- Monaco Grand Prix - The Final Stint
Protests in the principality
A round-up of the good, the bad and the downright ugly from the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix
- Monaco Grand Prix
Mercedes should have been the toast of Monaco on Sunday night, but instead found itself embroiled in row that could have huge consequences for the team and the sport. Rosberg's victory is not at threat but a private test with Pirelli after the Spanish Grand Prix could land it with a huge fine or a serious sporting penalty. Despite being confident ahead of the race that it was not in the wrong, the evidence appears to be stacking up against Mercedes and their defence is looking seriously shaky. It's argument is based on Pirelli's contract with the FIA, which has a provision for the tyre company to complete 1000km of testing with any team in a contemporary car but only if every team is offered the opportunity to do so and the test is carried out by Pirelli and not the team. Those latter two points seem to be in question after being pointed out in an FIA statement, especially as Mercedes' rivals say they only found out about the test through their drivers following a GPDA meeting. Pirelli did write to the teams in 2012 about testing and says it received replies from some but not from others. There is no precedent for teams breaking the testing ban regulations so any possible fine is likely to be as big or small as the FIA's International Tribunal decides. A hefty financial fine or docked points are probably the most likely actions, but Mercedes will have the right to appeal any penalty handed out. If Mercedes is found guilty, the trick for Formula One will be to issue a sanction that matches the crime but does not give the Daimler board reason to question its future in the sport. It also remains to be seen if Pirelli is in breach of its contract for going ahead with the test and the implications on that for F1's tyre supply (see below).
Rosberg's provides the respite
Coming in to the Monaco Grand Prix weekend Mercedes was many people's tip for victory, with its one lap pace likely to prove decisive. Nico Rosberg duly delivered, and he did it emphatically. The fastest man in all three sessions, Rosberg just looked more at home than Lewis Hamilton - unsurprising as he's lived in the principality all his life, though he and Hamilton are now neighbours - straight from the first session. He admitted his only mistake was a poor start, but even that didn't stop him reaching turn one first and from that point on he never looked in trouble. It appeared to almost grate with Rosberg every time he was asked about the potential to become the first ever father-son combination to win the Monaco Grand Prix along with his dad Keke, but he should take it as a compliment that in no way does anyone think he has been in his father's shadow and almost expected him to do the job. It shouldn't be overlooked that he's done something neither Michael Schumacher nor Hamilton has yet - win in a Mercedes - and now he's done it twice.
The Story of the Weekend
- Shock: The amount of overtaking - Sutil at Loews, Perez at the Nouvelle Chicane, di Resta at Ste Devote and Button at Rascasse. Who said you can't overtake at Monaco?
- Shocker:Romain Grosjean - He looked quick all weekend, when he wasn't in the wall. His third crash included another car, ended his race and will see him start 10 places further back in Canada
- Best overtake: Adrian Sutil - Passing at Loews is hugely difficult, so to do it to both Button and Alonso was impressive
- Best lap: Kimi Raikkonen - He went from 13th to 10th in the space of a lap with just two to go to keep his point scoring run going
- Worst lap:Lewis Hamilton - Was too slow returning to the pits on lap 31 and lost out to both Red Bulls to blow the Mercedes one-two chance
- Drive of the day: Nico Rosberg - Could have been drive of the weekend as he never put a wheel wrong
The pieces of the 2014 engine puzzle are starting to fall into place but a hugely expensive picture is emerging. It was announced on Sunday that Toro Rosso will be supplied by Renault in 2014, which makes sense as Red Bull already has a very cosy relationship with the French manufacturer. Of greater interest, however, is the imminent tie up between Williams and Mercedes. Williams has only been with Renault for two years, and although there was plenty of fanfare about the history between the two, the cost of the V6 turbos from Viry appears to have convinced Williams to switch. Mercedes' Toto Wolff confirmed he had been in talks with Williams and on Saturday night Niki Lauda and other high-level Mercedes figures were seen entering the private confines of the Williams motor home.
Crashes and smashes
One crash in today's race in particular is sure to divide opinion. Sergio Perez tried to dive up the inside of Kimi Raikkonen in to the Nouvelle Chicane (his second attempt) but Raikkonen was closing the door from an early stage and there was inevitable contact. Perez said Raikkonen didn't give him any room, while Raikkonen said Perez was "stupid" and if he is blaming him then "he obviously has no idea what he's talking about". For once, Raikkonen's unlikely to get unanimous support as both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button went wheel-to-wheel with Perez and left space when required with the barriers so close. Two other incidents were much more clear cut: Max Chilton was naïve to try and return to the racing line with Pastor Maldonado nearby and caused a very big crash, but as a rookie's first mistake the punishment of a drive-through was sufficient. A more serial offender - Romain Grosjean - will be 10 places further back on the grid in Canada for driving in to the back of Daniel Ricciardo, but he'll probably be more relieved to know he has another chance to cling on to his Lotus seat after a wretched weekend.
In previous years there have been a few occasions where the question 'Has Formula One outgrown Monaco?' has been raised. Such high performance cars on the streets of Monte Carlo always throws up the potential for large crashes, and we saw a few this weekend. Felipe Massa had two especially big shunts at Ste Devote; almost identical incidents which saw him hit the barriers hard. That Massa walked away from the second one with slight neck pain just 24 hours after the first needs recognising, as does Pastor Maldonado's escape after his own heavy impact at Tabac. There will always remain dangers on street circuits but Monaco proved it is still capable of giving the drivers a good level of safety when things do go wrong.
Pirelli and F1
It's been a tough weekend for Pirelli. Things started badly on Thursday when it emerged it was struggling to get the teams to agree on a new rear tyre construction for the Canadian Grand Prix. The aim is to reduce the risk of delaminations, which have been a PR disaster for Pirelli this year, but not all of the paddock believe a mid-season change is necessary under safety grounds. The teams still haven't been given the final proposal for the Canada tyre, and with only two weeks left ahead of Montreal they need to agree fast. As Pirelli went on the defensive over that issue, it also pointed out that it is still without a contract for 2014. Paul Hembery made clear that if a deal is not sorted soon then Pirelli could quit the sport. The Mercedes testing scandal will do nothing to help the negotiations and there were murmurs among some journalists after the race that it could spell the end for Pirelli in F1. Hankook and Michelin, are you watching?