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Monaco 2012 - Red Bull rock the roads in Monte Carlo // A team by team rundown of the racing action in everyone's favourite principality

Published by Christine

Webber leads the field in Monaco
Credit: Clive Mason/Getty

The Monaco Grand Prix wasn't the classic that we have come to expect from a season filled with incredible racing, but it had enough spectacle to make it an interesting weekend. A lot of the teams were split between one driver doing well and the other either retiring or struggling at the rear of the grid.

Unfortunately, despite plenty of drivers out of place, overtaking in Monaco was almost non-existant, and the strategies didn't seem to make much difference either. The constant talk of rain became grating when it never appeared, although post-race talk has indicated things got slippery towards the end. Regardless, here's how the weekend turned out for those tremendous twelve teams.

Red Bull

Red Bull found themselves under yet another design department discussion ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix, as there were rumours of rival teams deciding whether to protest or not. Considering Christian Horner was adamant that they had written approval from the FIA for their hole in the floor, plus they have been running it since Bahrain, it didn’t seem all that likely that the results would come under question.

Nevertheless, the team were under more pressure than usual as they tried to keep their heads together and go racing. Mark Webber found himself gifted a pole position, but for a change, the Australian had a superb start and kept hold of it. He not only managed to stay in front at the start, but he also kept the lead at the Safety Car restart as well. With pressure behind from a feisty Nico Rosberg, that is quite the achievement. Webber went on to win the race with a solid drive, albeit helped by the impossibility of overtaking around Monaco. Whilst much is made of Webber being the sixth winner of the season, I also think it’s notable that Red Bull become the first repeat victors.

Sebastian Vettel also had a good start, making up several places into the first corner. He held on to his first stint tyres for as long as possible, becoming the last driver to dive into the pitlane for a stop. The strategy helped him lead the race for many laps, but he didn’t have enough to pull out a pitstop-length gap. He finished the race fourth, which is an impressive feat for being on the opposite strategy to most. The car was clearly very fast, but Vettel has not been as keen on qualifying for the last couple of race weekends, and that may be the difference between him dominating and letting Webber win the odd one.

9/10

Mercedes

The Mercedes car looked very strong all weekend, proven by Michael Schumacher’s temporary pole position. There were plenty of misty eyes seeing the veteran driver returning to the front of the grid, but unfortunately his misdemeanours from Spain caught up with him and he was pushed back to sixth place. That was just the start of his bad luck, as moments into the race, he was caught in some first corner carnage. Romain Grosjean moved across, pushing him into the wall and dropping him down several places.

He put up a good fight, tried to make up places where possible, but the car wasn’t happy and he eventually retired from the race with a fuel pressure problem. Although clearly disappointed by the end result, there is much to be taken from Schumacher’s finally getting to grips with qualifying.

For teammate Nico Rosberg, the misfortune of one half of the garage worked heavily in the favour of the other. Promoted to the front row of the grid when Michael moved back to sixth, Rosberg hustled Webber for position throughout the entire GP. He kept tabs on the Red Bull car but there was never really a chance of him making it past, and the pair finished in the order they started with. Not one to be disappointed with a second place, Rosberg afterwards seemed content and happy with the pace of the car. He also joked that he’s now more experienced in F1 than his father, and will therefore no longer be taking advice from Rosberg Sr.

7/10

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso’s consistency so far this season has promoted him to the lead of the championship, although only by three points at this moment. There were no real overtaking moves to see out on track, but some fast laps by the Spaniard when he had some free air did see him jump a couple of positions forward through the pit stops. He started the race fifth, and finished on the podium, reasonably happy with his weekend’s work.

More importantly, Felipe Massa showed vast improvements around the streets of Monaco. There has been plenty of talk so far this season about how off the pace Massa has seemed, and non-stop speculation swirls over who will be his replacement. With the pressure constantly mounting, Massa can either crumble or dig his heels in, and it is performances like Monaco which will help him remain in Formula One.

