Monaco GP 2011: as it happened

12.45pm BST Good afternoon and welcome to forumula1.com’s minute by minute coverage of the Monaco Grand Prix.

Sergio Perez will not be participating in today’s race after his big crash yesterday, and the news came through this morning that as a precautionary measure he will stay in hospital tonight. Everyone at forumula1.com sends their best wishes to the Mexican and his family.

Otherwise, Lewis Hamilton’s bad afternoon yesterday got worse this morning with the news that his best Q3 time would be deleted. Apparently, he jumped a chicane during the fraught two minutes following Perez’s crash yesterday. As a result he will start ninth.

The weather is glorious in Monte Carlo and it looks as though it will be the setting for a fantastic motor race.

There seems to be an issue with Michael Schumacher’s car – there is a hive of activity around the Mercedes which is sitting in fifth slot on the grid. A man dressed in silver overalls hanging onto the rear wing, however, assured Martin Brundle on the BBC’s gridwalk that everything was fine and dandy. Do we believe him, boys and girls?

The other big question is how many stops to do today. The optimum strategy would appear to be one and one only; the super soft tyres don’t seem to degrade as quickly as they were expected to. The other tyre is the soft, which now becomes the hard. Of the two. If that makes sense.

The tension and the sense of expectation is building now as the spectators take their places and the engines are fired up. What a spectacle this truly is, at this magnificent anachronism of a racetrack.

They are off on the parade lap around the streets of the Principality, displaying their wares to the great and the good who line the track, craning out of the hotel windows to catch a glimpse of the cars’ blur of colour. And warming their tyres up.

“The steering is REALLY heavy,” says Jenson Button, coming up to line up second on the grid. Issue there, perhaps.

Lap 1 And they’re off! A quick squirt down to the first corner is led by Vettel! Alonso is up to third ahead of Webber! Schumacher has taken Hamilton for ninth down at Loews and Vettel has sprinted away with Button lagging in second. Hamilton says he has been hit by Schumacher on his way through.

Lap 2 They go across the line and Vettel has a lead of at least two seconds by the look of it. Alonso is all over the back of a lethargic looking Button.

Lap 3 We are hearing that Hamilton and Schumacher came together at Ste Devote, the first corner. Way before Schumacher eventually made it past the Englishman at Loews. A ferocious pace is being set by Vettel, here, and no-one has an answer. It’s Vettel, Button, Alonso, Webber, Rosberg, Massa, Maldonado, Petrov, Schumacher, Hamilton, Barrichello, di Resta, Kobayashi, Sutil, Heidfeld.

Lap 4 Alonso made a blinding start there and could have had Button as well.

Lap 5 Massa is harrying Rosberg for fifth, but passing opportunities are few and far between, even though DRS has now been enabled.

Lap 6 Hamilton is now all over the back of Schumacher. Where, oh where, will he get past? If at all, that is? “It’s a big ask,” says David Coulthard on the BBC.

Lap 7 We’re getting a replay of Schumacher’s dreadful start which resulted in him clattering into the back of Hamilton at the first corner. The man looks as though he has forgotten how to drive an F1 car.

Lap 8 Schumacher seems to get good traction out of Portier which means that he has an advantage into the tunnel and thus down to the overtaking hotspot at the chicane. He can’t get past anywhere else, realistically.

Lap 9 Schumacher and Hamilton nose-to-tail is where the attention is because not much is happening elsewhere. Schumacher radioes in to tell his pit that his rear tyres are graining.

Lap 10 Hamilton is past into Ste Devote! What a move. On the replay we can see that it was mighty close between the two…they nearly came together. Brave driving from both of them to avoid an accident. Lewis lifts his hand to complain, but Schumacher was a reformed character by comparison to recent races in his behaviour.

Lap 12 Rosberg seems to be suffering from degradation too. Vettel seems to be slowing his frenetic pace – Button is catching him. Barrichello passes Schumacher at Loews! Great stuff.

Lap 13 Schumacher pits in response. They replace the nose, too – it must have been damaged in that first lap contact. Massa is really pushing Rosberg for fifth and Maldonado, Petrov and Hamilton are also in close attendance.

Lap 14 Felipe Massa clips Rosberg going up the hill! What was that about? And now Massa’s past into Tabac, and Maldonado follows suit past Rosberg. These Mercs are really struggling.

Lap 15 There’s a yellow flag out, presumably for the bit of Ferrari wing endplate going up the hill.

Lap 16 Button pits from second, he takes some more super-softs.

Lap 17 Vettel pits! That looked to be a very late call! And Webber is in too, he has to wait…this is bad from Red Bull. Are they even Vettel’s tyres? Chaos.

Lap 18 And Button should be leading when Alonso pits, then.

Lap 19 Alonso pits, from what is the lead…Button takes over the lead and Vettel slots into second.

Lap 20 Alonso has a very slow out lap…what’s going on there? He’s five seconds off the pace. Weird.

