Rosberg joins Hill, Prost and Senna as Monaco three-peat winners after gifted victory

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Nico Rosberg may have been gifted victory in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix by the Mercedes team, but the German driver joined a very exclusive club of Monaco three-peat winners on a funny day in the principality.

For the entirety of the weekend, Rosberg had been second best, trailing his teammate in FP1, FP2 and qualifying before falling 19 seconds adrift in the race ahead of the safety car period.

Mercedes’ decision to pit Hamilton was a disastrous one, given that his lead was not quite big enough to be so complacent and try to rub salt into the wound by exacting an even more crushing defeat on the rest of the field.

The result was that Rosberg, who had spent the entire weekend in the shadows, was able to claim his third successive win around the streets of Monaco that he has called home for the majority of his life.

With victory, he became just the fourth driver in the 86-year history of the Monaco Grand Prix to win it three years in a row.

Graham Hill was the first driver to complete a hat-trick in such fashion, winning in 1963, 1964 and 1965. He would win again in 1968 and 1969 to earn himself the nickname ‘Mr. Monaco’.

Four-time world champion Alain Prost was next up in achieving a Monaco three-peat with victories in 1984, 1985 and 1986 for McLaren.

However, he was soon put in the shade around the streets of the principality. Ayrton Senna made his name in the 1984 race at Monaco when he so nearly denied Prost a win, only for a questionable red flag call to curtail his charge.

Senna soon lifted himself onto the top step of the podium, winning for the first time in 1987 for Lotus. In 1988, he looked poised to win for a second time after producing what is widely regarded as being the greatest qualifying lap in F1 history to finish 1.4 seconds clear of Prost.

In total control of the race, the Brazilian made an uncharacteristic error at Portiers. He got out of his car and went straight to his apartment, and wasn’t seen for many days.

Senna bounced back the following year to start a run of five successive wins at Monaco, taking his final tally to six. Crazier still, it could so easily have been seven in a row, if not eight overall.

And now Rosberg joins the three-peat party. His status in F1 may not yet be up there with Hill, Senna or Prost, but he certainly has etched his place in the history of the sport with this victory, even if it did come under rather bizarre circumstances.

SuperMotocross: Ken Roczen urgently needed change

Roczen change
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
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Change can be frightening, but it is often exhilarating and Ken Roczen, a rider in his ninth season on a 450 bike, it was urgently needed.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with his worst performance in five years. After finishing outside of the top five in seven of his last eight rounds in the stadium series, well down the points’ standings in ninth, he decided to put that season on hold.

How it ended was in stark contrast to how it began. Roczen’s 2022 season got off to the best possible start. He won the Supercross opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California by more than seven seconds over the 2021 champion Cooper Webb.

That would be his last podium and he scored only one more top-five in the Glendale, Arizona Triple Crown.

MORE: Ken Roczen sweeps top five in Anaheim 2 Triple Crown

Before 2022, Roczen was a regular challenger for the championship despite being plagued by major accidents that required surgery in 2017 and 2018. On his return, he was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which presents with symptoms of heavy fatigue, muscle weakness and loss of appetite and last year he tested positive for COVID-19.

Against those odds, he finished second in the outdoor season in 2019 and third in 2020. In the Supercross series, he finished third in 2020 and second in 2021.

But the abbreviated season of 2022 signaled a need for change for Roczen.

“I needed the change urgently,” Roczen said in last week’s post-race press conference at Angel Stadium. “I did a pretty big change in general.”

Those comments came three races into the 2023 with him sitting among the top three finishers for the first time in 10 Supercross rounds. It was the 57th podium of his career, only six behind 10th-place Ryan Villopoto. It was also the first for Suzuki since 2019 when Chad Reed gave them one in Detroit 63 rounds ago.

Taking time off at the end of the Supercross season had the needed effect. He rejoined SuperMotocross in the outdoor season and immediately stood on the podium at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. Two rounds later, he won at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. The relief was short lived and he would not stand on the podium again until this year.

Roczen Motocross Round 3
Ken Roczen won Round 3 of the outdoor season in 2022 at Thunder Valley after finished second in Moto 1 and first in Moto 2. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Winds of Change

Roczen’s offseason was dramatic. Citing differences over his announcement to compete in the World Supercross Championship, he split with Honda HRC and declared himself a free agent. It wasn’t a difficult decision; Roczen was signed only for the Supercross season.

That change had the desired effect. Roczen won the WSX championship in their two-race, pilot season. More importantly, he proved to himself that he could compete for wins.

Late in the offseason, Roczen announced he would also change manufacturers with a move to HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki. He won the 2016 Pro Motocross title for Suzuki with nine wins in 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second. He easily outran the competition with an advantage of 86 points over second-place Eli Tomac.

“I just think change overall made it happen – and these overseas races – it’s really just a snowball,” Roczen said. “You start somewhere and you feel like something works out and I got better and had more fun doing it. Working with the team as well and working on the motorcycle to get better and actually see it paying off. It’s just, it’s just a big boost in general.”

The return to Suzuki at this stage of his career, after nearly a decade of competing on 450 motorcycles, recharged Roczen. He is one of three riders, (along with Cooper Webb and his former Honda teammate Chase Sexton), with a sweep of the top five in the first three rounds of the 2023 Supercross season.

But last week’s podium really drove home how strong he’s been.

“I think we’re all trying to take it all in,” Roczen said. “I wouldn’t say it came out of nowhere really, but before the season starts you think about – or I thought of how my whole last season went – and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium.”

Roczen’s most recent podium prior to Anaheim 2 came at Budds Creek Motocross Park in Mechanicsville, Maryland last August in Round 10 of the outdoor season. His last podium in Supercross was the 2022 season opener that raised expectations so high.

Supercross Round 1 results
Ken Roczen raised expectations with his season opening win at Anaheim but did not stand on the box again in the Supercross series. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

The change Roczen needed was not just a different team and bike. More importantly, he needed the freedom to set his own schedule and control his training schedule.

“It’s long days, but I’m really into it at the moment,” Roczen said. “Overall, I felt [that] throughout this off season and now my health has been really well, really good, so that helps. It’s needed to get to the top. I’m pretty confident that we’re, we’re doing the right thing – that I’m doing the right thing.

“I’m doing all my training on my own and I’m planning out my entire week. And I feel like I have a really good system going right now with recovery and putting in some hard days. Right now, I don’t really have anybody telling me what to do. I’m the best judge of that.

“It’s really hard to talk about how much work we’ve put in, but we’ve been doing some big changes and riding a lot throughout the week, some really, really late days. And they’re paying off right now; we’re heading in the right direction. We’re all pulling on the same string, and that helps me out big time.”