Okay.... 66 practice laps, 26 qualifying laps and 78 racing laps; a grand total of 170 laps in three days. In all that time except for one lap, the most important lap of the entire weekend, when nothing else really matters, when Nico Rosberg couldn’t get his car slowed down enough to make the turn into the Mirabeau corner.
It’s a tricky little corner no doubt. Over the crest of the hill at Casino, the car dancing around the lumps and bumps, the track falling away left and right as it plunges downhill into the right hander and the slowest corner of the whole championship. It’s not a particular important corner either without any championships, up to this point, being won or lost on this short piece of smooth black tarmac.
But as Nico attempted just one more lap in the dying seconds of final qualifying he got it all crossed up out of Casino and just missed the braking point for Mirabeau. Not particularly dramatic, a snatched brake, a wobbly drive up the narrow escape road, no harm done. Except at Monaco that sort of mistake brings out lots of waved yellow cloth and screws up the next few cars that whizz past you, on what was also their last chance at moving up the qualifying grid. And who do you think was right behind the Mercedes driver? Buy wait who is this? Isn’t that our plucky friend Mr Hamilton and what do you know.. He’s on one of his famous pole stealing “hot laps” that would secure pole and beat his team mate, Mr Rosberg.
No chance of that now, the waved yellows mean “slow down there lads, we have a driver in trouble” You can’t go getting your fastest lap of the weekend with a yellow flag being waved in your face, no sire bob!
Then just to make sure he wasn’t in anyone else’s way, Nico reversed back onto the circuit and carried on the chequered flag and the end of qualifying. Well what do you know ... he was on pole because no one had gone faster than him on their last lap ... gosh!
There wasn’t even muttering from the hacks on the pit wall and wits in the garages. Pretty much to a man or lady they all came out and said straight to camera. “Yeah, that was pretty cynical of Nico”.
As the two Merc drivers climbed from their cars to face the flash bulbs and cheers from the crowd, Nico looked like he’d just won the world championship there and then. Lewis looked like he was biting back more than the desire to speak his mind. I don’t think he even bothered to shake Nico’s hand. Lewis, along with a lot of other drivers was clearly of the opinion that he had been cheated out of pole by his own team mate. Just to rub it in, Rosberg than attempted to out smug Vettel in his pomp, in every interview he gave. I think he rather enjoyed himself, and the more grumpy Lewis looked the wider Nico’s smug grin got.
Now. okay, I'm one of Hamilton’s biggest fans. I love his style, his “let’s go racing yeah, enough talk, drive”. He’s a great driver. But he was behind Nico all weekend. Whenever it counted Nico went faster than him, I don’t think Lewis ever looked like he was in full control of the front row. Nico was faster than him, period. And when you look back at that final run, that he insists was going to be the new pole time, he was behind Nico by the time he got to Mirabeau. He was beaten fair and square, and I think he knows that deep, deep down.
And, I don’t really think that’s the sort of driver Nico is, Schumacher, was a cheating git from day one. When he crashed you checked to see how it affected the championship before wondering how he was. Mickey could and would use every incident to his advantage, legal or not. But like his father, Nico has always played it with a straight bat, but then again, he’s never been in the car that will win the world championship before. That sort of thing can make people do odd things.
Maybe the pressure of Lewis behind him just got the better of him and he tried that little bit too much, knowing full well that the Merc that started second was going to be the car that finished second. He’s always gone well here and perhaps he pushed it too much and made an honest mistake. The reversing back onto the circuit was a bit cynical in my opinion, but as for the initial mistake, no I think that was just “one moment” in an otherwise exemplary weekend. The basic fact is Nico was too good for Lewis when it mattered this time.
As for the race, it was dull, all the good stuff happened on Saturday, Rosberg got it off the line cleanly, Hamilton didn’t hit him at turn one (as some had hinted he would when he said he’d sort the matter out like Senna). After that it was all extremely processional. As it pretty much always is. You can’t overtake here unless the driver lunges it up the inside and catches the driver ahead napping. Rosberg wasn’t going to fall asleep and Hamilton knew that not finishing was going to be more than a bad PR job. Sit back, apply some pressure, and accept the points, live to fight another day, cross his team mate off his Christmas card list. Further back Vettel had more bad luck, Kimi forgot how to apply the word “professional” to his driving and errr some stuff happened, I may have fallen asleep as some point, the race for the minor places was interesting, the front, less so. Oh and for the first time in what I think is 40 years, Lewis “got something in his eye” and could only drive with one eye open for a few laps. How times have changed, Nigel used to complain that all that changing gear gave him blisters the size of golf balls, these days it’s grit in the eye..
