Raikkonen sacrificed, Hamilton in damage-control and Button burned – things we learned from the Monaco GP

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Photo Credit To @autosport

Troubles for Mercedes threw the doors wide open for Ferrari, while a late safety car period sparked some late drama at the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday.

The Monaco Grand Prix looked set for a predictable finish on Sunday after the events in qualifying all but ruled out a good result for Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, as he ended up with P13 at the start of the race. However, some apparent internal manoeuvering by Ferrari, Button’s wild comeback and some late action in the safety car period livened up the race for fans at Monte Carlo.

Here are our main talking points from the Monaco GP:

1. Ferrari orders favour Vettel over Raikkonen?

There’s certainly something to be said about the pit strategy Ferrari used in Monaco. Raikonnen, fresh off a first pole since 2008, could well have taken first ahead of Vettel given his early lead. However Ferrari’s decision to pit him much earlier than the German ended up tweaking things in favour of Vettel. While Raikkonen had to contend with slower cars upon reentry on lap 34, Vettel took the time to extend his advantage before his own pit five laps later, after which he still managed to rejoin with a slender lead.

While many would put Vettel’s win down to his being faster when it counted, it’s hard to say what might have transpired had the two been allowed to go head-to-head for the win. Ferrari have long been known to manage their drivers with an eye firmly on the championship. Neither Vettel nor Raikkonen, though, would speak of the matter.

Vettel: “Unbelievable. It was a very tense race. 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.”

On whether Raikkonen’s early pit-stop was planned to allow his passing:

“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.”

Raikkonen: “Nothing to say really. Obviously it’s still second place but it doesn’t feel awfully good. But it is how it goes sometimes: we go to the next race and try to do better. It is one of those races when you hope to get more.”

However, the Finn’s disappointment aside, it turned out to be a great day for Ferrari. They have their long awaited win at this track and have piled on the pressure on Mercedes in the championship.

2. Hamilton unable to salvage much after a disastrous qualifying

While Lewis Hamilton’s race was always doomed to a struggling rescue-act after such a terrible qualifying session, for a while It looked like the Brit might come away with more than just a handful of points at the finish. Hamilton sped up to sixth place, hanging on as long as he could before making his pit on the 47th. However he was unable to make more progress once he rejoined behind Toro Rosso’s Sainz, who took over his spot. Kept at bay by the impressive Sainz, and with the safety car not helping his situation, Hamilton only managed seventh.

Recovery was always a tall order at Monaco, with its tough turns and few opportunities to pass others. There will be plenty more chances for Mercedes to make up ground. And Hamilton knew as much as he called out to his team at the finish:

“The battle’s not over, boys. We’ll take these points.”

3. McLaren have a day to forget

McLaren’s hopes of finally scoring their first few points of the season here came to nothing in the end. Jenson Button’s return to Formula One as Alonso’s replacement quickly went off the rails as he was handed a 15-place grid penalty ahead of the start, and then when he ultimately decided to start moving up, he messed up by colliding with Sauber’s Wehrlein, causing both drivers to drop out.

Stoffel Vandoorne, meanwhile, looked to be on course for at least a point after Button’s crash. The Belgian managed to move up from 12th to 10th by the final stages. But a move by Perez of Force India at turn 1 on lap 68 had him veer into the tyre barrier. And that was that for McLaren in Monaco. At the rate they’re going, they can only pray for luck to be competitive this year.

4. Drama under the safety car

Button’s crash and the consequent emergence of the safety car triggered a number of incidents in a race starved of action. With overtaking already difficult on the track, the new wider cars have had more of an effect on the Monaco GP than some others. The collision between Button and Wehrlein was a prime exponent of the issue on Sunday. And Perez’s crashes with Vandoorne and Kvyat later further made the point.

But the safety car did change the race quite a bit after lap 60. Ericsson crashed out on 65 while trying to pass the safety car. And the two incidents with Force India’s Perez followed soon after. But apart from the drama in the middle, there was another interesting battle up front.

A freshly pitted Ricciardo was locked in a fight with Mercedes’ Bottas and fellow Red Bull driver Verstappen for third. Verstappen was upset at ceding ground to both Bottas as well as Ricciardo despite pitting early to try and gain on the Mercedes. But some excellent laps from Ricciardo – earlier in 5th – blew the contest open between the three. The Australian managed to squeeze into third on reentry. But he had a scare after the restart with the safety car when he hit the wall at the first corner as he fought off Bottas. He managed to keep hold of third place, however, as Bottas was pressurised by Verstappen in fifth. And after consecutive podium finishes, Ricciardo’s stock is truly on the rise.

“I’m really pleased to be up here,” he said after the race. “You don’t often start fifth and get a podium here.

“It was a good combination of the lap times coming from me and the team leaving me out there and allowing me to run in clear air.”

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