Sebastian Vettel won the Monaco Grand Prix after the race was red flagged and then restarted with only six laps to go. Fernando Alonso was second and Jenson Button third.
It was a fascinating three way battle for the victory, with three completely different race strategies creating tremendous tension and excitement. Vettel was forced into stopping only once, managing to do almost 60 laps on a set of tyres. while Alonso took advantage of a safety car to make his second stop and jumped Button, who drove an attacking three stop strategy, but the safety car wrecked it for him.
But it was red flagged with six laps to go after a heavy accident involving a group of cars, including Petrov, Hamilton, Sutil and Alguersuari.
Vettel held on at the restart to take his fifth win of the season and his first at Monaco.
“It was not a straightforward Monaco Grand Prix. I’m really happy. It’s a great honour, surely one of the best Grands Prix of the year,” said Vettel.
“If there had been no safety car it would have been hard to beat Jenson because he was so far ahead, but there was a safety car. The race was not easy, doing around 60 laps on a set of tyres.”
Alonso confirmed that he was planning to attack Vettel before the red flag came out, as he could see that Vettel’s tyres were shot. “I had nothing to lose, I’m not leading the championship. I had two places in mind to pass and if we crash we crash!” Alonso said.
At the start, Vettel got away cleanly, Button cut across Webber from second on the grid and Alonso managed to get alongside and past the Australian into third place.
Behind them Schumacher lost five places to tenth place, but managed to repass Lewis Hamilton for ninth. This cost Hamilton, who had started the race on the harder of the two Pirelli tyres, having had his time disallowed in qualifying.
Hamilton lost two seconds a lap behind Schumacher in the opening stages. As Schumacher’s rear tyres went off, Hamilton forced his way past on lap 10. But he was already 26 seconds adrift of the leaders.
Meanwhile Schumacher’s team mate Rosberg went from seventh to fifth. Maldonado and Petrov also made up a couple of places each.
Vettel drove away from Button, opening a four second lead after 8 laps. But then maintained that gap, lapping at the same pace as the McLaren and the Ferrari behind.
At the first round of stops both Red Bulls lost time, Vettel came in first and the delay on his stop meant that the team wasn’t ready for Webber.
Button on his supersoft tyres did a fast out lap and took the lead from Vettel, while Alonso pitted a lap later and rejoined third.
Button was the only one of the leaders to go for the supersoft tyres.
Vettel used the tyres to open a gap to Vettel. By lap 28 it was up to 13 seconds. The Mclaren’s race pace on the super soft tyres was very strong and Button nursed them well.
Button made his second stop on lap 33 and took another set of supersofts. Then he had some very bad luck. Multi stop strategies are always a risk at races where there is a risk of a safety car. At Monaco the risk is 71% and there is often a second one.
Hamilton and Massa collided at the hairpin on lap 35 and Massa crashed heavily in the tunnel shortly afterwards. This brought out the safety car. Hamilton was later given a drive through penalty for causing an accident.
Alonso took immediate advantage, while Adrian Sutil and Kamui Kobayashi took full advantage, making their first and only stop of the race. This put them in fourth and fifth positions.
Alonso was not in a strong position having pitted for soft tyres under the safety car.
The race retstarted on lap 39 with Vettel leading from Button and Alonso.
On lap 47 McLaren told Button that it was looking like Vettel was not going to pit soon, so he was told that he had to overtake Vettel to make the strategy work.
Instead Button pitted for soft tyres on lap 49 and put himself in position to undercut Vettel. Meanwhile Alonso was the big question mark – could he made the tyres last to the end from lap lap 36?
As Vettel went past the 40 laps mark on his set of soft tyres, still lapping in the 1m 19s, it proved it could be done.
Vettel had nothing to lose by staying out. If he pitted he would finish third anyway.
The three were nose to tail from 15 laps before the end.
Kobayashi forced his way past Sutil for fourth place on lap 66.
On lap 69 a crash involving Hamilton, Alguersuari, Sutil and Petrov happened right in front of the leaders as they came through. A safety car was deployed and it gave Vettel some respite from the pressure.
The race was red flagged, the drivers were allowed to change tyres before the restart, which helped Vettel.
Meanwhile the bulletin on Vitaly Petrov is that he complained of a sore ankle, but scans have revealed no broken bones.
* Don’t miss the UBS Strategy Report, with a deep dive into how the race strategies shaped this fantastic race here on JA on F1 shortly.
MONACO GRAND PRIX, Monte Carlo, 78 laps
1. Vettel Red Bull 2h09:38.373
2. Alonso Ferrari + 1.138
3. Button McLaren + 2.378
4. Webber Red Bull + 23.100
5. Kobayashi Sauber + 26.900
6. Hamilton McLaren + 27.200
7. Sutil Force India + 1 lap
8. Heidfeld Renault + 1 lap
9. Barrichello Williams + 1 lap
10. Buemi Toro Rosso + 1 lap
11. Rosberg Mercedes + 1 lap
12. Di Resta Force India + 2 laps
13. Trulli Lotus + 2 laps
14. Kovalainen Lotus + 2 laps
15. D’Ambrosio Virgin + 2 laps
16. Liuzzi HRT + 3 laps
17. Karthikeyan HRT + 3 laps
18. Maldonado Williams + 5 laps