It was another action packed Monaco Grand Prix which saw Lewis Hamilton take his first win of the 2016 season after a Red Bull pit blunder ruined Ricciardo’s chances of victory. For the second race weekend running Daniel Ricciardo was denied another likely victory and his demeanour post race was that of a beaten man. The Australian had a faultless weekend, and was on course to follow up a mesmerising qualifying performance with a first race win since 2014 until poor communication over at Red Bull saw Hamilton leapfrog the Monaco pacesetter on exiting the pits. A powerless Ricciardo then followed Hamilton home and despite having the faster car, especially after the restarts, the Red Bull couldn’t find a way past the Mercedes of Hamilton who pulled away in the closing laps of the race. Read on to see my assessment of some other winners and losers from the Monaco Grand Prix weekend.
It was a welcome return to the podium for Force India and Sergio Perez who last finished in the top three back at the 2015 Russian Grand Prix. Following on from what was an excellent qualifying for both Perez and Hulkenberg, the decision to pit for soft tyres earlier than Sebastian Vettel ensured the sole remaining Ferrari driver exited the pits behind the Mexican. From there on in all Perez had to do was keep his car out of the wall and he duly did just that to bring in some valuable points for Force India who have otherwise endured a miserable start to 2016.
After four races out of the points, Nico Hulkenberg returned to the top ten with a 6th place finish after passing Nico Rosberg on the pit straight on the final lap. The combined points haul ensures Force India leapfrog both Haas and Toro Rosso in the constructors championship, moving into the 5th place they found themselves in at the end of last season. If the clues from Monaco are anything to go by, and the 2015 Ferrari power unit is eventually overhauled then Force India could find themselves in a very safe 5th in the table by the end of the summer leg of the season.
Monaco was McLaren’s best result so far in 2016, and Jenson Button has now made it three consecutive points finishes, a feat which seemed impossible even towards the end of last year. McLaren’s recent points haul represents significant progress for the team and it was brilliant to see Alonso holding off Nico Rosberg to take 5th place overall. Admittedly, if it wasn’t for the misfortune of others McLaren may not have finished so far up the order but as F1 heads to Canada, and a circuit which doesn’t look to be favour the Honda power unit everyone at McLaren will be thankful of valuable points in the bag.
The former titans now sit two points above Haas and six behind Toro Rosso in 7th place in the constructors championship, they should be targeting 6th a minimum by the end of the season. With a revitalised Alonso and a consistent Jenson Button, McLaren look to be a far more potent force than they were in 2015 and more double points finishes over the course of the next few races shouldn’t be discounted as a possibility.
Renault had a torrid Monaco Grand Prix. Jolyon Palmer was unfortunate to get caught out by the Zebra Crossing early on in the race and end his weekend in the tyre barrier, and Kevin Magnussen fared little better after retiring following contact with Danil Kvyat, who the team claimed was rather aggressive. It certainly wasn’t the homecoming to what could be classed as a home race the returning manufacturer expected following positive noises from both Magnussen and Riccirado about the potential of their new upgraded engines, and the shortcomings of the Renault RS16 chassis were laid bare for the world to see when Ricciardo put his Renault powered Red Bull on pole position.
Although no-one was expecting Renault to challenge for wins and podiums this season, I’m sure there are plenty of people including those at Renault who expected the team to be performing better than they have so far. Renault seem to have slipped further behind the competitive midfield pack and deeper into the throws of a battle with Sauber and hopes will be high of a much improved performance in Canada.
Until he crashed midway through the race, Max Verstappen looked to be becoming one of the stars of the Monaco GP weekend after some fantastic overtaking manoeuvres from the back of the grid. The #33 Red Bull, which was still running the old Renault engine was among the fastest cars on the track during the early portions of the race and Verstappen benefited from some good strategy calls to leapfrog other cars when switching from wet-intermediate tyres.
Both Verstappen’s Monaco GP’s followed a similar pattern, for in 2015 the young star was also busy carving his way through the field with some fantastic overtakes before crashing with Grosjean at turn one. After a fantastic victory in Spain last time out, Verstappen was bought down to Earth with a bang in Monaco but in Canada, with a new Renault power unit in the back of his Red Bull I expect to see him challenging right at the front once again.
Ferrari haven’t won in Monaco since 2001, a shocking statistic when you consider the Monaco GP is perhaps F1’s most glamorous event, and Ferrari it’s most glamorous team. Raikkonen’s gearbox penalty was always going to make it difficult for the 2007 champion to make his mark on the streets of Monaco and Sebastian Vettel lost out on a potential podium finish after getting caught up in traffic mid race. Ferrari are just nine points ahead of Red Bull in the constructors table and 67 behind Mercedes, hardly the sort of figures a team which thought they would be challenging Mercedes for race wins want to be reading.
Like Renault, Ferrari seem to have made little progress since the season opening Australian GP and they now look to be locked in a battle with Red Bull for second in the constructors rather than with Mercedes for first. There can be no doubt the pressure is on at Maranello, and Vettel’s recent radio outbursts a sign that Ferrari are far from satisfied with their progress behind the scenes.
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