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Monaco 2008: Lewis Hamilton Wins Eventful Monaco Grand Prix

Monaco 2008: Lewis Hamilton Wins Eventful Monaco Grand Prix

In what was easily the finest race of the season so far, Lewis Hamilton has sensationally won from third on the grid. The afternoon didn’t go perfectly for McLaren as team mate Heikki Kovalainen was unable to follow Hamilton to the front of the pack. However, with changing conditions during the race, time limits coming into force and altering strategies as the laps counted down, each team earned their money today. Lets take a closer look at the 2008 Monaco Grand Prix.

The Start

As the cars began to move away from their start boxes on the warm-up lap, Heikki Kovalainen was left behind, his engine having apparently stalled. As the rest of the field left the startline, Kovalainen was wheeled off the track and when the Mercdes power-plant was restarted, the Finn rolled down to the end of the pitlane and was able to leave once the rest of pack had passed the pit-exit at Ste Devote.

As the cars waited on the grid, rain began to fall and although it was fairly light, it was enough for all drivers to choose wet tyres, or as they are still commonly known as, intermediates. These tyres, produced by Bridgestone as are all tyres in Formula One, are very flexible in the changing conditions and can run in the quite-wet through to the quite-dry.

Lewis Hamilton got away from the grid well and squeezed his way past Kimi Raikkonen as pole-sitter Felipe Massa tip-toed his Ferrari through the first corner. With the drivers having not seen much of the track in over fifteen minutes, the first lap in wet conditions was always going to be an interesting spectacle in itself. All drivers got through Ste Devote without drama and the race began.

Although the first lap went reasonably well with little contact made between the drivers, it wasn’t long before the rain became a little heavier and the drivers started to move around more with the loss of traction control. Jenson Button and Nick Heidfeld made contact, the damage occurring mostly on Button’s Honda and the Briton having to pit for a new nose at the end of the lap.

Toyota driver Timo Glock entered the pitlane on lap three for a new nose, himself getting out of shape at Anthony Nogues and damaging the front-end of his car. And then, running in second and sandwiched between the Ferrari’s, Lewis Hamilton slapped the barrier at the Tabac corner and going into the Swimming Pool complex. The knock damaged Hamilton’s right-rear tyre and the Briton was given the pit call.

With more rain falling many drivers were making calls to the pits asking about full wet (actually called Extreme Wet) tyres and Kimi Raikkonen was starting to loose pace on team mate Massa. After a lap or two it was clear that BMW pilot Robert Kubica was gaining and it wasn’t long before the Polish driver was starting to really hassle the reigning world champion, Kubica revelling in the degrading conditions.

Alonso, via Radio: I hit the barrier. I hit the barrier. Fernando Alonso.

On the eighth tour of Monte Carlo, two-time Monaco winner Fernando Alonso clipped the wall himself, causing damage to his right-rear wheel and once again, requiring the cameras to point towards the pitlane. As Alonso recovered himself to the pitlane though, David Coultard and Sebastien Bourdais were resting on the outside of the Massenet/Casino corners at the top of the hill, substantial damage seen on both cars. Replays showed Coulthard getting his Red Bull crossed up and running out of road for his corrections. His car came to a stop with a crumpled front-right, only to then get shunted forward as Bourdais mimicked Coulthard’s accident, landing at the same place and tapping the Red Bull.

This incident brought out the safety car for the first time and the pitlane was closed. However, with a damaged car Fernando Alonso had to pit and came in to get his damaged tyre replaced. As he left the cameras noted the pit lane was effectively closed with the red light on, and at the time it was believed that the former champion had run the light and rejoined the track illegally. However, as no investigation was announced we can only assume the FOM-operated cameras were a little behind in showing the view of the lights (or Alonso was ahead at the time).

Two laps later and the Mercedes safety car peeled off the damp track and the race restarted.

The Middle, sort of…

It was as the race restarted that it became known that Kimi Raikkonen was under investigation by the stewards. A lap later the reason was announced; Ferrari had been late in putting on his choice of tyres while the cars were waiting on the grid before the start of the race. The teams must make a decision and bolt on the wheels three minutes prior to the warm-up lap, and due to the difficult conditions, all teams left it until the last possible moment to make the call. Ferrari, it seems, were a little late. Raikkonen toured a further two times before rolling through the pitlane to serve his drive-thru.

