Fernando Alonso has added another achievement to his increasingly impressive repertoire with a win at Monaco. It was a fairly interesting race by Monaco standards – there were bumps, bangs, and politics aplenty, and to add to it all, some overtaking!
I’ll lay out the podium order first, just to make those who missed the race. In first place was Fernando Alonso, second Juan Pablo Montoya, and incredibly, in third David Coulthard.
The end results do not represent the whole race, however; the race started uneventfully with just the Midland cars bumping each other. However on lap two, Mark Webber made a mistake at Sainte Devote that allowed Kimi Raikonen to get passed into second place; he then set about catching the front-running Alonso.
For the next 10 laps or so, the first four cars ran within four seconds of each other, one of the tightest races we have seen this year in the F1 championship. Michael Schumacher, who had started from the pit lane after the steward decision and an engine change, was caught up behind the struggling Jenson Button.
However, on lap 21 things started to happen. Michael Schumacher passed Jenson Button and proceeded to pull away from the ailing driver. Then the front runners started to pit; first up was Juan Pablo Montoya who took on around 10 seconds of fuel, then a lap later his teammate and then second place-running Kimi Raikonen stopped for roughly the same amount of fuel.
We believed at that point the Renault team could probably go further, as we had expected the McLaren team to do as well, however on lap 24 and 25 the two Renaults and Mark Webber pitted. However Kimi had upped his pace on his out laps from the pit and Renault had to short-fill Alonso with just seven seconds of fuel to maintain track position.
This then seemed to put the next set of stops into the hands of the McLarens, as the Silver cars could run longer than the Renaults and hopefully get track position. This strategy was however ruined for the McLaren team as Webber, still running in third position, seemed to struggle and lose power down the main straight on lap 47; his engine was then seen smoking and the exhaust caught fire, forcing him to stop just past the pit lane exit around the Sainte Devote corner. This caused the safety car to be deployed and all the front running teams to call their drivers into the pits for a fill-up.
More bad news for the McLaren team — on lap 51, whilst still under the safety car pace, Kimi’s car overheats and sets fire at the Loews Hairpin. He pulls off the track just before the tunnel at Portier corner.
This then leaves the podium as Alonso, Montoya, Barichelo. Nico Rosberg understeers into the barrier at the Anthony Noghes corner, cementing a bad day for the Williams team. The unfortunate Klien has gearbox failure, ending his day early, however this promotes David Coulthard to fifth behind Jarno Trulli.
Barichelo is then penalised and has to take a drive-through penalty, promoting Trulli to third and Coulthard to fourth. However more bad luck for the Toyota team as Trulli’s car is the third of the day to have a smoky engine failure. This promotes Coutlhard to his final third-place podium spot.
What can be learnt from today’s race? Well, the Renaults are still strong, fast, and reliable cars, as even Fisichela showed signs of speed in both qualifying and the race. We can also take it that the improvements to both the McLaren chassis and the Mercedes/Ilmore engine have helped both the McLaren cars, as they both looked fast all weekend. The Red Bull car of David Coulthard finishing third may not be because of the car necessarily; however a mature drive from Coulthard has led to the team’s first podium. That will boost the team in more than one way.
Other things to note: Toyota showed that the new TF106B car can be quick; it took some setting up as it showed little sign of speed all weekend up until the qualifying session, but hope is there for the team. Michael Schumacher will be stinging from the decision in qualifying, and depending how the press responds to it, it could ring the end to his career at the end of the season.
The Cosworth engine in the Williams cars proved again that it can be quick, given a chassis that it can show itself in. I would not be surprised if the Red Bull team announced the purchase of the engine manufacturer, possibly alongside VW group sometime soon.
The final standings :
1. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault 78 1h43m43.116
2. Juan Pablo Montoya Colombia McLaren-Mercedes 78 14.5
3. David Coulthard Britain Red Bull-Ferrari 78 52.2
4. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Honda 78 53.3
5. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari 78 53.8
6. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Renault 78 1m02.0
7. Nick Heidfeld Germany Sauber-BMW 77 1 Lap
8. Ralf Schumacher Germany Toyota 77 1 Lap
9. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari 77 1 Lap
10. Vitantonio Liuzzi Italy Toro Rosso-Cosworth 77 1 Lap
11. Jenson Button Britain Honda 77 1 Lap
12. Christijan Albers Netherlands MF1-Toyota 77 1 Lap
13. Scott Speed United States Toro Rosso-Cosworth 77 1 Lap
14. Jacques Villeneuve Canada Sauber-BMW 77 1 Lap
15. Tiago Monteiro Portugal MF1-Toyota 76 2 Laps
16. Franck Montagny France Super Aguri-Honda 76 2 Laps
17. Jarno Trulli Italy Toyota 78 6 Laps
Retired Christian Klien Austria Red Bull-Ferrari 56
Retired Nico Rosberg Germany Williams-Cosworth 51 Accident
Retired Kimi Raikkonen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 50
Retired Mark Webber Australia Williams-Cosworth 48
Retired Takuma Sato