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Monaco Grand Prix 2013: Rosberg repeats on the streets
26 May 2013
Nico Rosberg claimed victory in the Monaco Grand Prix 30 years to the day after father Keke did likewise, but had to endure two safety cars and a red flag before returning Mercedes to the top of the podium.
The German also shrugged off pre-race controversy about a three-day tyre test Mercedes conducted on behalf of Pirelli immediately after Barcelona to lead from start to finish, managing his rubber as well as anyone when he needed to, and always seemingly able to open a gap over his pursuers.
The victory made the Rosbergs the first father-son combination to triumph on the streets of the Principality, and allowed Nico to go one better than the second place he took behind Mark Webber a year ago.
The race began with a grid shuffled by accidents on Saturday morning, leaving Felipe Massa at the back and Romain Grosjean further down than his Friday pace would have suggested, while rain on Saturday afternoon helped catch out Paul di Resta, leaving the Scot adrift of the top ten spot he might have expected.
Fortunately, despite the unusual order, the entire field managed to navigate its way through Ste Devote without incident, although Sebastian Vettel raised heart rates at Mercedes by attempting to force his way between the front row pair of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. The Briton held firm around the outside, however, and the front of the pack continued in grid order.
The opening lap wasn't entirely free of contact, however, with Pastor Maldonado already having lost part of his front wing before he was collected by Giedo van der Garde on the way down to Loews. Both pitted at the end of the lap, but Adrian Sutil or Jenson Button, who also made minor contact a little further around the corner, were able to continue unaffected.
Vettel remained feisty throughout the opening laps, looking for a way past Hamilton on several occasions, only to be rebuffed by the Mercedes man, while Kimi Raikkonen had Fernando Alonso showing him similar levels of attention and the two McLarens found themselves squabbling over the same piece of tarmac at the chicane, resulting in Sergio Perez, who was forced to cut the corner, having to hand the place to team-mate Button.
Despite the various incidents, the first retirement only arrived on lap nine, and it wasn't down to contact as a seized gearbox forced Caterham's Charles Pic to a fiery halt at the entry to the pit-lane. With no debris on track, however, there was no need for the safety car, and racing continued with Rosberg holding a 1.5secs cushion over team-mate Hamilton.
With Perez ceding seventh to Button, the Briton closed on Alonso, while leaving his team-mate to fend off the attentions of Sutil and Jean-Eric Vergne, the Frenchman comfortably holding on to his place in the top ten. The anticipated gaps between the cars were not appearing, however, and radio messages began warning drivers that they may have to run further than planned before the race, in order to consider a one-stop strategy rather than two.
The game of cat-and-mouse continued beyond one-third distance, despite Jules Bianchi and Maldonado coming together – again without a safety car – until Felipe Massa suffered an identical accident to the one that ruled him out of qualifying, locking up and collecting the barrier with his left front corner as the track narrows into Ste Devote. The Brazilian was once again a passenger as the Ferrari skated into the run-off, before impacting the barrier at a slightly more acute angle than on its first attempt.
With a clean-up effort required, the safety car was finally summoned – its first appearance of the season – while the medical car also departed to turn one in order to transport Massa to the medical centre. The Brazilian had managed to extricate himself from the wreckage, but was fitted with a neck collar as a precaution.
The safety car's appearance also coincided with the leaders' 'new' pit-stop window. Raikkonen and Button had already become the first of the leading group to change tyres, with Alonso also getting in before his team-mate went off, while Perez and Jean-Eric Vergne took advantage of the interruption to pit as soon as the yellow flags appeared. Vettel and Sutil were next up, anticipating the safety car, but Rosberg and Hamilton were made to wait until the 'SC' boards were already established before they were summoned.
That suited the leader, but stacking the Silver Arrows appeared to work against his team-mate, who dropped to fourth by the time the order shook itself out, the two Red Bulls – having initially been picked up by Bernd Maylander – were freed in time to beat the Briton to Ste Devote.
The field remained at a controlled pace until lap 39 when Rosberg, undeterred by Vettel having shown him who was now behind, bolted away to lead by nearly a second at Casino Square. In his wake, Hamilton appeared most keen to make up places, twice looking at Webber into Tabac before then attempting to replicate a GP2 move at Rascasse. The Australian, although surprised by the latter move, ultimately had his rival covered on each occasion, and Hamilton was never quite close enough again.
