Late-race attrition adds twist to Monaco GP, six cars out in 20 laps (VIDEOS)

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Sebastian Vettel may have looked calm on the podium after clinching victory in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix, but some late-race drama caused by cars further back had put him under far greater pressure in the closing stages.

Vettel leapfrogged Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen through the pit stops to take the lead of the race at half distance before surging 10 seconds clear.

However, Vettel’s lead was wiped away when the safety car was deployed following a clash between Jenson Button and Pascal Wehrlein at Portier, one of the tightest parts of the circuit.

Battling for 18th place, Button tried diving down the inside of Wehrlein, only for the pair to knock wheels and the German’s Sauber to tip in the air, coming to rest at a 90-degree angle up against the wall.

The incident sparked concern among the passing drivers, but Wehrlein soon reported to his team that he was OK, and simply could not get out of his car due to the position of the wall.

The Monegasque marshals were quick to come to Wehrlein’s aid and right his car before sending him off to the medical center for a check-up.

The incident acted as the first in a string of late drama that saw six cars drop out in the close 21 laps, with the safety car bunching the field and resulting in some desperate moves.

The next retirement came courtesy of Marcus Ericsson in one of the more embarrassing mistakes you will see in F1 this year as he crashed behind the safety car.

As a lapped car, Ericsson was given the wave-by to pass the safety car and try to unlap himself, only to duff his Sauber into the wall at Turn 1 in the process.

Turn 1 would claim another victim on the restart when Stoffel Vandoorne threw away McLaren’s chance to score its first points of the year. As Sergio Perez made a divebomb move up the inside, Vandoorne was unable to slow on the marbles and careered straight into the barrier, bringing his race to an end.

Perez continued to charge after passing Vandoorne, making an opportunistic move on Daniil Kvyat through La Rascasse. The pair made contact, leaving a hole in Kvyat’s sidepod and forcing the Russian driver to park up at Casino Square.

The final casualty of the race was Lance Stroll, who after reporting concerns with his brakes was seen being parked up in his garage with seven laps to go, extending the Canadian’s point-less start to life in F1.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.