Lap eleven saw the changing conditions bring different cars into play, and Nelson Piquet Jr. made a move on Adrian Sutil, the German driver performing well (mostly) in his Force India. Piquet’s team mate Fernando Alonso was also on a charge, the Spaniard passing Mark Webber’s Red Bull on track for position. However, as the Renault driver pulled away from the Red Bull, Alonso was soon to lose his margin when making a bold move on Nick Heidfeld.

Running down to te Loews hairpin, Alonso moved up the inside of the BMW and contact was made, the track simply not being wide enough and the cars simply not having enough lock to go through two-abreast. Heidfeld was pivoted around and found himself blocking the apex of the corner and the ensuing cars bundled up behind. Mark Webber came very close to clipping the rear of Alonso as he struggled to slow his Renault-powered car, the pair only separated by the wdith of a cigarette paper.

Lap fifteen saw further action at the front when race leader Felipe Massa went too deep into turn one, the Brazilian driver being forced to run straight on into the small run-off area and recover his Ferrari with a controlled spin. This error enabled Robert Kubica, who was running a close second at the time, to glide past and take the lead of the race. Massa recovered, but he lost the commanding position and could only watch as the BMW rear wing moved ever further out of reach.

Despite the Loews corner not being wide enough for Alonso and Heidfeld to go through side-by-side, man-on-a-mission Sutil did manage to make a pass stick going through the 30mph hairpin, the German squeezing his Force India by Kazuki Nakajima’s Williams. On lap 21, the positions were Kubica, Massa, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Webber, Sutil, Jarno Trulli and Rubens Barrichello.

Five laps later and the second Ferrari was in trouble. In an almost identical incident to his team mate, Kimi Raikkonen went too deep into Ste Devote, only this time the Ferrari driver damaged his car, the front wing hanging on by the smallest of attachments. Raikkonen pitted at the end of the lap having lost a lot of time having to make a full lap of the course before being able to stop for repairs. Further time was lost when the Ferrari mechanics fumbled with a clip on the new nose.

Around the lap-thirty-three mark, a lot of drivers were entering the pits for scheduled stops, as oposed to emergency repair stops. Felipe Massa made a call into the pit lane as did Heikki Kovalainen, the McLaren driver seemingly struggling to move through the field. Most drivers stayed on intermediate tyres though, the track stil being damp from the rain showers.

The conditions meant that as each of the cars came into play, the fastest lap count become quite hectic. Initially it was between the Ferrari and McLaren drivers, but now all manner of pilots were posting quick laps. Mark Webber, and Adrian Sutil all had the fastest lap at some point during the middle of the race.

On lap 38 Giancarlo Fisichella became the third retiree of the race, his Force India suffering from not having first or second gears. A handful of laps later and Renault opted to run on dry tyres. The rain had stopped but the track was still wet. Although a drier line was emerging, it was perhaps a little early for full dry tyres. It proved too much for Nelson Piquet and after a couple of tours on dries he was seen in the wall. His race was over.

With Lewis Hamilton having been forced to pit earlier in the race, the team opted to fill his McLaren with fuel and adjust his strategy to a one-stopper (in terms of fuel). The Woking-squad did this in Turkey at the last race (going from two to three stops), and although it was a close call, the team and driver came under heavy criticism. However, this time around it appeared to have been a good call and with his car at the front of the race (after the cars ahead had pitted), Hamilton started to pump in some hot laps. As the gap increased Hamilton suddenly came into play and the British driver tirelessly pounded around in attempts to increase the margin as much as possible.

By lap 52, it was clear that dry tyres were the way to go, and Felipe Massa was enjoying good grip with his. Hamilton, who was still on the intermediates was having to move his car around the track looking for damp patches to control the temperature of his boots. the lap times between the pair moved around but Hamilton was still in a commanding position.

Alonso took the fastest lap on the 53rd tour, and minutes later Hamilton pitted for similar rubber. As the Briton left the pitlane he had retained the lead. The race, as they say, was his to lose. Heikki Kovalainen then clipped Jenson Button, the Honda driver being forced into a spin. Moments later Felipe Massa pitted for new tyres, but not being up to temperature the Brazilian struggled with exiting the pitlane. Robert Kubica, with warm tyres, took the opportunity and glided past the Ferrari to take second place.

The whole time during the middle part of the race a lot of drivers who wouldn’t normally do so well were in good positions. Mark Webber had managed to avoid major incident and was in the points. Adrian Sutil was amazing in the fifth/sixth area and being guided around by the experienced Mike Gascoyne on the pitwall.