So Nico won, and goes back to the top of the table. Slapped Lewis down on Saturday and made sure this title race isn’t going to be a one horse affair. It will go a long way to dismissing any self doubt he’d had after coming second in the last 4 races. Nope. He’s always gone well here and this was no different, the car looked good all weekend, nothing scary or wild, just smooth and in control, job done now on to Canada next which will be a bit more of a challenge.
Hamilton was second and looked pretty grumpy all weekend. Fair enough you can’t win them all and at least he made it back to the podium this time. Nico is proving to be a tough nut to crack for Lewis and even though he’s got more wins he needs Rosberg to have a few mechanical failures, or that DNF in Australia is going to prove very costly. Canada next, which suits his style a bit more than Nico’s. If it’s wet, he should be the one to beat. The press has got itself into a bit of a tiz over the whole qualifying incident, the “team mates at war” headlines are being dusted off and hands are being rubbed together in glee down fleet street way. But, I think it’ll pass. Both drivers are pragmatic enough to move on and just ignore all the hoopla. Nico was evidently faster all weekend and Lewis knows there’s more than half a season left. The headlines will get written, but I imagine a lot of it will be exaggerated. The toys will get tidied up from around the pram and we’ll get on with the racing.
Danny is next and pretty much confirms his elevation to stardom. This is a driver’s circuit and to watch Danny hustle that Redbull though the swimming pole complex was sheer joy. Here is a driver who is right on top of his game, has total faith and commitment in the car and knows this is his chance to shine and damn it, he looked like he was having fun. Yet again Vettel fell foul of the “number two driver” curse with some engine gremlin or other, but he didn’t look as smooth or as fast as Danny at any point during the weekend. Danny is now the Redbull driver it’s okay to like.
Alonso was fourth and pretty anonymous all race long. Head down, stay out of trouble, pick up the points blah blah blah. With Rosberg signing a new contract with Mercedes, the good seats for next year are disappearing fast. Unless Vettel, in a moment of madness, decides to swap seats with the Spaniard, Alonso looks like he’s going to be stuck at Maranello and can kiss goodbye to ever getting a third title. Shame that.
Hulkenberg is his usual fifth and needed that to get his reputation back on track. The last few races have seen Perez get his act together, remember all that ho harr around the Mexican when he was at Sauber, everyone though he was the “next big thing”? Well he’s making the Hulk work this year and a few people are starting to question whether Nico is, ”all that” after all. It’s fashionable to point out when the Hulk beats Perez and then look the other way when the result is reversed. Maybe Perez is just being lucky, perhaps not. But Hulkenberg needs a really good result soon or his stock is going to start dropping fast.
Button, sixth, took out Perez on the first lap and then avoided anything like an over take all afternoon. This is a better result than the last few races, but what has happened to that podium car in Australia?
Massa seventh and didn’t crash into anyone.
Grosjean gets some points for Lotus at last, the car still looked to be a real handful and there is obviously still a lot of work needed there, maybe the prize money will help to pay some of their bills.
Lordy be and save us all It’s a new name to the top ten!!! Last seen bouncing around the back of the grid in an noncompetitive GP2 car, its Bianci in a Marussia, no I can’t quite believe it either. And all credit to them here; they beat a McLaren, a Ferrari and the two Caterham’s. In the case of the two Caterham’s pretty much on pace. He even clouted Kimi’s Ferrari and had a drive through, which they took illegally during the safety car period. They got pinged again and were given a five second penalty at the end of the race. So in fact Bianchi was ahead of Grosjean’s Lotus on the track. I told you they were going places; I told you they had a super little team of engineers down there and look all that promise has paid off with two championship points. Which puts them ahead of Caterham (obviously) and now Sauber in the championship, hurrah for them. J
Finally Magnussen was tenth after Kimi “had a moment” and drove them both into the wall.
Kimi got the fastest lap by the way, after taking Kevin out, he had to go to the pits for a new nose and got some tyres into the bargain, que a couple of fast laps at the end to prove some sort of point.
And finally Max was last on the day he didn't crash when everyone else did and still he couldn’t beat them.
Okay that’s enough for now, Its the Le Mans test day next weekend, then the Canadian GP before the Le Mans week and some proper racing. ;) until then stay safe.
Before all of that however, I'm off to the Le Mans Dinner in London for Hope for Tomorrow. a charity that provides mobile cancers treatment service and Aspire a spinal cord injury support charity. I've never been to one of these things before, but the chance to pimp my photography and Blog whist getting drunk on some particularly fine wines whilst listening to some of my driving hero's, was not one to be missed. Wish me luck, things could get messy as one of the unwashed ordinary people, joins in with the beautiful people behind the velvet rope :)