Nico Rosberg dominates en route to Monaco GP victory

14 Comments

Nico Rosberg has won a thrilling Monaco Grand Prix following a cool and controlled performance, leading every lap to claim a win that sees him match the achievement of his father, Keke, thirty years ago.

Rosberg’s lead was threatened by constant stoppages thanks to two safety cars and a red flag, but he managed to finish ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber come the end of the race thanks to some excellent tire management and sheer pace. His teammate, Lewis Hamilton, missed out on the podium following a mix-up under the safety car, whilst championship contenders Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen both struggled for pace, finishing 7th and 10th respectively.

Off the start, Mercedes’ front-row lockout was threatened by Sebastian Vettel who made a good start, but he could not make any progress from P3 after getting stuck on the inside of Ste Devote. All of the drivers got through the first corner safely, and it wasn’t until the tight Loews hairpin that contact was made between Adrian Sutil and Jean-Eric Vergne. Both managed to continue with no problems unlike Pastor Maldonado and qualifying hero Giedo van der Garde, who had to pit on the first lap. Jules Bianchi was forced to start from the pit lane after failing to complete the parade lap, whilst Felipe Massa could not make much progress from P21. At the front, Rosberg and Hamilton managed to open up a small buffer to Red Bull, with most of the teams entering tire management mode. McLaren saw the rivalry between their drivers renewed from Bahrain, but Sergio Perez was forced to concede the position to Button after cutting two chicanes, and a fire on Charles Pic’s car ended his race after just nine laps.

The first round of pit stops saw Webber, Alonso and Raikkonen come in early in an attempt to use the undercut, but they appeared to gain very little. Mercedes continued to push deep into the race, with their engineers telling Rosberg and Hamilton to slowly up their pace. The Silver Arrows did eventually pit under the safety car, which was brought out for the first time in 2013 after a hefty crash from Felipe Massa, mirroring the incident in FP3 on Saturday. Hamilton was the big loser from the incident, coming out of the pits behind Vettel and Webber, but Rosberg still headed the field for Mercedes.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

Off the restart, Rosberg controlled the field and maintained his lead, with Hamilton hounding Webber for position. The Mercedes did get past the Red Bull, but only for a split second as Webber quickly recovered his position. Tailing Raikkonen, Alonso ran wide at the Loews hairpin and Button tried to squeeze past, only to touch the Ferrari and eventually lose out to Perez for P7. The Mexican driver continued to make a move on Alonso, but the Ferrari driver just managed to hold onto 6th. On lap 46, the race was red flagged after Pastor Maldonado crashed heavily into the barrier at Tabac following contact with Max Chilton. The incident was so severe that the TecPro barrier came out onto the race track, warranting the red flag, and thankfully Maldonado was okay despite the big shunt. This saw the drivers re-assemble on the grid in race order, and their mechanics were able to make changes to the cars and fit new tires.

When the racing resumed, Alonso was forced to give up his position to Perez after the FIA investigated his earlier move, and Hamilton began to put pressure on Webber for the final podium position. Not willing to settle for 6th, Perez tried to pass Kimi Raikkonen, who had opted to run on the harder tire on the restart, but he could not find a way past the Lotus. For Alonso, his weekend went from bad to worse as Adrian Sutil caught him napping to pass into the Loews hairpin. Rosberg did not let the pressure get to him at the front as he opened up a steady gap, but Bianchi cracked and his race ended in the barrier at Ste Devote following a mistake. An over-zealous move from Grosjean sent Daniel Ricciardo off down the slip road, and as the Lotus driver pitted for a fresh nose cone, the safety car was deployed for a second time. Grosjean soon returned to the pits and retired from the race.

Rosberg quickly set about opening up his lead once again on the restart, moving outside of the DRS window. Perez tried once again to pass Raikkonen, losing a portion of his front wing after the Finnish driver shut the door on his move at the Nouvelle Chicane. Raikkonen suffered a slow puncture, forcing him to pit and drop outside of the points. As the field slowed, Alonso lost yet another position to Button, with the two-time Monaco winner ending up P8. However, he recovered the position after Sergio Perez pulled off the circuit, handing 5th place to Sutil with four laps to go. Late on, Raikkonen recovered to collect one point, but nobody could stop Rosberg as he won the second grand prix of his career.

