The Monaco FIA Formula 1 Grand Prix is always exciting right from the recognizance lap. The cars meander through the Casino de Monte-Carlo with million dollar yachts in the harbor and the buildings and mountains of the principality looming overhead.
This year, two Ferraris were at the head of the field. They climbed up the hill onto St. Devote on the lead lap and maintained early dominance. A circuit that is notoriously hard to overtake, #MonacoGP only partially tested this year’s hybrid turbocharged engines due to the lack of long straights. Lead changes would have to come through reliability issues, punctures, coming up upon barrier collisions, safety cars placements, poor pit wall advice, and other largely non driver-related issues.
G-forces make the circuit tough on racers, but you couldn’t tell from Kimi’s performance in the first half of the race. He’s the only man to win a Formula 1 race who’s also rallied, competed in NASCAR, and participated in the Camping World Truck Series. Kimi Räikkönen was said to be “chatty” in the paddock before the race, finding commonality with Nikki Lauda as fathers as evidence of his delight in obtaining P1 in qualifying.
The Finn came up upon backmarkers by lap 26 and needed to negotiate the narrow city streets, barriers, and elevation changes while attempting not to lose time. He fell to position 3 after being called into the pits prior to his Ferrari teammate, Sebastian Vettel. In the meantime, Vettel was able to run on clear air and pound on tyres he knew would be changed out quickly. Vettel came into the pits on lap 39, looking for pinpoint accuracy from his pit crew, and came out onto the track about 2 seconds ahead of Räikkönen. Generally, a team’s lead driver is called into the pits second, leading to speculation that Ferrari provided Vettel with a strategy to win the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Räikkönen fell to 12 seconds behind Vettel at several remaining segments of the race as decorum required.
With Lewis Hamilton stuck at position 10 for most of the race due to poor qualifying, the Mercedes team had to rely on Valtteri Bottas. A 2.7 second pit stop near to the halfway race mark improved Mercedes’ hopes for a Bottas podium.
On lap 61, Pascal Wehrlein slid sideways after he made contact with Jenson Button’s McLaren, lifting into the air. A safety car was deployed, and television viewers on instant replay were able to ride inside Wehrlein’s car as it was pinned into the barrier. Why wasn’t the race red flagged out of respect to the driver? It was a disrespectful symbol of how drivers are less important than the spectacle. Button moved into the runoff zone as a DNF with his disenchanted pit crew onlooking.
The race continued on under the safety car for four more laps until Ericsson’s car clipped the barriers outside turn 1 at St. Devote and had to be removed from the track by a crane. Cooling brakes under the safety car seemed an obvious reason for the DNF.
The final 12 laps were an actual race once the safety car was called in. With lower brake and tyre temperatures, Vandorne pushed into a wall and lost his points paying position. Vettel continued a 2-second advantage over Räikkönen.
Hamilton took advantage of the misfortunes of cars ahead of him in the field to reach up to position 7 by lap 69. Lauda had uttered earlier in the day that Hamilton would have to “drive like a madman” to get into the points for the Monaco Formula 1 race; instead, Hamilton proved that deliberate driving and a philosophical approach toward building points in the overall championship could prevail.
A horsepower gap frustrated Max Verstappen, as did a team call to pits which put the young driver out behind his teammate. The Red Bull driver pressed on in position 5 for the rest of the race, clearly frustrated in censored driver-pit wall communications. He was unable to make a move on Bottas in position 4 ahead of him, and Verstappen’s youthful energy was misspent by his team during the Monaco Formula 1 race this year.
Ferrari shattered a 16-year drought to win the Monaco Formula 1 2017 Grand Prix, with Vettel typically bursting with hubris, Räikkönen politely acceding to second place, and Ricciardo getting Red Bull onto the podium with a third place finish. The yachts in the harbor sounded their horns in commendation to the victors.
The U.S. team Haas engaged in an intense mid-field competition, deciding when to take on the compulsory second set of tyres and taking advantage of other teams’ debacles. They continued to pursue team double points paying positions right up until the end of the race, with both cars in the points.