Sebastian Vettel completed 56 laps on one set of Pirelli tyres as he won a hard fought Monaco Grand Prix that was punctuated by a late accident for Vitaly Petrov.
The Russian was involved in a collision on Lap 72 which brought out red flags. He was taken to the medical centre but is not thought to have anything more serious than bruised legs.
Both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were in with a good chance of taking the victory before the race was stopped, but they ultimately had to settle for second and third places respectively.
Mark Webber had a difficult afternoon before recovering to finish fourth, Kamui Kobayashi got his best ever result in Formula 1 as he took fifth place and Lewis Hamilton had an eventful and accident-filled afternoon as he finish sixth – a result that he may yet loose.
Adrian Sutil and Nick Heidfeld finished seventh and eighth. Rubens Barrichello picked up Williams' first points of 2011 by finishing ninth and Sebastien Buemi collected the final point.
It was another glorious day in Monaco; not a cloud in the sky and an air temperature of 23 degrees Celsius. Sergio Perez was absent after his qualifying accident yesterday, and those who had qualified behind him had shifted forward on the grid to fill the empty slot.
As the five lights went out, Fernando Alonso leapt off the line from fourth on the grid to overtake Mark Webber. Pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel kept his lead easily off the line and Jenson Button held onto second, fending off the charging Alonso into the first corner.
Michael Schumacher had an atrocious start, slipping from fifth down to tenth. He caught Hamilton napping around the hairpin on the first lap, and clawed back one of those lost positions.
By the end of Lap 2, Vettel already had a 3.2 second lead over Button, and was quickly vanishing into the distance. Webber was close to Button in third, Alonso was fourth and Massa was fifth.
For the opening ten laps, the greatest source of excitement was the battle for ninth place between Schumacher, who held the position, and Hamilton, who was eager to get past him. On Lap 10, with Schumacher's rear tyres beginning to grain, Hamilton made a brave move on the Mercedes and, with a little help from the DRS, he took the position.
Rubens Barrichello followed Hamilton past Schumacher a couple of laps later, and the seven-time world champion made his first pit stop at the end of Lap 12. In addition to a new set of super-soft tyres, Schumacher also took on a new nose. He re-joined the track down in P21.
Meanwhile, a train was forming behind Nico Rosberg, with Felipe Massa, Pastor Maldonado, Vitaly Petrov and Hamilton all stuck behind the Ferrari driver. Massa had a few attempts to get past Rosberg, a couple of them ending with a few pieces being knocked off the Ferrari front wing. Eventually he Massa got through, and Maldonado snuck through at the same corner.
Button was the first of the leaders to pit at the end of Lap 15, taking on some more option tyres. He dropped from second to fourth, taking advantage of the huge gap made by the slow moving Rosberg.
Vettel responded on the next lap, but a sticking tyre blanket slowed down his stop. He eventually took on a set of the prime tyres but his slow stop gifted Button the lead of the grand prix. Webber followed straight behind, and because of Vettel's slow stop, Red Bull was not ready for him. He had a 15.5 second pit stop for a set of the super soft compound tyre, and was relegated down to fourteenth place.
Alonso followed the next time round for a set of soft tyres, and narrowly missed out on leap-frogging Vettel. He re-joined the track in third.
At the end of Lap 20, Button had a lead of 8.8 seconds over Vettel. Alonso was a further 3.7 seconds down the road and Massa, who was yet to stop, was down in fourth place. The two Mercedes drivers, who were clearly having tyre wear troubles during this race, were languishing eighteenth and nineteenth.
Hamilton came into the pits at the end of Lap 22, and his pit crew were not ready for him either. His stop for super-soft tyres was 9.7 seconds, and he came out behind Mark Webber, who was also woefully out of position.
Paul di Resta attempted a hopelessly optimistic move on Jaime Alguersuari around the hairpin – a move which lost him his rear wing. The Scot's misery was further compounded after the stewards awarded him a drive-through penalty for causing an avoidable accident. Schumacher showed fans how such a move should be done a few laps later by overtaking team-mate Rosberg at the same spot.
Leader Button made his second stop at the end of Lap 33 with a 13.3 second lead. He emerged in third, taking on more super-soft tyres, guaranteeing that he would have to stop again.
Whilst it was all going so well for Button, Hamilton was in the wars again. He attempted to barge his way past Massa at the hairpin, and several pieces of carbon fibre were knocked off the two cars and also off Mark Webber who was running just in front of this battle. Hamilton was later given a drive-through penalty for this move.
