After the crash in P3 essentially prevented representative qualifying simulation I decided against betting on qualifying. My instinct [stated in the comments of the Spanish race analysis] was that Hamilton was fastest but there was no evidence and with Alonso looking racey and Vettel faster than I anticipated I decided to just sit it out.
Neither HRT set a time in Q1 and it’s unclear whether they’ll be allowed to race. The Renaults disappointed in 11th and 16th, Heidfeld once again punching below his weight.
Unfortunately Perez had a substantial crash in Q3, which I imagine will rule him out of the race, though I don’t know for certain, and also came late on and prevented Hamilton, who had delayed his single planned run and then been slowed by Massa on his first flying lap, from setting a quick time. There was just 2 minutes and 26 seconds on the clock when the session was red flagged. The nine drivers all got out but there was very little change in the order, Vettel (perhaps fortuitously) got pole with Button second and Webber third, and Hamilton achieved only seventh. Schumacher got a tasty fifth.
Being green or red on the Button to win at 7.4 tip depends whether you laid at evens, as advocated. If so, you’re up, if not, you’re down. Disappointing that it didn’t properly come off, but that’s why I hedge.
Button’s failure to win was not due to lack of pace but the frankly inexplicable strategy from McLaren. They cunningly went to the super-soft (faster but less durable) tyre first, unlike their rivals Ferrari and Red Bull. However, they then went onto another set of super-softs, necessitating a third stop, in order to have run both compounds during the race. Button then dropped from second to third.
Alonso had to stop again, and was in second, Vettel was pushing the limits with a single stop. Analysts suggested that Vettel’s tyres would dramatically degrade around the late 60s, enabling Alonso and Button to pass him.
But then the safety car emerged following a crash and the race was red-flagged. It was restarted under the safety car but, crucially, every car could put on fresh tyres, giving Vettel a get out of jail free card and enabling him to win at Monaco for the first time. For all his flawless driving, Button actually went backwards, from 2nd to 3rd.
Sadly, this not only meant the tip had very little chance of coming off, it also robbed race fans of a potentially epic finish as a car with extremely old tyres was chased by a car with very old tyres which was chased by a car with fresh(ish) tyres.
Latterly, Webber recovered from a bad start and an abysmal pit stop (Hamilton, who had a demolition derby of a race, and Vettel were similarly afflicted) to nab 4th at the end, and Kobayashi got a fantastic 5th for Sauber. Maldonado was very unlucky not to get 6th after Hamilton clumsily crashed into him in the final few laps.
Monaco saw a good number of overtakes. It wasn’t too easy, but it was possible. Red Bull and Ferrari made an initial strategic mistake but McLaren’s idiocy gifted them the best spots on the podium.
Vettel should not have won here. Button had the pace but a combination of ill fortune with the safety car and a bad strategic call from the team gave the Weltmeister a slice of luck he really did not need.
Once again, fewer stops actually proved more beneficial. But for the late safety car, Vettel may have lost a place or two. The DRS and tyre degradation have their overtaking impact severely diluted on circuits like Barcelona and Monaco.
Yet again, Vettel’s supposed rivals have taken points from one another rather than from him, allowing him to extend his already sizeable championship lead. However, the McLaren was the fastest car in race trim, as it was in Spain.
We’re off to Canada in a fortnight. Montreal was amongst the most exciting races last season, as differing strategies and huge tyre degradation led to a fluid, complex battle for victory. This season, it’ll have two DRS zones.