Vettel extends title lead with Monaco win
Sebastian Vettel has taken victory at the Monaco Grand Prix and Kimi Raikkonen finished in second capping off an impressive weekend for Ferrari.
It has been 16 years since Ferrari last tasted victory in Monaco and a staggering 130 races since the last one-two finish for the Scuderia. But all that changed at the packed Circuit de Monaco with the Ferrari drivers unchallenged throughout the race and entirely competing among themselves for the top podium position.
It was to be different pit strategies that proved the difference between Vettel and Raikkonen although there is strong suspicion that team orders may have played a role.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo claimed third narrowly holding off Valteri Bottas in the Mercedes and Max Verstappen in the other Red Bull.
Lewis Hamilton could only climb up to seventh after starting in 13th following a miserable qualifying session. Romain Grosjean’s Haas took eighth with his team-mate Magnussen also in the points in tenth.
Strategy Settles Victory
The race got off to an orderly start with Raikkonen leading the pack around the tight Sainte Devote. But with overtaking difficult on the narrow street circuit not much changed until the only pit stops.
Raikkonen came into the pits on Lap 34 at a time when there was little tire degradation and was put back onto the track behind slower cars that he needed to lap fueling speculation of team orders.
It gave Vettel clean air to lay down some fast laps and by the time the German pitted he could safely return to the track in front of Raikkonen. Vettel gradually pulled away from Raikkonen with assistance from his fresher tires and not even a late safety car could threaten his eventual victory.
“It was a very tense race,” said Sebastian Vettel.
“I knew that was the chance to win and I was able to use that window and come out ahead. After that I was able to control the gap behind.”
Vettel said on whether his pass on Raikkonen was pre-planned: “No, not really. The plan was to try and pull away which we did. Valtteri had good pace and then the window opened, as soon as Valtteri pitted Kimi responded. I still had some pace and I was able to keep going.”
The Red Bull Sandwich
Behind the leading Ferrari’s was a tight contest between both Red Bull’s and Mercedes driver Valterri Bottas.
Bottas spent the opening part of the race in third keeping at bay Verstappen and Ricciardo. But the Australian took advantage of early pit stops for Bottas and Verstappen to “over cut” and jump to third spot. It left Verstappen unimpressed with an expletive riddled radio message labelling the move “a disaster”.
But the battle between the three drivers got even hotter after a safety car on lap 60.
Jenson Button in his one-off return for McLaren was stuck behind Sauber’s Wherlein for most of the race but spotted an opening at the Portier right-hand corner.
Button dived down the inside to get half his car alongside Wherlein but their tires clipped throwing the Sauber onto its side. Wherlein was stuck perilously against the barrier but was fortunate to escape uninjured.
The safety car bunched the pack up again and on the re-start Ricciardo scrapped the barrier at Sainte Devote. Bottas was within touching distance behind but the Australian delivered another superb driving display to stay ahead.
In the dramatic final laps, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson clumsily hit the barriers under the safety car, McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne also slid into the barriers and Force India’s Sergio Perez collided with the side of Torro Rosso’s Daniil Kyvat to end the Russian’s afternoon early.
The result in Monaco now leaves Vettel a huge 25 points ahead of Hamilton ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix.