Gosh! There is a lot to talk about after that race, but I wonder whether the topic you might want to pick up on below is today’s winner, Nico Rosberg. Never among the most highly rated (except by his boss at Mercedes Ross Brawn), he staked a claim this weekend for promotion to elite group of Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton. Fastest in every practice session and qualifying — faster than Lewis Hamilton, this is — and then this afternoon quick, easy on his tyres and cool and in control as all around him, to borrow a phrase, we’re losing their heads.
It was a race in four parts, with two safety car periods (the first of the year) and a red flag after the track had been reassembled to look like that bit in Iron Man II when Micky Rourke comes after Robert Downey Jnr.
While other young guns — take a bow Romain Grojean and Sergio Perez — were running everyone else off the track, Rosberg led from the lights to the flag, never once letting Sebastian Vettel get to a position to be remotely threatening. Behind Vettel in third, Mark Webber was able to keep Lewis Hamilton behind him in fourth. Is this what Mercedes anticipated when it wrote that big cheque to Lewis’ management?
It’s still a mystery how Hamilton lost second place, having held it comfortably for the first 30 laps until Felipe Massa’s spectacular re-run of yesterday’s crash saw the SLS fired up for the first time. The safety car came out at exactly the right time for the Mercedes, but it seems Hamilton relaxed rather too much. It gave the teams time to stack their cars for the inevitable switch from supersofts to softs, and he came out behind the two Red Bulls.
At that point after the safety car it looked like a 40-odd lap race to the finish on the harder tyres, but the bunched pack behind the leaders had other ideas. It all got quite exciting, didn’t it; the likes of Sergio Perez and Adrian Sutil showing no regard for the reputations of Jenson Button and especially Fernando Alonso among others? Who says you can’t overtake at Monaco?
Further down the field Max Chilton found himself on the wrong part of the racetrack and unaware that Pastor Maldonado stood between him and the racing line. Bang! If it was amazing how Maldonado’s Williams took flight it was more amazing still the way the barrier wrapped itself around the Williams, totally blocking the track. Red flag.
The break in the racing meant a chance to switch back to the softer option tyres and all the leaders jumped at the chance. Once again it looked like a straight race to the flag (albeit with some anxiety around whether the softs — all secondhand remember— would make it), and once again it kicked off in the bunched pack behind the leading four. That is until Romain Grosjean followed what seems to have been his fate this weekend, although he ended up in the back of Daniel Riciardo’s Toro Rosso and not the Armco this time. Another safety car and all anxieties around those supersofts removed.
In all this Rosberg kept his cool, nailed all his re-starts and apparently never even came close to running out of rubber. Hamilton meanwhile was clearly bothered that he couldn’t find a way past Webber, and Vettel had to remind his team why he’s a racing driver when Red Bull suggested he might want to think why he was setting fastest laps at the end of the race; “Satisfaction”.
It won’t have escaped your notice that there’s a bit of a kerfuffle going on right now after it emerged last night that Mercedes had its own little private test on Pirelli rubber in the three days after Barcelona. Pirelli said it is perfectly entitled to ask a team to help it work on a specific issue, reportedly with next year’s tyres. Well maybe that is the case, but when it comes to not just being squeaky clean, but appearing to be squeaky clean, choosing the leading team that’s been struggling most with its tyres and for that team to have apparently, for now at least, resolved those issues, it wasn’t the smartest move.
Red Bull and Ferrari have protested (of course they have), and this is posted the result is not confirmed. It would be a crying shame if Rosberg loses out. His performance over these last few days deserves to be the story. What do you think?