The Finale

With the wet weather creating slower lap times, the rarely used time-limit rule was brought into play. The rule states that a grand prix will last its alloted laps or a maximum of two hours, whichever happens to come first. The two-hour limit was due to come first, which essentially meant that the race would run for ~74 laps.

On lap 61, Nico Rosberg slammed his Williams into the wall, suffering a double-impact and retiring from the race. This incident brought out the second and last safety car period, allowing the marshals time to recover the stricken car and sweep the carbon fibre from the track. With eleven minutes left on the clock, the safety car peeled into the pitlane and the race restarted for a second time. As the cars thundered out of the tunnel on that lap, Kimi Raikkonen lost his Ferrari under braking and ploughed into the back of Sutil. The incident was caused when Kimi braked as the car moved over a slightly damp patch of tarmac, the Finn losing control of the rear of his Ferrari and becoming almost a passenger as he attempted to slow it down. Kimi damaged his front wing and Sutil was able to get himself back to the pits. However, while a simple nose-replacement was all Raikkonen needed, Sutil’s Force India suffered from a destroyed diffuser and the team switched the engine off. A disconsolate Sutil, who was on the verge of scoring his and the team’s first points, vacated the car and hid at the back of the garage.

The remaining laps went by with no further incident. Lewis Hamilton took his second win of the year, his career sixth and moves himself and the team back into the championship hunt. Robert Kubica kept a cool head all day and brought his BMW home in second, and reward justly deserved for his hard work during the race. Felipe Massa disappointed from pole position, only managing to claim third for the Scuderia. Considering the Brazilian had few incidents, the result was not what the Maranello team had hoped for and losing Raikkonen from the serious points mean the Italian squad have taken a blow in the title’s standings.

Mark Webber collected fourth and Sebastian Vettel finally picked up some points by finishing fifth for Scuderia Toro Rosso. Rubens Barrichello came home in sixth with Kazuki Nakajima and Heikki Kovalainen taking seventh and eighth. Amazingly, only five cars retired from the event-filled race, and the result has meant that the championship tables have been tightened up.

Oliver White

14 comments

  • It was a great race wasn’t it?! Usually I hate Monaco as it’s so boring, but the rain really spiced things up today.

    Hamilton had to win really and he did so all credit to him for that, although he should really have conceded the fact that he had a few lucky breaks to get there – a safety car period closed him up to Massa, plus he was incredibly lucky to get away with both his crash and also that his altered fuel strategy came good in the end.

    A good bit of driving, but lucky all the same.

    DC was also in need of a good result, but he wasn’t so lucky!

  • What a race! Expect the unexpected is always the rule in Monaco…

    Transforming Lewis’s bad luck in what was going to be the best strategy this race is the living proof of what I wrote yesterday… Forced to change strategy because of this crash and helped by Lady Luck (safety car to reduce the gap in the front, and later Ferrari keeping their wet tyres as rain was expected but didn’t show up) Lewis did a beautiful race, kept himself under pressure and won!

    But McLaren should not rejoice too quickly as they are still behind (after these 6 races McLaren had 86 points last year and Ferrari 74) by 33 pts in the championship and by 30 pts to Ferrari (McL was 14 pts in front and are 16 pts behind) compared to last year. Nevertheless for the drivers the situation is a far better and can be easily improved Lewis (-4), Felipe (-2) and Kimi (+4).

    Poor Heikki (15 pts) was unlucky again and it has to be said that McLaren greatest lost is… Fernando Alonso! as the spaniard had pocketed 44 points for McLaren at this stage last year…

  • Really enjoyable race, my hatred for Hamilton has doubled after his ‘ if you saw my pace in the race, it was ridiculous…’.

    And his : yea it was this huge river on the track that made me crash.

  • “my hatred for Hamilton has doubled after his ‘ if you saw my pace in the race, it was ridiculous…’.”

    i’ve given up listening to his witterings post race for this very reason.

  • A dramatic combination of ecstasy and heartbreak – it’s what the greatest races are made of.

    I was discolsolate after Sutil’s incident, the unfortunate German was broadcasted in a dejected state and approaching something not too dissimilar to an emotional breakdown in the televised interview – it was almost too much to bear. That’s racing, but only time will heal my expression of furious distaste for Raikkonen.

    I was once again left disappointed by Heidfeld’s disastorous outing, however it must be questionned whether his BMW would have been in a majority of those situations if his qualifying performance had matched that of his team-mate.

  • Apologies for the double post.

