In some ways, a slightly dull race that burst to life at the end, but also a deeply frustrating one from a betting perspective. The Kvyat bet was plain wrong, he drove well throughout. The Force India double points bet really should’ve come off, but for Alonso pushing Hulkenberg into the barriers on the first lap. And even then he finished 11th. I try to be objective about when I’m just wrong and when I’m unlucky, but it does feel like every 50/50 is going wrong so far this year (the late safety car at one race, the Maldonado retirement last time when Lotus had the pace to double score, Hulkenberg today). Still, I think luck evens itself out over time, so hopefully I’ll end up with some flukey wins later this season, but it’s pretty frustrating right now.
Off the line Kvyat passed Ricciardo, otherwise station was more or less held. Annoyingly, Alonso barged Hulkenberg out of his way (both started on the soft [prime] tyre), costing the German about a minute and a new nose. Because he started soft, he had to change to super-soft and shift to a two stop strategy, costing another 20-30s or so.
It was dry, and it was Monaco. The cars circulated. Maldonado retired (his car broke. Again. For all the jokes, he’s actually been driving really well this year, and has been let down by dire reliability). Alonso, having ruined my bet, was struck down by the implacable power of karma and also retired due to poor reliability.
With perhaps 15 laps or so left, Verstappen was behind Grosjean, who was struggling. The young Dutchman was eyeing up the French chap’s rear, poised to pounce, but buggered it up and rammed Grosjean from behind, taking them both out of the race. A safety car emerged.
And then Mercedes decided to be very stupid. Hamilton, who had around 21s advantage over Rosberg, was pitted. And came out not only behind his team mate, but Vettel as well.
Hamilton was on the faster supersoft tyre and was clearly faster than Vettel, but the German didn’t win four world titles by accident and in Monaco track position is king. There was no way past for Hamilton, who was (briefly) under threat from a very fast Ricciardo (who, having been obligingly let past by his team mate, slowed before the line to let the talented young Russian back ahead of him).
Behind Ricciardo was Raikkonen, who complained on the radio of being pushed aside by the Aussie [unlike the Alonso-Hulkenberg collision, which led to the Spaniard suffering a not very onerous 5s stop-and-go penalty during a pit stop, the Finn did not have any damage or hit the barriers]. Perez was rock solid in 7th, from start to finish, and had pretty good pace, it seems.
Button gets McLaren’s first points of the year. But for Alonso’s retirement after making the gods angry, they would’ve gotten even more. Hard to judge pace properly, given Monaco’s premium on track position, but we’ll see how they do in Canada.
Nasir was 9th, getting yet more valuable points for Sauber. Not really sure how that happened. He’s a pretty good driver, and the car seems a little hit-and-miss, but good on its day. Sainz got the final point. Hulkenberg was 11th.
However, there’s only one story from the race, which is Mercedes’ monumental and entirely unforced buggering up of strategy by needlessly pitting Hamilton. Had he emerged ahead of Vettel, the ultimate pace of the car would’ve allowed the top two to open up a gap to the Ferrari and then swap places. Vettel being 2nd meant that was not a viable strategy. Hamilton drops 10 points, net, to Rosberg, and 3 to Vettel, both of whom are genuine title contenders.
Here’s how the title race stands after a memorable race in Monaco:
Hamilton’s still favourite, but I’m surprised Rosberg’s as long as 6.2. The German started this year pretty poorly, but he had a strong race in Bahrain, cruised to victory in Spain and won again in Monaco (yes, it was a fluke, but the points still count, as does the potential damage done between Hamilton and the team for their stupid decision which cost him the win).
The top four Constructors seem locked in place (Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams, Red Bull) but 5-8 are pretty tight:
Force India 17
Toro Rosso 15
Lotus have been suffering dire reliability, and Force India have a B-spec car coming later this year (after Austria) which should help their pace. I doubt Sauber can retain their current 5th spot, but if they do it’ll be a fantastic achievement for a team that was, frankly, terrible last year.
I have been a bit down on Monaco [with just cause] but there’s no denying the twist this year made the end of the race dramatic and enthralling. Betting-wise, I remain a bit miffed.
Anyway, the golden rule of betting is to only bet what you can afford to lose. Doesn’t mean I’m happy about a combination of ill-judgement and misfortune, but I am looking forward to the next race. And, best of all, it’s a proper circuit. Where you can exciting things, like passing other cars. In a fortnight, F1’s in Canada.