Mark Webber delivered a faultless race from pole to flag in Monte Carlo to win the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix for Red Bull Racing. On a converted race track where traction out of slow corners and aerodynamic downforce are paramount, Webber led Mercedes’s Nico Rosberg and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso across the finish line after 78 laps of the Principality’s prestigious race.
The Red Bull got a good clean start off the grid as Rosberg and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton tucked in behind him into Turn 1. Lotus’s Romain Grosjean banged wheels with Alonso and spun into Merc’s Michael Schumacher. Kamui Kobayashi, trying to dodge the out of shape Lotus, clipped it and bumped right into McLaren’s Jenson Button. Everybody else managed to drive safely around the stricken Lotus. Spanish winner Pastor Maldonado, starting at the back after two penalties, misjudged his braking point and thumped into the back of HRT’s Pedro DelaRosa at turn 1, crashing both the cars out. The Safety Car was deployed on lap 2 for 2 laps.
With a lap of Monaco always being a case of threading a needle through the narrow and twisty Armco lined streets and the start-finish straight a rather short stretch for deploying DRS, there was’nt much drama following the restart. Webber pulled out 1.03 seconds over Rosberg by lap 7, staying clear of his DRS tow. He then went on to set a provisional fastest lap of 1:20.441 on lap 11 as none of the drivers were able to make significant moves. Sauber’s Sergio Perez tried an improbable one on Torro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne into turn 10, the latter avoiding a collision by cutting the corner and remaining ahead.
On lap 13, Raikkonen’s race enginner Mark Slade mentioned possible rain in 15 laps time. Perez, meanwhile, set the fastest lap, a 1:19.974 after retaking track position from Vergne. As Webber went on the limit and then some, he upped the advantage to 2.5 seconds on Rosberg by Lap 24. Lotus’s much talked about pace seemed to disappear as Raikkonen began holding up Schumacher and a train of cars behind him. He was going nearly 2 seconds slower than Vettel ahead of him and had a 7.2 second deficit to the latter. With the rain looming large, the train of 3 cars behind Raikkonen got further bunched up with Schumacher trying to get a look down the inside of Raikkonen at many places. But the Finn did a masterful job of staying ahead inspite of twitching and squirming all over the place.
Rosberg was the first of the frontrunners to come in for prime (harder compound) tyres on lap 28, Webber a lap later. Most of the field dived in between laps 28 and 30, with the exception of Vettel, Massa and Schumacher, the former being on the harder tyres. Alonso then went past Hamilton through the pit stops thanks to a superb in-lap. As Massa came in and out of the pitlane, he fell to 7th behind Schumacher. Vettel led from Webber, Rosberg, Alonso and Hamilton. Schumacher later dropped to 10th following his stop. With Vettel weaving lap after scorching lap, the gap to Webber approached 15.2 seconds by lap 36.
Perez received a drive through penalty for impeding Raikkonen near the pit entrance. As Vettel stayed out till Lap 46 for his 1st stop, a multi million dollar high speed traffic jam ensued behind him with a 5.8 second gap between Webber in 2nd and Massa in 6th. Vettel rejoined in 4th place right in the middle of that fight barely a tenth of a second ahead of Hamilton. Proceedings continued and manifested in the form of a tight stalemate by lap 60 with 7.6 seconds covering the race leading Red Bull of Webber and Massa’s Ferrari in 6th.
Schumacher ran into trouble as he lost nearly 2 seconds a lap on the front runners, surrendering 7th to Vergne down the start finish straight into St. Devote before eventually giving in to both the Force India cars and Kimi Raikkonen on lap 64. He finally pulled in to retire a lap later.
The elusive rain which never came down as predicted before in the race finally came in with a few drops over some parts of the circuit on lap 66. Nothing major there though in terms of race strategy. The front runners were losing nearly 4 seconds a lap on their worn out slicks by lap 72 and were all stacked up within a few tenths of each other. Vergne made a bold move and pulled in for a change to damp weather intermediate tyres, falling out of the top 10 and hence championship points; a move which would prove unnecessary in hindsight.
As the 78th and final lap drew to an end with Mark Webber’s Red Bull through La Rascasse and the final corner, the jubilant Australian headed home a four car convoy with 1.3 seconds between them. It was Webber’s 2nd victory around the streets of Monte Carlo and Red Bull’s third consecutive win at the venue. In a motorcade of sorts where the top six positions remained unchanged for the final 32 laps, this race would be better remembered for producing the sixth winner out of six races this season; unseen in F1 history.
Alonso now moves into the lead in the driver’s championship classification with 76 points, followed by the Red Bull team-mates tied on 73 apiece. Red Bull consolidate first place in the constructor’s stakes with 146, McLaren trail them on 108 with Ferrari and Lotus tied on 86. F1 travels to its first North American stop in two weeks’ time as Montreal prepares for the Canadian round from June 8-10.