Nico Rosberg took his second career win today after emerging unscathed from an eventful Monaco Grand Prix that saw a red flag, two safety cars, and seven retirements.
Sebastian Vettel increased his lead in the drivers’ championship to 21 points after finishing second and Kimi Raikkonen recovered from a late puncture to score just one point.
Mark Webber earned the fourth Monaco podium of his career by taking a solid third place for Red Bull, and Lewis Hamilton had to settle for fourth after losing out whilst pitting under the safety car.
Adrian Sutil demonstrated that it is possible to overtake around the streets of Monte Carlo as he grabbed fifth place.
Jenson Button finished sixth, ahead of Fernando Alonso who, after a strong start, spent most of the afternoon going backwards. Alonso has now slipped to 29 points behind championship leader Vettel.
It was a flawless victory from Rosberg. He started from pole position, got off the line without any problems, and held the lead of the grand prix. There were no tyre issues, at least none on the scale that Mercedes suffered in Barcelona a fortnight ago, and all Rosberg had to do was keep out of trouble.
The race quickly settled into a rhythm after the first few laps. All of the cars were bunched together, and nobody was willing to risk an early pit stop (in a bid for the infamous undercut) as there was no guarantee that they would feed back into the field in clear air.
The first major incident came on Lap 30 when Felipe Massa crashed at Ste Devote. It was almost a carbon copy of the accident that befell the Brazilian during FP3 yesterday morning and caused him to miss qualifying.
It was an incident that Lewis Hamilton will look back on and rue. He was running second at that point, behind Rosberg, and both Mercedes drivers were within the window for their pit stops.
Red Bull responded quickly to the Massa accident by bringing Vettel into the pits at the end of that lap, even before the safety car had been deployed.
Mercedes called their drivers into the pits one lap later, after the safety car had been deployed. The safety car picked up Vettel and teammate Mark Webber, but Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were able to make a dash for the pits before taking up their place behind Bernd Maylander. Meanwhile, the safety car was releasing the other cars, including the two Red Bulls, so it could pick up race leader Rosberg.
Rosberg was in and out of the pits in front of the chasing Vettel, but Hamilton, who was not at his pit box as teammate Rosberg was leaving it, lost out to Vettel and Webber, emerging from his one and only pit stop of the afternoon in a net fourth place.
When the safety car was called in on Lap 38, Rosberg comfortably maintained his race lead from the threatening Vettel, and Hamilton began a fruitless pursuit of Webber, who would not yield third place.
Next came the red flag! Max Chilton moved in front of Pastor Maldonado but did not leave enough room for the Venezuelan. The front wing of the Williams broke off and went under the car. This launched Maldonado into the air and then onto one of the TechPro barriers that line the track. The barrier furled around Maldondo’s car, and Race Director Charlie Whiting had no option but to stop the race.
After a break of around 20 minutes, the race restarted. However, it was soon back under safety car conditions when Romain Grosjean ran into the back of Daniel Ricciardo as the pair heading down to the Nouvelle chicane on Lap 63.
Grosjean did hobble back round to the pits for a new front wing, but Lotus retired his car just one lap later. His disastrous weekend, which involved three crashes during practice, was finally over.
Other notable drives came from Sergio Perez, who appeared to attempt more overtaking into the Nouvelle chicane than any other driver.
First the Mexican annoyed teammate Jenson Button by cutting the chicane when overtaking, prompting Button to complain to his team over the radio. “He’s got to stop turning in on me guys,” was the protest from the Brit.
However, after that first mistake, Perez started to learn. He successfully pulled off the same move on Button a few laps later, and then attempted the same move again with Fernando Alonso.
That move on Alonso would have come off if Alonso had not jumped the chicane. At least that was the view of the FIA, who ordered Alonso to give the place back to Perez, and Spaniard duly complied on the safety car lap after the race restart.
At this point, Perez was up to sixth, and on a roll. However, he went one step to far when he tried to pass Kimi Raikkonen. There was one failed attempt, which caused both Perez and Raikkonen to cut the chicane to avoid a collision, and prompted the Finn to radio into Lotus and call Perez an ‘idiot’.
Nevertheless, Perez was not to be deterred. He tried again, but went for a gap that was not there. Perez lost a big chunk of his front wing, and caused further damage that led to his retirement a few laps later.
Raikkonen got a left-rear puncture in that accident, and had to make a late pit stop. He emerged in sixteenth, with seven laps of the race to go. However, the difference between fresh tyres and worn tyres was sufficiently great that he passed Nico Hulkenberg on the final lap of the race to grab an improbable tenth place.
Perhaps Perez should have looked to Adrian Sutil for lessons in overtaking. The German, who started eighth, managed to overtake Button and a sleepy Alonso in the closing stages of the race, and eventually finished fifth.
Remarkably, Max Chilton was the highest finisher in the Caterham/Marussia battle, despite his part in the Maldonado retirement and subsequent penalty. The Brit took fourteenth, his best finish so far in F1.
The other Marussia of Jules Bianchi failed to start the formation lap, so had to begin the race from the pit lane. The French rookie was also involved in the crash that Chilton caused, and his afternoon ended in the barriers at Ste Devote after what looked like a failure on his car.
For Caterham, the excellent qualifying work of Giedo van der Gaarde was undone when he crashed into the back of Pastor Maldonado coming into the Lowes hairpin on the first lap.
Further disaster followed for the team on Lap 9 when Charles Pic’s car caught fire.