Although Massa started the race seventh, and ended sixth, he looked more on form than we have seen him in 2012. It was the first time he has made his way through to Q3 on a Saturday, and the points boost shows how important qualifying can be to a driver. He is still desperately behind the title battle, but a few more like Monaco could change that.

8/10

McLaren

For me, the most crucial thing of what turned out to be a frustrating weekend for McLaren was the fact they completed their pit stops without any major mishaps. Now granted, there were fewer of them, but it was about time they managed to let Hamilton race without incident. He did lose a place to Alonso during the stops, but that was more about the pace of the Ferrari than that of the pit crew.

Even with the team working together at last, it was a tough weekend for McLaren. Jenson Button was complaining pretty much every day about the balance of the car. He particularly made comment that the car feels different in qualifying than it does in final practice, although that may have just been an excuse for why he failed to reach the top ten on Saturday.

Being midfield come race day did not help Button, and it would never have been a fight through the pack at Monaco, but no matter. He retired from the race eight laps from the end.

Meanwhile, Hamilton was also complaining, although about slightly stranger topics. At one point, he was on the radio asking why the team were dropping pit board letters/numbers on to his head. He finished fifth, disappointed with losing positions, but philosophical about the weekend as a whole.

6/10

Force India

Up until this point, I’d been writing Force India off. They promised much and delivered very little, and it looked like 2012 would be a year to forget. That hasn’t been completely turned on its head, but just as Massa did, the team proved that the season is not entirely lost. Both drivers finished in the points, which has helped the team close the gap to Sauber in the championship. Only a little, but it all adds up.

Individually, Paul di Resta will no doubt be more happy than Nico Hülkenberg. The British driver started the race four places behind Nico and he ended up finishing one place ahead of him. The Hulk blames it mostly on Kimi Räikkönen who stopped the same time as him, and held him up as the race progressed. It took until Sergio Pérez’s dodgy pit entrance for Nico to get past, and by then it was too late to do any more.

Meanwhile, Paul di Resta was sneaking his way up the order, putting in a strong and subtle drive to finish seventh.

One other notable thing for Force India this weekend was the reappearance of Vijay Mallya. Not a surprise, given it was the glamourous Monaco weekend, but still a hint that he’s remembered he has a Formula One team.

7/10

Lotus

Romain Grosjean is beginning to make a name for himself as one of those crash-happy drivers. Sometimes it is his fault, sometimes it isn’t, but it matters not. If you are involved in incident after incident, your name gets tarnished and that is the end of it. This weekend, Grosjean showed, once again, how strong he is in qualifying. He started the race fourth on the grid, whilst teammate Kimi Räikkönen was down in eighth place.

However, once the racing got underway - literally seconds into the Grand Prix - it all went downhill. Grosjean crushed Schumacher into the wall, tipped himself into a spin and watched all the drivers having to avoid him as he faced the wrong way. Race over without a single lap completed.

For Kimi, things were going slightly better. He was leading a train of cars, making the most of the fact that, although his tyres were going off, the streets of Monaco don’t help the guys behind. Unfortunately, an odd pit entrance from Sergio Pérez put a spanner in the works. Pérez left it very late to dive into the pits - something he later got a drive through penalty for - and that held up Räikkönen and lost him a place or two. He finished the race ninth, just inside the points and one place behind where he started.

As we have seen so many times this year, the car looks fast when the drivers are on it, but there are too many outside factors influencing their races to see them moving towards that coveted win.

5/10

Williams

Having gone through a rollercoaster of emotions at the Spanish Grand Prix - their first victory for eight years followed by an enormous and terrifying garage fire - the Williams team turned up in very good spirits for the Monaco Grand Prix.

Unfortunately for Pastor Maldonado, the follow up to his race victory was a disastrous weekend. He was penalised for a practice incident where he crashed into Sergio Pérez, dropping ten places come race day. The team also decided to change his gearbox, dropping him a further five places, essentially to the back of the grid.

It was only the first lap when Pastor ran into the back of Pedro de la Rosa’s HRT and retired from the race missing a front wing.