Instead, the action switched to a little further back in a pack that remained closely bunched by an inability to generate temperature in the soft compound Pirellis. First, Button clipped the back of Alonso at Loews, unsettling his own momentum sufficiently for team-mate Perez to dive through at the chicane. The Mexican then tried to pull the same move on Alonso a couple of laps later, but only succeeded in forcing his adversary over the kerb as he avoiding a potential collision.
Whilst the recriminations continued as to whether the Ferrari driver ought to hand the place over for cutting the corner, a rather more serious incident brought a halt to proceedings. Max Chilton, recovering from his own moment at the chicane, allowed his Marussia to move over on the hapless Maldonado, sending the Venezuelan momentarily airborne before he speared into the wall at Tabac. Fortunately, the introduction of TecPro barriers at that point saved Maldonado from injury, but only served to envelop his car in a plastic cocoon, forcing the red flags as the second Marussia of Bianchi limped back to the pits, his front end collateral damage from the incident.
After allowing the field to change tyres – all bar Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg opted for scrubbed supersofts - and effect any necessary repairs on the grid, the race resumed behind the safety car before being unleashed on lap 48. Again, Rosberg got the jump on Vettel, pulling away from the two Red Bulls over the first flat-out lap. Alonso duly handed sixth spot to Perez, while Chilton picked up a drive-thru' for his part in the Maldonado accident.
Although Alonso tried hard to wrest sixth back from Perez, it was Sutil who was the first to gain a place amongst the top ten, surprising Button at Loews and making it through on the inside despite another kiss. The German then pulled an identical move on a sleeping Alonso to take seventh place before setting off after Perez.
The Mexican was continuing to show his own aggressive streak, having been forced to cut the chicane after a pass on Raikkonen failed to yield another spot. The pair would come together again, with graver consequences, twelve laps later...
Lotus had already lost one car, when Romain Grosjean was forced to retire after clattering into the back of Daniel Ricciardo exiting the tunnel. The Frenchman, having already had three separate accidents earlier in the weekend, appeared to miss his braking point on the run to the chicane, and lifted Ricciardo clean off the ground as he slammed into the back of the Toro Rosso, forcing both cars down the escape road. While the Australian was out on the spot, Grosjean rejoined and had picked up another new front wing before the team called him back in for good, the floor of his E21 damaged beyond repair.
With the safety car returning to aid the clear-up operation, Raikkonen received a warning that his engine was losing water while running slowly in the train, but Perez proved a more viable threat to the Finn's aim of beating Michael Schumacher's record number of consecutive points finishes. Barely had the race been restarted than the Mexican was launching another attack into the chicane, only to find Raikkonen pinching the gap between his car and the barrier. Although the Lotus appeared to be turning in slightly earlier than usual, it left Perez with nowhere to go. As his left rear clattered the Armco, so his front wing was shorn of endplates as it was caught in the sandwich, but somehow both cars continued without losing a position.
Raikkonen, however, had picked up a puncture in the contact and was quickly headed for the pits, his bid for a top ten finish apparently over. Perez, meanwhile, lasted only a couple more laps before the effects of his meeting with the barrier became apparently, the McLaren having picked up brake and suspension damage. Sutil, looking for a way past, tapped the ailing car at Rascasse and Button, having jumped Alonso at the same point a lap before, also bundled his way up the inside, preventing Perez from pitting and forcing him into retirement at the Antony Noghes run-off.
The final six laps proved comparatively uneventful until the chequered flag was waving. Rosberg duly took victory by 3.8secs over Vettel, while Webber, free from pressure from Hamilton, completed the podium. Hamilton, admitting that a slow entry to the pits for his tyre stop had cost him places, was fourth, from Sutil, Button and Alonso. Jean-Eric Vergne, after a competent afternoon, transformed tenth on the grid into eighth at the flag, while di Resta overcame his Saturday frustration to claim two points for ninth.
The Scot entered the last lap being chased by Nico Hulkenberg, but ended it being followed across the line by ……… Raikkonen, the Finn having somehow jumped from 13th to tenth in the space of two laps - passing Gutierrez and Bottas on 77 before going around the outside of Hulkenberg at Ste Devote last time through - to keep his scoring streak alive and move to within one of Schumacher's mark. Only a visit to the stewards to explain his pace under the safety car now stands between him and his point.
Rosberg's victory returned Mercedes to the top step for the first time since his maiden win in China last season, but Vettel's second place ensured that he stretched his advantage at the top of the points table, and Red Bull's 2-3 finish did likewise in the constructors' standings.