Sebastian Vettel today took a win best described as fortunate in today’s 2011 Monaco Grand Prix.
In what was by far his least convincing performance of the season so far, the German benefited strongly from a Safety Car and a red flag following a multi-car incident at the Swimming Pool on lap 72.
Vettel’s tyres were on their last legs at that time and he was being harried by both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, both on fresher tyres, and spectators were denied a grandstand finish by the ensuing red flag and permitted tyre change.
He had also been lucky that an early, chaotic stop did not further adversely affect his afternoon, when the Red Bull team did not appear to be ready for him.
Alonso went on to finish second with Button third, the Englishman’s strategy less than perfect in a race he too could easily have won.
Mark Webber was hurt by that early pit stop confusion for Vettel, which meant the Australian had to wait behind his team mate for the services of the team. He nevertheless recovered to finish fourth, with a valiant Kamui Kobayashi fifth on a challenging weekend for Sauber.
Lewis Hamilton capped his eventful afternoon by crossing the line sixth, although he is subject to investigation and may yet lose those points because of his final contretemps with Pastor Maldonado. He had begun by being rear-ended by a hot-headed Michael Schumacher at Sainte Devote on the very first lap, enjoyed a very entertaining battle with Felipe Massa half-way through the race and also been involved at the epicentre of that lap 72 crash that caused the red flag.
Another involved in that incident, Adrian Sutil, took an excellent seventh, with Heidfeld, Barrichello and Buemi rounding out the top ten.
Nico Rosberg endured a torrid afternoon as half of a Mercedes team whose car was very hard on its tyres round the streets of the Principality. He recovered to take 11th, just outside the points, with di Resta 12th for Force India and the two Lotuses of Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen a very creditable 13th and 14th. D’Ambrosio, Liuzzi and Karthikeyan were the other finishers respectively.
The biggest victim of the multi-car crash in the closing stages was Vitaly Petrov, who had been running very competitively up to that point. He found himself immediately behind Jaime Alguersuari who was busy riding up on Lewis Hamilton, had nowhere to go, and speared into the barrier. Reports from eyewitnesses suggested Petrov might have been knocked unconscious, which could have been the reason for the red flag. He was medically extracted from the car.
Vettel must be given credit for keeping the cars of Alonso and Button behind him and for making no mistakes, but it can be in no doubt that this was one of his more fortuitous wins. He marches on, though, with the championship looking more and more like a foregone conclusion every race.