded us that his performance a year ago in wet practice in Monaco was not a fluke. His teammate Giancarlo Fisichella did not have the best possible 200 anniversary race. He was the only driver I believe to retire with mechanical (gearbox) problems.
Mark Webber continues with his impressive performances. Fourth place is his and Red Bull’s best finish of the year and marks Webbers 5th points scoring race in a row. The gamble on new car worked out OK for Toro Rosso. Despite the 5 place grid penalty Sebastian Vettel managed to bring the new STR03 home in 5th place. After Japan and China 2007 another impressive wet drive from Vettel. He clearly did not have enough water during the race and celebrated his best result of the year by jumping into the Monaco harbour from the Red Bull pontoon …
David Coulthard crashed on Saturday and crashed on Sunday. On Sunday however he had company – Sebastien Bourdais went of at the same place as Coulthard only seconds later and landed at the back of DC’s Red Bull. Still zero points next to Culthard’s name while Webber’s total now stands at 15 …
Rubens Barrichello has returned to points for the first time since Brazil 2006. He was one of the few drivers who did not seem to make any mistakes although he had his hands full at one moment to avoid spinning car of his team mate Jenson Button. At the end good 6th place and 3 points. Button did not make use of the opportunity the Monaco chaos presented and ruined his race early on after loosing his front wing in collision with Heidfeld on lap 1.
It was Nakajima’s turn to collect points for Williams this time. The TV cameras almost ignored him during the race so all I can say, Nakajima finished 7th. Nico Rosberg had high hopes after some promising signs in practice and qualifying. At the end his presence in Monaco 2008 will be remembered for the most spectacular crash of the day.
That leaves Toyota and Renault. Both teams expected or hoped for some point from Monaco but there are leaving with zero. Nelson Piquet can’t get hold of the car on a normal track so it is no surprise that he struggled in Monaco in the wet conditions. This was also disappointing performance from Fernando Alonso. Winner of last 2 races in Monaco made several mistakes and at the end could be glad to finish the race. Jarno Trulli and his wrong selection of tyres helped to create his trademark Trulli train and perhaps assisted Hamilton. Timo Glock at least provided us with some entertainment spinning his car around …
Can’t wait for the next wet or at least damp race !
Photos: Daimler Media, Red Bull/GEPA, BMW Motorsport, AT&T Williams, Force India F1, Honda Racing