MRTI: Barber Recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Leave a comment

The weekend at Barber Motorsports Park for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires was a tale of two completely different days.

Saturday was a picturesque Spring day for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, with bright sunshine and temperatures above 70 degrees. Sunday, however, was much cooler and wetter, with rain hitting both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights races.

Still, the packed weekend for both series produced plenty of drama, and each now sees its championship picture beginning to take shape.

Major stories to surface from the weekend at Barber for both series are below.

Indy Lights

  • Pato O’Ward has been, by a considerable margin, the fastest driver after four races in 2018. A winner of three races – which easily could be four if not for a mistake while leading Race 2 in St. Petersburg – and a polesitter for two, O’Ward has asserted himself as the early-season man to beat in the title chase, leading Santi Urrutia with 110 points to 94. O’Ward already has big-league championship to his name – he was a co-champion of the Prototype Challenge class in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship last year, and he is poised to add to that in 2018.
  • Victor Franzoni is starting to get his arms around the IL-15. Last year’s Pro Mazda champion gets better with every race, and he earned his first Indy Lights podium in Race 2 at Barber, finishing second. It would hardly be a surprise if Franzoni breaks into the win column soon.
  • Aaron Telitz’s run of hard luck continued in Race 1 on Saturday, as he was collected by a spinning Dalton Kellett and retired from the race with a damaged right-front. That meant through three races, Telitz had completed a combined four corners. Race 2 finally produced a clean day for the 2016 Pro Mazda champion, as he ran all the laps on his way to finishing fourth.
  • Colton Herta scored a double-podium at Barber, with finishes of second and third. Sitting on 83 points, he is 19 back of leader O’Ward. He’ll need to break into the win column to make up ground, but consistently finishing on the podium will also help his efforts, and prevent O’Ward from making big leaps away from him.

Pro Mazda

  • Although he might be disappointed to miss out on sweeping the weekend, Parker Thompson has lots of reasons to smile leaving Barber, as he overtook Rinus VeeKay for the championship lead by four points, 102 to 98. Thompson has had two strong weekends to open the Pro Mazda season, with finishes of second, fifth, first, and second after four races. He and VeeKay have emerged as possible title combatants after the opening two weekends.
  • Speaking of VeeKay, the 17-year-old Dutchman had a quiet weekend at Barber, with finishes of fourth and fifth after lacking pace in qualifying – he qualified seventh and ninth for Race 1 and Race 2. After dominating at St. Pete, VeeKay’s lack of pace was somewhat puzzling, though it could be indicative of a Pro Mazda field that is deep with talent. Expect him to rebound at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in May.
  • Oliver Askew’s troublesome start to the 2018 season only got worse at Barber, with finishes of seventh and 12th on a weekend in which he never factored into the outcome. The struggles of him and Cape Motorsports is mystifying given their prowess in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda on their way to winning the championship last year. Getting into championship contention at this point is a tall task – he is 46 points behind Thompson – but righting the ship will be priority No. 1 for him and Cape heading to Indianapolis.
  • Harrison Scott enjoyed a great rebound after struggling in St. Pete, where he finished ninth and 12th. He took his first Pro Mazda podium in Race 1, finishing second, and then survived a chaotic and rainy Race 2 to take his first victory. The successful weekend also vaulted him into fourth in the championship.
  • David Malukas has also put together a solid season through four races, with finishes of seventh, second, third, and fifth. The BN Racing driver sits third in the championship, and may well end up challenging for race wins soon.

All three series of the Mazda Road to Indy will be in action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course during the weekend of the INDYCAR Grand Prix (May 11-12), with USF2000 returning after a two-month break following the season opener in St. Petersburg.

Follow@KyleMLavigne