Lap 21 Webber is now 14th. But they are his tyres, and Vettel is on his own too. Narrowly-avoided disaster for Red Bull there, then. Hamilton is swarming all over the back of Petrov.

Lap 22 The Mercedes cars, line astern, are fighting with Timo Glock for track position. A terrible race so far from them.

Lap 23 Hamilton pits! And the team aren’t ready! What is going on today? Madness! A big delay.

Lap 25 Maldonado pits from his very competitive race so far. Paul di Resta gets a bit muscly with a Toro Rosso at Loews. Not really cricket, that, from the Scot.

Lap 27 Massa is in too, and all the pitstops this afternoon seem to be taking ages. He emerges in front of Hamilton. di Resta gets a penalty for that move last lap.

Lap 28 So it’s Button, Vettel, Alonso, Petrov, Barrichello, Kobayashi, Sutil, Heidfeld, Buemi, Webber, Massa, Hamilton.

Lap 29 Petrov pits and appears to suffer a mini-stall as he gets away. This lot will have to practise their pit stops.

Lap 30 Schumacher passes Rosberg at Loews. A beautiful move, even if Rosberg could have made it more difficult.

Lap 31 Barrichello and Kobayashi, in fourth and fifth, have yet to pit.

Lap 32 Hamilton is chasing Massa hard. He is in a queue behind Buemi, basically, with Webber in between the Toro Rosso and the Ferrari. They are all slower than Hamilton, it looks like.

Lap 33 Timo Glock is out of the race with what looks like suspension issues. Rubens Barrichello and the leader Button pit!

Lap 34 Button emerges into fresh air! Great decision from McLaren. Hamilton clumsily tries to get past Massa at Loews. It’s ugly, like an Asda car park prang.

Lap 34 Safety Car out. Massa has had a crash three corners later.

Lap 35 Schumacher retires at the entry to the pit lane. He appears to have lost drive. Alonso dives into the pits.

Lap 36 We are under the safety car after Massa’s accident. Following his contact with Hamilton at the hairpin, they made their way down to Portier and Hamilton got by in the tunnel, pushing Massa wide onto the marbles, where he smacked the outer retaining wall.

“That was deliberate!” says Hamilton on the radio, viz the initial contact. It wasn’t Massa’s fault, let’s be clear about that. Hamilton himself may get a penalty, is the received wisdom.

Lap 37 Still the Safety Car is out. Schumacher’s retirement was bizarre – he just stopped right at the entry to the pitlane.

Lap 38 Button has, as a result of the Safety Car coming out, lost his advantage and is now stuck in quite a lot of traffic. Vettel is now the leader, although he has to pit. Safety Car in this lap.

Lap 39 We’re racing again. Fortunate for Vettel, that. Button is going to have to do some overtaking.

Lap 40 Vettel leads by four seconds from Button. Hamilton and Massa’s coming-together is going to be investigated. It was optimistic at best, but the stewards are going to make a call, and probably Lewis is going to catch it. Webber, ahead of Massa, was also sort of involved in that event, though not heavily. He was clipped by Massa, I think, who was thinking of making a move himself.

Lap 41 Button is now in clear air behind Vettel and a lot quicker than him, because he is on fresher rubber.

Lap 42 Button is harrying Vettel.

Lap 43 He needs to pit again though, because he hasn’t used the other compound. Hamilton gets a drive through penalty for his part in that contact with Massa.

Lap 44 Hamilton takes his penalty.

Lap 45 Paul di Resta has some more contact at Loews.

Lap 47 Button gets told he needs to pass Vettel on track.

Lap 49 Button pits. A wise strategy, to get him out of the wing of Vettel. Will Red Bull respond?

Lap 51 Alonso is now looking like a threat to Vettel for second, as the Red Bull team haven’t responded.

Lap 52 Button is now a mere sixteen seconds behind Vettel – not enough time for German to pit and get out. The order is Vettel, Alonso, Button, Sutil, Kobayashi, Webber, Maldonado, Petrov, Hamilton, Heidfeld, Buemi, Barrichello.

Lap 53 This is looking bad for Vettel.

Lap 54 The word now is that Vettel might not pit at all. He has used both compounds, so that is all right, but can he stay ahead of the chasing Ferrari and McLaren? Tense stuff.

Lap 55 Di Resta is harrying Rosberg for 14th.

Lap 56 Webber is into the pits from sixth. He has driven well considering his disadvantage at the first stop. Alonso might not pit either! Button will have to pass them both on track! “We’re not sure!” say McLaren, regarding the strategy of Vettel in first and Alonso in second.

Lap 58 Hamilton is harrying Maldonado there. He hasn’t given up, despite being down in the last few of the points paying positions.

Lap 59 Alonso is catching Vettel hand over fist, and this could be the race if neither pit.

Lap 60 Button will arrive on the back of that leading fight in about three laps’ time, if he continues at his current pace.