    This is perhaps a unique perspective, but out of all the major title contenders, both Ferrari drivers have been the scruffiest so far this year. Granted, all drivers have experienced a variety of incidents at differing levels of intensity and violence, but Raikkonen and Massa have made several unforced errors on vital occasions and phases of Grand Prix this season. The speed is undeniably present, but these persistently incorrect manoeuvres and lapsing standards are losing Ferrari points in both the constructors championship, and more importantly for each red-emblazoned personality and the sustainment of their prominence, the individual standings.

  • No worries for the double post, your insights in the second comment are worth it. 🙂

    I would agree that both Ferrari drivers have been the scruffiest, but McLaren have had to suffer other issues like the tyres, silly mistakes from Heikki (touching the pitlane limiter) and the silly electrical error that caused his car to cut out on the grid.

    Ferrari may have the scruffiest drivers, but McLaren look to be the scruffiest team out of the two at the moment.

  • Jamie, Everybody is sorry for Sutil but the video makes it absolutely clear that Kimi lost control of his car. Kimi is one of the three best drivers in activity he surely didn’t wanted to hit anybody. He apologised and didn’t try to find an excuse (no “river coming across there”). That was an unfortunate race incident that costs Kimi 3 points and the championship’s lead.

    BTW Ferrari leads the championship and have improved in 2008 their position compared to their main competor (McL) by a massive 30 points. Not bad for a team with the “scrufiest” drivers hey? 😉

  • 😀

    Granted, Ferrari’s points haul is a dramatic improvement, but it could have been even better. Strive for continuous improvement in driving standards, and they could have been even further ahead. As we are all too aware, the driver’s championship was won by a single point last year.

    It’s just sour grapes in terms of the Sutil incident, i completely accept that Raikkonen lost conrol of his machine minus any disagreement. However, i would have respected Raikkonen if his apology was more profound and understanding of how valuable that placement could have been in sustaining Sutil’s enthusiasm and potential longetivity in Formula One.

  • Jamie, this guys are twenty something fighting in a tough environment. What Raikkonen understands is that he’s lost championship’s leadership because of that stupid accident! Being 5th had he just done nothing he will still be leading the championship by 1 pt!

    If Sutil cannot cope with the environment nobody has to sustain his enthusiasm there are plenty of drivers knocking at the door! This is not Alice in wonderland it’s the Piranha Club!!!!

    Sorry to be so blunt but this is what F1 is all about…

    About drivers standards: In Monaco all top drivers (but Kubica!) made one or two mistakes, icing on the cake Kimi had a penalty… So I believe the Ferrari drivers have nothing to envy the others… especially Massa I believe Felipe has reached a new step in terms of self-confidence… future will tell

  • A Raikkonen quote from autosport.com yesterday:

    “I’m really sorry for what happened with Sutil and I told him I was sorry.”

    That is what i was looking for.

    Racing drivers can still be respectful, even in the toughest of environments, regardless of inferior consequence or professional standing. My faith and repect in Kimi has been restored – it’s the little things that count.

    In a related article, Sutil commented that he has received a substantial confidence boost and was encouraged by his performance, whilst managing to bestow a complement upon Raikkonen “He apologised, so he is a great sportsman”.

    I feel all warm inside, and consoled due to these revelations. Enjoyable discussion, Ago.

  • Yes he said that already, I thought you knew. Kimi is a nice chap.

    I was reacting to your “sustaining Sutil’s enthusiasm ” and “furious distaste for Raikkonen” statements.

    I believe that F1 drivers have that sheer confidence in their talent not to need anybody to support them. As Luca Baldisserri said after the race when asked if he was sorry for was happened to Sutil he replied “to be honest first I feel sorry because we lost points, then well I can feel sorry for Force India, for sure… but… but we lost points!”

    Anyway quite happy to see that the “time to heal your expression of furious distaste for Raikkonen” was quite short lived…

    May be “furious distaste” was a bit over the top, for a driver that immediately admitted he was totally responsible 😉

  • Ahah! a prime example of my grammatical flair overexadurating my wildly fluctuating emotional state.

    Sutil is a young driver and a relative unknown to me in comparison to other personalities on the grid – until his enthusiastic comments i was uncertain of his strength of character and psychological capabilities. I’ve previously read passages of inexperienced Formula One competitors seeking guidance and support from superiors and compatriots, which provided foundations for my statements. However, i sympathise with your sentiments that uncompromised arrogance is vital for success in the sport.

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