The hopes of the team shifted immediately to Bruno Senna who was doing a more consistent job. He started the race thirteenth, and was up into the points by the time the early Safety Car had come and gone. Monaco being what it is, he was 10th on lap 6 and he was tenth at the end of the race too. Just the single point for Williams this weekend, but the car is still showing glimpses of pace.

5/10

Sauber

The first lap chaos was quite selective, so that many teams had one driver providing a strong race, and the other struggling at the rear. Unfortunately, Sauber had both drivers scrabbling at the back, but they still attempted to make the best of it.

Kamui Kobayashi was the victim of others around him, catapulted into the air with all four wheels of the ground, and coming back down to earth with a bump. He was in the race for two laps before being forced to retire with damage to the car.

Pérez had a terrible Saturday in Monaco. He was the victim of a collision with Maldonado that saw the Williams penalised, but Pérez himself lost control during qualifying and crashed into the barriers. He started from the rear of the grid, alongside his nemesis Pastor. One pit-stop related drive through penalty later and Sergio looked consigned to the rear of the field.

Except... the car was fast. For every fastest lap that anyone else put in, Pérez could beat it. By the end of the Grand Prix, it was the Mexican that had secured the fastest lap of the race. He finished 11th, one lap down, but can still claim to have had the fastest car.

Without meaning to shamelessly plug, Mike had a great comment on my article about Sauber, pondering whether they need to start playing fast and loose with the strategies again. Can they be accused of playing it too safe recently?

3/10

Toro Rosso

It’s clear by now that the Toro Rosso car is firmly in the middle of nowhere when it comes to speed. What is becoming ever more obvious as the season progresses is that Jean-Éric Vergne really needs to work on qualifying better. It’s still his rookie season, of course, and perhaps it is only shown in such a stark light because Toro Rosso continue to teeter on hte edge of Q2 and Q3, but JEV just seems to struggle more than his teammate.

He was saved from the first drop zone this race only because Sergio Pérez had crashed out and therefore instantly not qualified.

The pair of them started the race 15th and 16th. Ricciardo retired from the race quietly, being pushed into the garage on the 68th lap. With Vergne, the team opted for a risky strategy - putting him onto the intermediate tyres in the hopes of some rain that never came. It meant Jean-Éric went backwards swiftly, but if it had have come off, it would have been spectacular. Unfortunately, the result we are left with is that Vergne finished 12th, behind a driver who started last and had a drive through penalty.

3/10

Caterham

Helped by Heikki Kovalainen, Caterham have regained their position in tenth place of the constructor’s championship. Heikki was riding high at one point, sitting just outside the points on merit. As things shook out, he went backwards again, but ended the race 13th thanks to the retirements around him. Petrov was one of those, who came into the garage and retired - an electrical failure for the Russian.

Despite the mixed results, the team are heading to Canada feeling hopeful. There was one moment where Kovalainen exited the pitlane to find himself alongside Jenson Button - holding his own and legitimately beating him to the track position. Monaco mixed up the order so we saw out of place cars, but there’s no reason that Montreal won’t provide the same opportunities for Caterham.

4/10

Marussia

After qualifying, the Marussia team were split. Glock felt as though he’d had a good afternoon, whilst Pic was not confident that he had the pace he had seen in Spain. The pair were two positions apart, but also half a second in time. Pic is still learning his way around Formula One, but the difference to his more experience teammate is becoming harshly obvious.

In the race, Pic was forced to retire the car due to electrical trouble, leaving it to Glock. At various points through the race, Glock was riding high up in tenth place, and also battling wtih Jenson Button, but gradually he fell backwards to finish 14th. Both drivers were disappointed post race, so it is on to Canada for another go.

2/10

HRT

Pedro de la Rosa retired from the race immediately after a first lap collision, which was more disappointing than we might have realised. After qualifying on Saturday, the Spaniard was excited about his qualifying pace, finding himself almost a second faster than his teammate, and ahead of the Marussia of Charles Pic (and Sergio Pérez, of course).

The race was left to Narain Karthikeyan to navigate, and he made it to the end of the 78 laps unscathed, albeit two laps down.

1/10

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