An historic win at an historic race: Sebastian Vettel took the victory ahead of Kimi Raikkonen as Ferrari triumphed in Monaco. This was the Scuderia’s 227th world championship win, the 44th of Seb’s career and his sixth with the Reds. Vettel now leads the championship on 129 points, while Kimi is fourth on 67. This was the 82nd one-two finish in the Scuderia’s history.
As always in Monaco, a few minutes before the start, the grid is jammed with people, their hearts also filled with all sorts of feelings of expectation, emotion, concerns before it was time for the grid to form up with an all-Ferrari front row. So much is at stake in the few seconds it takes to get off the grid and run down to the braking zone at Ste. Devote. However, when you have both your cars on the front row, you in fact have the most normal of starts.
Kimi got away well from pole on the right side of the track, pulling Seb along behind him, who was fighting off the Mercedes. The two SF70Hs soon pulled out a bit of a lead over Bottas, Verstappen and Ricciardo. However, the hot conditions made it difficult to follow another car too closely as there was a risk of overheating. Seb was running around 1’14” behind Kimi at this point, but the Reds began to up the pace, lapping in the low 1m 17s.
Simple but effective
The basic strategy was quite straightforward: just one tyre stop shortly before half distance, switching from the Ultra to the Supersoft: therefore it was best to try and build up a small lead right away. A sixth of the way through, there was just a little more than two seconds splitting the Ferraris, while Bottas was dropping back. Things livened up on lap 15 with Sebastian posting a fastest lap of 1’16”197.
Next time round, Hulkenberg’s Renault began smoking at the back in the run down to Mirabeau. The engineers started planning for a safety car scenario, but only yellow flags were required. In our garage, the calm tones of Diego Ioverno ran through the various scenarios and as Bottas had slowed less than the Ferraris under yellow, he was now 5 seconds off Seb, who in turn had closed on Kimi.
By lap 26, the backmarkers were already on the agenda and Kimi lost time getting by Button and Wehrlein who were scrapping between themselves. Seb also got past but Bottas had made up 4 seconds and therefore the two Ferrari men responded immediately. On lap 32 Verstappen’s Red Bull kicked off the run of pit stops and next time round it was Bottas’ turn. Immediately Ferrari moved to protect its position and, as planned, brought Kimi in first for his stop.
Seb thus found himself leading from Ricciardo who was pushing very hard, trading fastest sector times with Seb. Vettel’s best lap, a 1’15”587, gave a good idea of the Ferrari’s potential. Ricciardo pitted at half-distance and Seb continued to push in anticipation of his stop at the end of lap 39. Would that be enough to get him ahead of Kimi? Yes, the move worked.
In Monaco, it usually takes some major incident for things to change at the front. Seb continued to push, while Kimi held off Ricciardo. And then came that major incident: with just 18 laps to go, Wehrlein was hit by Button and his Sauber was tipped on its side against the barrier at Portier. The Safety Car came out and the gaps were wiped out, including the leader’s 12 seconds over Raikkonen. Seb asked about Pascal over the radio and was told he was okay. The Safety Car stayed out for a long time, coming in with 12 laps to go. The race was on again with the two Ferrari’s getting away well. Behind them there were some battles and Vandoorne went off at Ste. Devote. That was just about it in terms of excitement, with only the small matter of the best moment of all still to come as the cars took the chequered flag.
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