Lap 61 Don’t forget that Button still will need to pit again, in theory. They are in the same camera shot now.

Lap 62 Vettel’s tyres must be shot to pieces and he still has to get to lap 78 to win the race. They are one-two-three now, just like that. Great entertainment.

Lap 63 They are so so close now, these three. It is fantastic stuff.

Lap 64 Alonso’s nose is basically in Vettel’s diffuser as they go through the last few turns. Wow. Button is in close attendance.

Lap 65 Button seems to fall off the back of the leading pair through the last sector though he is right with them in the first two sectors. Vettel’s tyres are basically canvas, and they are approaching traffic. Although he does get fantastic traction out of the slow corners.

Lap 66 Sutil and Kobayashi come together at Mirabeau for fourth! Kobayashi has made it stick, he’s past.

Lap 67 Alonso is so close into Ste Devote. Webber gets past Petrov somewhere for sixth, although all eyes are on this front battle.

Lap 68 And Webber is up to fifth, past Sutil at the Swimming Pool. Alonso misses the chicane! He didn’t gain or lose anything there, but this is a sign Alonso’s tyres are not at their best anymore.

Lap 69 There are seven or eight cars, traffic-wise, about to be hit by the leaders. Now it’s carnage! A Force India, a Renault and a Toro Rosso all go off at the Swimming Pool, in the midst of that big group. Safety Car.

Lap 70 The SC plays into the hands of Vettel and Alonso, giving their tyres a break. In that melee, Alguersuari rode up the back of Hamilton and damaged the Englishman’s rear wing. Hamilton had backed off to avoid Adrian Sutil who had had an accident of his own at the corner just prior to the Swimming Pool.

Lap 71 Hamilton will surely have to retire with that damaged rear wing. It’s hanging off.

Lap 72 There’s a medical car down at the crash site, and as yet everyone is unsure why exactly. It could be Petrov, although his looked like an innocuous accident. He had nowhere to go after Alguersuari and Hamilton’s accident, and nudged the outer retaining wall.

Lap 72 The race has been red-flagged. It is Petrov in the barrier and with the medical assistance, but no one knows what the situation is at the moment. It didn’t look like a terrible accident.

That will be it, you’d have thought. Full points will probably be awarded, but now there is some idea that the race may yet be restarted. They are lining up on the grid, and fast-thinking McLaren are changing Lewis Hamilton’s rear wing.

Eyewitnesses are saying they think Petrov was knocked unconscious. That will have been why the race was red-flagged; that, or the barrier having been irrevocably damaged.

The discussion now is whether tyres can be changed on the grid. If they can, this race is Vettel’s. Button’s afternoon ruined by events, really.

They have changed the tyres, and the race will restart at four minutes past the hour. “Just legs, bruising,” Renault boss Eric Boullier tells the BBC of Petrov’s condition. That’s good then.

It’s looking as though McLaren won’t be able to repair Lewis Hamilton’s rear wing in the time left. It’s less than a minute til the race restarts. The running order is Vettel, Alonso, Button, Kobayashi, Webber, Maldonado, Sutil (!), di Resta, Heidfeld, Barrichello, Buemi at the moment as they sit on the grid.

Lap 73 And they are off behind the Safety Car, which will probably come into the pits at the end of the first lap. Yes it will.

Lap 74 And they are racing. Button “caught napping”, in David Coulthard’s apt phrase. Alonso is close enough to Vettel, he could pass…

Lap 74 Hamilton, who is racing it turns out, hits poor Pastor Maldonado at Ste Devote. Maldonado is out of the race and surely that is another penalty for Lewis.

Lap 75 Yes, Hamilton is being investigated again. Sigh. Not the Englishman’s best afternoon. Kobayashi-Webber-Hamilton is the best fight on track at the moment, though.

Lap 76 Alonso has fallen off the back of Vettel – this is looking like the German’s afternoon. Again. But in a different way. Kobayashi is defending for his life in fourth.

Lap 77 Webber makes the move down at the chicane! And Kobayashi has to take to the run-off to avoid the accident…he will have to give it to Webber. And he does.

Lap 78 SEBASTIAN VETTEL WINS THE MONACO GRAND PRIX

Alonso takes second with Button third, and Webber fourth. Kobayashi is fifth and Hamilton sixth provisionally after that clash with Maldonado, with Sutil seventh and Heidfeld eighth. Barrichello was ninth with Buemi tenth. Rosberg was 11th, di Resta 12th, Trulli 13th, Kovalainen 14th, d’Ambrosio 15th, Liuzzi 16th, and Karthikeyan the last of the finishers.

Lady Luck definitely smiling on Vettel at the moment, then. Things really fell into his lap, because you wouldn’t really have given two figs for his chances on those shot tyres before the race was red-flagged.

Well that’s it from me, exhausting as it has been today at Monaco. Thanks for following.