Later that lap, Hamilton had another attempt at the move in the tunnel, forcing Massa off the racing line and onto the marbles. With no grip, Massa hit the barriers, ending his race and bringing out the safety car.
Just as the safety car was deployed Schumacher came to a halt at the entrance to the pit-lane, and his race was over.
Vettel did not pit for new tyres when the safety car came out, but Alonso did. Vettel had the lead of the grand prix behind the safety car – he had made just one stop, but had used both compounds of tyre. Button was second and Alonso was third – both of these drivers had made two stops.
The safety car came in at the end of Lap 39, but Button had some cars to lap before he was in striking distance of Vettel with his fresh set of super-soft tyres. Button was quickly up to the back of Vettel though.
Instead of trying to pass Vettel on track, Button pitted at the end of Lap 48 to take on a set of the slower prime tyre. He was now relying on leader Vettel and second-placed man Alonso both pitting for another set of tyres, not something that they were obliged to do as they had both used both dry compounds already.
This seemed like a pretty safe bet, considering that Vettel had taken on his prime tyres on Lap 16. However, as Lap 60 of 78 came and went, and Vettel was still out in front, it was beginning to look as though Vettel was determined to stick it out on the ancient Pirelli rubber.
Soon Vettel, Alonso and Button were laying nose to tail on the track, and there were more ten laps of the race to go. Something had to giveâ€¦
It almost did as the leading trio caught up with a train of cars, led by Pastor Maldonado. Hamilton was in that train too, trying to overtake within that train. As Vettel approached, Sutil managed to hit the wall on the out of the track, just as Lewis Hamilton was trying to overtake Vitaly Petrov. In the confusion, Jaime Alguersuari ran into the back of Hamilton, and Petrov was also caught up in the melee. Petrov and Alguersuari were left stranded on the race track whilst Hamilton was forced to circulate with a broken rear-wing.
Somehow, the leading trio got through the chaos, but the safety car was now out for the second time. Petrov required medical attention and the red flag was brought out on Lap 72. The Russian was taken to the medical centre but Renault team principal Eric Boullier told the BBC that he had no serious injuries.
All the cars still left in the grand prix came back round to the starting grid, ready for a six lap sprint to the chequered flag. McLaren mechanics made hasty repairs to Hamilton's rear wing on the grid, and Vettel and Alonso could finally get their fresh tyres as they waited for the restart – effectively ruining the exciting finish that had been in the offing.
The race restarted behind the safety car. Vettel was leading, Alonso was second, Hamilton third, Kamui Kobayashi fourth and Mark Webber was fifth. Hamilton's rear wing was fixed, and he was down in seventh, behind Pastor Maldonado. All runners had had the chance to take on fresh tyres.
The safety car came in within one lap, and there were now five laps of the Monaco Grand Prix to be run under full racing conditions.
Those full racing conditions lasted for mere seconds before the yellow flags came out. Lewis Hamilton tried to get past Maldonado into St. Devote at the first opportunity, the Williams turned in on him, spun round, hit the barrier, and was out of the race.
The last bit of action was a pass by Mark Webber on Kamui Kobayashi in the closing stages of the grand prix to take fourth place.
Monaco Grand Prix 2011: Provisional Race Result
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||78||2:09:38.373||25||Report|
|2||5||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||78||+1.1 secs||18|
|3||4||Jenson Button||McLaren||78||+2.3 secs||15|
|4||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull||78||+23.1 secs||12||Report|
|5||16||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber||78||+26.9 secs||10||Report|
|6||3||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren||78||+27.2 secs||8||Report|
|7||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India||77||+1 Lap||6||Report|
|8||9||Nick Heidfeld||Renault||77||+1 Lap||4|
|9||11||Rubens Barrichello||Williams||77||+1 Lap||2|
|10||18||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso||77||+1 Lap||1|
|11||8||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||76||+2 Lap||Report|
|12||15||Paul di Resta||Force India||76||+2 Lap||Report|
|13||21||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus||76||+2 Lap|
|14||20||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus||76||+2 Lap|
|15||25||Jerome D'Ambrosio||Virgin Racing||75||+3 Lap|
|16||23||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Hispania Racing||75||+3 Lap|
|17||22||Narain Karthikeyan||Hispania Racing||74||+4 Lap|
|18||12||Pastor Maldonado||Williams||73||+5 Lap|
|Ret||10||Vitaly Petrov||Renault||67||+11 Lap|
|Ret||19||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso||66||+12 Lap|
|Ret||6||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||32||+46 Laps|
|Ret||7||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes||32||+46 Laps||Report|
|Ret||24||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing||30||+48 Laps|