Vettel leads Ferrari 1-2 in Monaco

Ferrari dominated this weekend, and were in a clearly higher league than Red Bull and Mercedes. The trend continued in the race, with Vettel winning the Monaco Grand Prix after a Scuderia strategy that propelled him ahead of Raikkonen, who secured 2nd. 

The getaway from the line was static, with no drivers changing position. Raikkonen and Vettel were able to build a gap in the opening couple of laps, with the SF70-H able to switch its tyres on from the line.

Hamilton was able to get past Vandoorne on the opening lap, but remained 12th, on the tail of Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso. It already looked like a difficult race for the Brit. Kevin Magnussen made the best start, gaining two places and slotting into 9th, behind Romain Grosjean in the sister Haas.

By lap 5, Raikkonen had a 1.6s lead over Vettel, with a clear gap of 3s back to Bottas, who looked like he would have to settle for 3rd at best. The closest gap by lap 8 was the battle for 10th, with Daniil Kvyat just under a second behind Hulkenberg.

The gaps were all too big for any driver to attack. At the front, Raikkonen was matching Vettel and the gap was 2.2s, with Bottas falling further back with a 4s gap. By lap 13, Hamilton was 30s behind the race lead. Pascal Wehrlein was given a 5s time penalty for an unsafe release in the pits ahead of Button.

On lap 17, Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault wad forced to retire from the race with a gearbox failure. The German bowed out from 10th, promoting Daniil Kvyat into the points. Also, Sergio Perez was pulled into the pits for a front-wing change having connected with the barriers somewhere around the lap. The Mexican pitted from 7th. It promoted Grosjean and Magnussen into 7th and 8th, with Kvyat 9th and Lewis Hamilton 10th.

By lap 20, there hadn’t been even a suggestion of an on-track overtake, with the tightest gap between cars 0.9s., as the Force India of Perez hunted down Lance Stroll on fresh tyres. Only the tightness of the circuit was preventing a Checo dive up the inside.

It was becoming very clear that the only variable in the race that could shake up the order would take place in the pit stops. At the front, the gaps started to narrow as the leaders caught up with Jenson Button and Pascal Wehrlein at the back. On lap 26, Raikkonen’s gap from Vettel was 1.5s, with a 1.7s gap back to Bottas in 3rd.

By laps 32, Max Verstappen made a pitstop onto the Supersofts. Red Bull’s target was to undercut Valtteri Bottas in the pits. The Finn was in for his change on the following lap, and emerged just ahead of Verstappen, despite the Dutchman setting a purple final sector.

On lap 34, Raikkonen took to the pits and released Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, who were now flying. Vettel set a personal best middle sector, and whizzed past the pits and kept going, hoping to build a gap and overcut Raikkonen. Daniel Ricciardo, who was now 2nd, was going faster than both Ferraris, the gap to Vettel just under 5s.

Kevin Magnussen pitted on lap 37, and emerged still in the points with 10th, meaning that Haas were looking very good for double points. Daniel Ricciardo took the pits a lap later, and his pace before the stop allowed him to jump Bottas and claim 3rd on track.

The following lap, Vettel pitted from the lead and retained it, with a 2.4s gap to Raikkonen. Vandoorne and Hamilton hadn’t yet taken to the pits, and were 6th and 7th. After Vandoorne’s stop, he was 10th, which meant that Hamilton’s pace would determine where in the top ten he would emerge. He pitted on lap 47 and emerged in 7th, which was looking like good damage limitation after the woeful qualifying session yesterday.

On lap 51, Verstappen was closing in on Bottas for 4th. The younger Red Bull driver was the inadvertent victim of the Red Bull strategy, which had aimed to clear Bottas, but ended up causing Verstappen to drop from 3rd to 5th.

On lap 53, Ricciardo had cut the gap to Raikkonen by 1.5s. At that rate, he would be on the Finn’s gearbox in three laps.

The safety car was deployed on lap 61, with Pascal Wehrlein’s Sauber, the c36 was on its side against the barriers, with Wehrlein not visible, but was on team radio. He was trapped in the car. The contact had been caused by a Button dive up the inside. Both cars retired from the race and Wehrlein was out of the car and looked to be ok.

The safety car would bunch the field up, but there hadn’t been a single overtake on the circuit yet. On lap 65, Marcus Ericsson crashed as he tried to overtake the safety car to rejoin the pack. It was a pretty awkward crash.

On the restart, Vandoorne crashed into the first corner as Perez put his Force India on the inside. The order didn’t change at the front, although Ricciardo went very wide into turn one and there was a moment up the hill in which he had to defend from Bottas and Verstappen.

Vettel had already built a 2.5s gap after two more laps, and the Ferrari 1-2 looked in the bag. The biggest battle concerned Valtteri Bottas in a Red Bull sandwich. On lap 72, Sergio Perez and Daniil Kvyat collided, retiring the Russian and demoting Checo out of the points. It was more than optimistic from Perez, a rare mistake. It promoted Massa into 9th and Magnussen into 10th.

Sebastian Vettel won the Monaco Grand Prix with Kimi Raikkonen completing the Ferrari 1-2. It was Vettel’s 2nd victory in Monaco, and the German driver extends his lead in the Driver Championship to 25 points.

Daniel Ricciardo secured a great podium with 3rd, ahead of Bottas in 4th, Verstappen 5th, Carlos Sainz an emphatic 6th with Hamilton 7th. Red Bull scored more points than Mercedes this weekend. Haas secured their first ever double points finish in Formula 1 with Romain Grosjean 8th and Magnussen 10th. Felipe Massa was between them in 9th, another weekend in which Williams were unable to outscore Toro Rosso and ended up losing ground in the Constructors to Haas.

Ferrari leave Monaco with a 17 point lead over Mercedes in the Constructors. Red Bull remain in 3rd, with Force india 4th, Toro Rosso extending their gap to Williams by 9 points and sitting 5th. Renault and Haas are now both on 14 points in joint 7th.