Mark Webber took his second victory on the streets of Monte Carlo to become the sixth different winner in the opening six races of the 2012 Formula One season. Webber, who was granted pole after Michael Schumacher was demoted to sixth, drove faultlessly as he held back Nico Rosberg of Mercedes. Fernando Alonso took the final podium place and surprisingly leads the championship ahead of Red Bull duo Sebastian Vettel and Webber, something few in the paddock would have predicted before the first race in March.
It wouldn’t be a true Monaco Grand Prix without drama in the opening lap. Romain Grosjean started terribly from fourth in his “home” grand prix and found himself sandwiched between Alonso and Schumacher; with nowhere to go, Grosjean was forced to collide with Schumacher which resulted in him retiring from the race. Pastor Maldonado also retired in the opening laps, rounding off a miserable weekend for the Venezuelan.
After a short safety car period, the race stabilised with Kimi Raikkonen running as part of the leading pack. The Finn struggled to maintain the life in his Pirelli, a regular occurrence with multiple drivers this season, but the traction and drive of the Lotus out of the corners allowed him to stay ahead of Schumacher. The first round of pit stops saw Alonso move into the podium positions ahead of former team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who, although keeping up with the leading pack, struggled to make any impact on the race.
When the leaders pitted to switch to the soft compound tyre, current world champion Vettel inherited the lead of the race. Pulling out a 15 second advantage over his team-mate Webber, Vettel eventually pitted on lap 46 and was able to rejoin in front of Hamilton. Crucially for the World Championship, however, behind Alonso and outside of the podium places, where he would stay for the remainder of the race.
Monaco had the potential to become even somewhat exciting as the prospect of rain threatened in the latter stages. However, this failed to materialise before the chequered flag fell. Toro Rosso driver Jean Eric Vergne was denied a seventh placed finish, which would have been his best in Formula 1, when he changed to the intermediate compound of tyres in the anticipation of heavier rain.
Felipe Massa put in a solid drive, finishing sixth and picking up some vital points. Yet it seems all but confirmed that the Brazilian will not be driving a Ferrari in 2013. Force India duo Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg, Raikkonen and Bruno Senna all finished in the points.
No criticisms can be made of Webber’s race, however Vettel really made the most of his alternative one stop strategy to ensure he kept in touch with World Championship leader Alonso. Whether or not F1 really is in a “golden age” is debatable; yes, the Championship is incredibly close, but overtaking was scarce in Monaco today and racing has been somewhat artificial this year due to the presence of the DRS system and quick-to-degrade Pirelli tyres. However, six winners in the first six races is a truly remarkable record and few would bet against either Hamilton or Raikkonen picking up their first victories of the season next time out in Canada, and becoming the seventh driver to step atop the podium in 2012.
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