Nico Rosberg took his second career win with a controlled drive to victory at the Monaco Grand Prix despite two safety car periods and a race stoppage. The Mercedes driver was followed to the flag by Red Bull Racing duo Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
Starting from pole, Rosberg held his lead at the start despite getting away badly and with team-mate Lewis Hamilton in second pace set about controlling the pace so as to maximise tyre life over a scheduled one-stop strategy.
It went according to plan until lap 30 when Felipe Massa suffered a carbon copy of the FP3 accident that had led to him starting from 21st position after failing to set a time in qualifying.
The Brazilian lost control on the run up to turn one and hit the wall on the left-hand side of the track before straight-lining into the barriers ahead. The crash brought out the safety car and Mercedes immediately signalled for Rosberg and Hamilton to pit.
Both drivers stopped on lap 31 and the time Hamilton lost behind Rosberg allowed both Vettel and Webber, who had pitted earlier, to slip past and claim second and third spots.
For the front four it was the only major incident of the race. When the racing resumed following the spell behind the safety car, Rosberg continued to control matters from the front, even when the race was halted and re-started after a lap-46 accident involving Marussia’s Max Chilton and Williams’ Pastor Maldonado.
The pair collided at Tabac and when Maldonado’s front wing broke and was sucked under the front of his car, the Venezuelan was pitched into the barriers. The race was immediately red-flagged.
The stoppage didn’t hurt any of the front runners, who continued their stately progress to the flag, even comfortably negotiating a final safety car period brought about when Romain Grosjean ploughed into the back of Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo on lap 63 – a mistake that would later earn the Lotus driver a 10-place grid penalty for his next race.
After his win, Rosberg admitted that his biggest moment of difficulty had come at the start.
“The start was very close, I had a terrible start,” he said. “I was close to Sebastian and then with Lewis also, but then that worked out well. After that I could control the pace. The car was really good, the tyres held on OK, so that was really the key to the victory. Massive thanks to the team for having improved from Barcelona and I’m just ecstatic.”
For Vettel, the pace of the Mercedes had been a surprise, simply because progress was so slow.
“I was a bit surprised by the slow pace of the opening laps – usually you expect two silver arrows in front of you, but they were more like buses today going for a cruise on the first couple of laps,” he said. “But, the strategy for them was clear and they did a very good job. It was a good strategy from our team to get past Lewis. It was hard with the restarts, but we can be happy with the result.”
With the first four untroubled in the race it was left to those behind to provide the fireworks, and most of the incendiary moments in the race were supplied by McLaren’s Sergio Pérez.
The Mexican made a bold move past team-mate Jenson Button to claim P7 on lap 41 at the Nouvelle Chicane and thereafter attempted to make his way further up the order with the same move.
He next tried to pass Fernando Alonso at the chicane but the Ferrari driver cut the chicane to hold station. Alonso’s move was deemed to be wrong and he had to cede P6 to Perez after the restart.
The McLaren driver then tried to work the overtake on Kimi Raikkonen but the Lotus man resisted. Perez tried again in the closing stages but the pair collided. Perez shipped damage to the front end of his car and continued. Raikkonen pitted with a puncture and dropped down the order. Perez ran wide at Rascasse and his rivals rushed past. With no access to pit lane, the McLaren driver was forced to stop and end his race.
Afterwards Perez claimed that Raikkonen had been at fault, saying: “I had a great race – I’d been overtaking cars through the afternoon – but in my opinion Kimi didn’t leave me enough room when I tried to pass him as we exited the tunnel, and as a result I got squeezed into the wall on the entry to the harbor chicane.”
Raikkonen, however, was furious with the McLaren driver. “Because of one stupid move from Sergio, we’ve lost a lot of points to Sebastian in the Championship and you can’t afford to lose ground like that,” he said.
“He hit me from behind and that’s about all there is to it,” he added. “If he thinks it’s my fault that he came into the corner too fast then he obviously has no idea what he’s talking about.”
Sutil went on to claim P5, an excellent result for the German, who had started eighth.
“Fifth place feels fantastic,” he said. “It’s just the result we needed and I’m very happy right now. The car felt very good and we made the most of the chances that came our way.
“I noticed that the hairpin was an area where there was a chance to overtake so I tried it with Jenson and it worked. Then I did the same with Fernando and it worked once again,” he said. “So I think I showed that overtaking is possible in Monaco. The team did an excellent job all weekend and we definitely deserved this result today.”
With Button sixth and Alonso seventh, eighth place went to Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne, the Frenchman delivering a solid performance under pressure from a hard-charging Paul Di Resta. The Force India driver settled for ninth and the final point was taken by Raikkonen, who staged a remarkable comeback in the final laps on new tyres.
2013 Monaco Grand Prix race result
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 2:17:52.056 25pts
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing +3.8 secs 18pts
3 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing +6.3 secs 15pts
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +13.8 secs 12pts
5 Adrian Sutil Force India +21.4 secs 10pts
6 Jenson Button McLaren +23.1 secs 8pts
7 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +26.7 secs 6pts
8 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso +27.2 secs 4pts
9 Paul di Resta Force India +27.6 secs 2pts
10 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus +36.5 secs 1pts
11 Nico Hülkenberg Sauber +42.5 secs
12 Valtteri Bottas Williams +42.6 secs
13 Esteban Gutiérrez Sauber +43.2 secs
14 Max Chilton Marussia +49.8 secs
15 Giedo van der Garde Caterham +62.5 secs
16 Sergio Pérez McLaren +6 Laps
Ret Romain Grosjean Lotus Collision damage
Ret Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso Collision
Ret Jules Bianchi Marussia +20 Laps
Ret Pastor Maldonado Williams Collision
Ret Felipe Massa Ferrari Accident
Ret Charles Pic Caterham +71 Laps