Hulkenberg impressive once again, finishing fifth in Monaco

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Nico Hulkenberg once again put in an impressive display to finish the Monaco Grand Prix in fifth place for Force India.

The German driver has made a sensational start to the season, scoring points in every race so far, and with this result he has risen to fifth place in the drivers’ championship ahead of defending world champion Sebastian Vettel.

After starting in 11th place, Hulkenberg moved up to eighth behind Jean-Eric Vergne before the first round of stops despite starting on the slower tire. He pitted under the safety car, and gained a place when the Frenchman was penalized for an unsafe release in the pit lane.

Hulkenberg then made an extraordinary overtake on McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen at Portier to move up to fifth place after Kimi Raikkonen had also hit trouble and dropped back. Despite his tires fading towards the end, the German driver managed to fend off Jenson Button and score ten valuable points.

“Ten points today is a great reward after such a difficult race,” Hulkenberg explained. “The last 20 laps were really tricky because my super-soft tires were at the end of their life and it was hard to hold off the cars behind me and stay away from the barriers.

“There were some enjoyable moments in the race, especially my move on Magnussen. He had to let the Toro Rosso back through and he lost a bit of momentum so I saw my opportunity to stick my nose down the inside of turn eight. On a track like Monaco it gives you a big smile to make the move stick.”

However, Force India teammate Sergio Perez was less fortunate as he crashed out on the first lap. At Mirabeau, the Mexican tangled with Jenson Button, and was forced to retire from the race.

Once again, though, Hulkenberg proved his sheer class, giving the bigger teams in Formula 1 an idea of what they’re missing after passing up the opportunity to sign him.

F1 2017 driver review: Kimi Raikkonen

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Kimi Raikkonen

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 7
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 7
Best Finish: P2 (Monaco, Hungary)
Pole Positions: 1
Fastest Laps: 2
Points: 205
Laps Led: 40
Championship Position: 4th

While this may have statistically been Kimi Raikkonen’s best campaign since his first year back in F1 in 2012, there is a good case for it being one of his most disappointing to date.

Raikkonen’s continued role at Ferrari has been questioned on a number of occasions, but the Finn looked capable of answering his critics heading into 2017 after impressing through pre-season testing as he appeared to get to grips well with the new-style cars.

But we soon grew accustomed to the same old story: flashes of potential, but otherwise an underwhelming, unsatisfactory campaign that saw Raikkonen be dwarfed by his teammate, Sebastian Vettel.

Raikkonen’s charge to his first pole position for over eight years in Monaco gave hope of a popular win, only for Ferrari to play its strategy in favor of title contender Vettel – why wouldn’t the team do so? – to leave him a disgruntled second.

While Vettel was able to impress at the majority of circuits, Raikkonen only looked strong at tracks that were unquestionably ‘Ferrari’ tracks, such as Hungary and Brazil. Like Vettel, Raikkonen should have racked up a good haul of points in Singapore, only for the start-line crash to sideline both Ferraris before they even reached Turn 1.

Again there is the question of ‘what could have been?’ in Malaysia had it not been for the spark plug issue on the grid, yet in Japan, Raikkonen was nowhere, finishing behind the Mercedes and Red Bulls.

Finishing just five points clear of Daniel Ricciardo despite having a much faster car for the best part of the season and the Red Bull driver’s own reliability issues sums up the disappointment of Raikkonen’s campaign.

He should have been an ally for Vettel in the title race by nicking points of Lewis Hamilton, much as Valtteri Bottas was doing for his Mercedes teammate. Instead, Raikkonen seemed to be tagging along for the best part of this season.

Season High: Pole in Monaco, his first since the 2008 French Grand Prix.

Season Low: Finishing a distant P4 at Spa – a circuit he made his own in the 2000s.