2015 Monaco Grand Prix Review
Lewis Hamilton topped both FP1 and FP2, but the big news of Thursday was Max Verstappen going 0.149 seconds off the reigning champion in the morning session. Franz Tost and Verstappen both seemed confident that a Toro Rosso podium was out of the question, and with Verstappen's love of Macau – a similar circuit in many ways to the jewel in F1's crown – it certainly wasn't a hopeless cause.
Raikkonen had a crash in FP3 and was thought to have damaged his gearbox but got away with it. Similarly Verstappen was lucky not to cause much damage after backing into the wall at Anthony Noghes. Grosjean did take a gearbox change for the weekend and was given a 5-place grid penalty.
Mercedes locked out the top of the time-sheets early on in Q1, Vettel and Raikkonen close behind. Rosberg looked to have drawn first blood against Hamilton as well.
Sainz was put under investigation for not stopping at the Weighbridge while his teammate was now best behind the Mercedes pair. Nasr fell 16th ahead of Bottas, Ericsson, Stevens and Merhi.
Alonso parked in Q2 at the first corner with no engine, automatically qualifying 15th in effect – aside from any penalties, of course.
Grosjean fell 11th and was dropped to 16th by the penalty, promoting Button, Hulkenberg, Massa, Alonso and Nasr.
Rain started to fall lightly before Q3, adding a little more uncertainty to proceedings. Maldonado fleetingly held the top spot until Hamilton led Rosberg to a 1-2 to finish the first run by the Silver Arrows. Vettel, Ricciardo and Kvyat followed them home, Verstappen and Sainz also splitting the Ferrari pair. Unfortunately for Lotus and Force India, that left Maldonado and Perez on row 5. the Force India then split the Red Bull pair from the Toro Rossos behind. Perez, 6th after that first run, didn't do a second run so had no answer for the last-minute runs.
Hamilton set a 1:15.098 while Rosberg was forced to bail on his final lap, Vettel similarly struggling. Ricciardo held 4th from Kvyat, Raikkonen, Perez, Sainz, Maldonado and Verstappen – the latter disappointing somewhat in the cooler conditions, the former in the top 10 for the first time since the end of 2012.
Carlos Sainz was disqualified from the qualifying hour for his Weighbridge infringement, so started the Grand Prix from the back of the grid. Everyone behind him was promoted a position as a result.
Hamilton complained of low-speed understeer on the formation lap.
Kvyat jumped Ricciardo off the line, otherwise the top 8 staying the same. Hulkenberg crashed at Mirabeau after contact with Alonso's sidepod, but both managed to continue. The stewards investigated while the Force India received a new wing. Massa also pitted, changing to soft tyres before also receiving a new wing – the Williams already almost a lap down after apparent contact with Grosjean's Lotus.
Overheating rear brakes caused Maldonado to lift and coast, Verstappen breaking his front wing against the rear wheel of the Lotus before pulling off a beautiful move into Ste Devote. Maldonado's brake-by-wire system then failed as well, compounding a bad start to the Venezuelan's year as they retired the ailing number 13 car.
Alonso was given a 5-second time penalty for hitting Hulkenberg.
Sainz pitted on lap 12 for soft tyres, 66 laps remaining in what was widely predicted to be a 1-stop race.
Barely more than a dozen laps had gone by before Hamilton was asking about brake saving, his front brakes apparently struggling already.
Bottas made a stop on lap 14, seemingly he and Sainz going for a 2-stop strategy.
Grosjean pitted on lap 17 for soft tyres, Sainz' example apparently attracting some attention.
Verstappen stopped on lap 29, a right-rear problem costing him more than 20 seconds and seeing the Macau F3 winner rejoining behind Bottas, promoting Nasr to 10th behind Kvyat and the McLaren pair and giving Perez security in 6th once more.
Alonso pitted from 9th and served his penalty, rejoining ahead of the Sauber behind him.
Vettel stopped on lap 36, aiming for the undercut on Rosberg. Ricciardo pitted behind him, Raikkonen jumping them both and Kvyat also clearing his teammate. Rosberg pitted a lap later, holding position from the Ferrari. Raikkonen pitted to try to jump Ricciardo, sliding behind Kvyat but ahead of the Australian. Hamilton pitted on lap 38, comfortably holding the lead.
Merhi crossed the pit exit line after his stop, being investigated but nothing further happening.
Massa pitted for the second time, taking the super-soft tyres.
Alonso went straight on at Ste Devote, retiring the McLaren from the points while Verstappen closed on Bottas in the battle that previously hadn't been that far behind Alonso. It seemed the McLaren had a gearbox issue, whereas it was an energy recovery issue in qualifying.
Verstappen came in for a second stop, more of a textbook affair than before as he traded softs for super-softs.
The number 33 Toro Rosso jumped both Sainz and Bottas when they moved over for Vettel, the now lead Toro Rosso just bolted to the 4-time champion's rear wing.
Bottas pitted again, rejoining in tandem with teammate Massa.
Grosjean finished Verstappen's march up the field, releasing Vettel but slamming the door shut on the Toro Rosso. An overtaking attempt later on the Lotus ended in a huge crash and the first Virtual Safety Car was briefly launched before the actual Safety Car came out. Hamilton pitted, thinking he had time to retain the lead, but fell to third place behind Rosberg and Vettel.
Grosjean and Verstappen were put under investigation for the crash.
Ricciardo pushed Raikkonen out of his way, then overtook Kvyat more cleanly. The Raikkonen move was investigated with the surprising result that no penalty was warranted.
Rosberg won from Vettel, Hamilton, Kvyat, Ricciardo [yielding on team orders] Raikkonen, Perez, Button, Nasr and Sainz. Not scoring were Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Ericsson, Bottas, Massa, Merhi and Stevens. Verstappen, Alonso and Maldonado retired in one of the lowest attrition races Monaco has ever offered.
McLaren finally achieved points today, while Mercedes' error tightened the championship race by 10 points.