Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix was won by Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes. The German controlled the stop-start affair from beginning to end and was able to hold off the challenge of firstly his team mate and then the Red Bulls, converting Mercedes’ qualifying form into wins for the first time this season. Hugh Podmore looks at the talking points from the weekend.
It seems no one can tweet, discuss or write about F1 any more without discussing tyres. It really is very dull. In essence, they are black objects that go on racing cars to facilitate contact with tarmac, but if you’d just touched down from space, you’d be forgiven for thinking they were as important as the cars or the drivers. Ok, they are playing a centre stage role in F1 this year, probably too big a performance for what should be bit part players. But it says volumes that Pirelli went to the lengths of hushing up their controversial Barcelona test with Mercedes because of politics – they knew it would never happen if they made it public. All the noisy chatter, you sense, is making Paul Hembery and his lads and ladettes a bit cheesed off. And they did such a good job last year. The teams and the fans should politely ask if Pirelli can possibly try to make the tyres just a little bit more resilient to discourage fifteen stops in a race and reward driving talent and racing, and then leave the rubber people alone.
2) That test
Tsk, Mercedes. If it weren’t enough that you have a Galactico team in terms of team principals, engineers and drivers, you now go sneaking about testing tyres when you’re not allowed to. (Though I don’t know how the other teams didn’t notice they hadn’t packed all their stuff up after Barcelona. “You going for a beer before the airport, Ross?” “Nah, just gonna…go over here…just…what still needs to be done? Ah…anyway, see you later.”) It isn’t really a surprise Red Bull and Ferrari are miffed, either. The FIA should give the Brackley outfit a fine big enough to have to phone Stuttgart, which will make them think a bit. But no more. Soon as you start docking points or suchlike, the season becomes a rancorous farce. Which is not what anyone wants or needs, particularly with the sport in its current politically precarious position.
3) Bad driving at Monaco
As much of an anachronism as a race round Monaco is, the streets of the Principality do tend to show you up if you’re not very good. Felipe Massa seems to have crashed a lot here, although the team are saying today that at least one of them wasn’t his fault. Max Chilton needs to look in his mirrors a bit more before moving back onto the racing line and Romain Grosjean is edging ever closer to the last chance saloon. Monaco is maybe the worst place to drive an F1 car badly, and it is great news that Maldonado, Ricciardo and Massa are safe and well this evening. In future, the sport might not be so lucky.
4) Good driving at Monaco
Sergio Perez is exciting, dynamic and fun to watch, if a little unrefined. In their opposition to his antics, Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button are fulfilling the elder statesmen’s curious brief to decry young talent as foolhardiness. This betrays a concern that he might be good enough to beat them, which he may well be. But Perez did very little wrong on Sunday. If we’d had it Button’s way, it would have been a markedly duller race than it already was. Also spicing things up were Adrian Sutil, Jean Eric Vergne and Sebastian Vettel with his insistence on setting the fastest lap in the denouement of the race.
5) An off day for Alonso and Hamilton
Fernando Alonso did not have the best of weekends, and by his 2013 standards it was notably lacking. Some technical problems have been reported to have slowed him, but he still looked as somnolent as a TV viewer on Sunday afternoon. Maybe that’s because he knows not much can be gained at Monaco, but a lot can be lost. A lot was indeed lost by Lewis Hamilton, whose mystifyingly slow in-lap for his pitstop meant two places were surrendered to the Red Bulls. As his team mate waltzed to the win, Hamilton was left to reflect on what he can improve to stop Rosberg becoming the de facto number one at Mercedes. And – yep – we’re back to tyres. He’s got to adapt his driving style to be less hard on the rubber, has Lewis – easier said than done, even for a driver of his calibre.
6) Tempestuous times ahead?
Much worried conjecture this weekend about the financial future of the sport. A new Concorde Agreement yet to be signed, a power vacuum at the top if Bernie is ‘otherwise engaged’, an understandable jitteriness from investors and sponsors. And the news confirming the rumours in this month’s F1 Racing magazine that at least one well-known team (and quite feasibly others) have an exceedingly precarious balance sheet. Difficult to see this being resolved easily, frankly. Big money is still talking and with no FOTA prefect in town the bigger kids are dominating the playground. The resurrection of the RRA would be a start, but who of the big four (Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes) will take the lead?