Mark Webber’s measured drive gave Red Bull Racing its third successive Monaco Grand Prix victory.
From pole position Webber got a good start, got to the first corner ahead of Nico Rosberg and never looked troubled. 78 laps later the first six crossed the line nose to tail, but this was rather more exciting than that suggests. Behind him Romain Grosjean spun after contact with Michael Schumacher. Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber hit the spinning Lotus and both were out.
The safety car was deployed, the order behind it was Webber leading from Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Alonso, Felipe Massa, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Räikkönen, Schumacher, Nico Hulkenberg and Bruno Senna. The variable in play was that Vettel, like Button and di Resta further down the order, was on the soft tyre, the other leaders were using the supersoft. Rosberg was the first man in for tyres, stopping on lap 27. Webber followed two laps later and got out comfortably in front of Rosberg. Hamilton, Räikkönen and Hulkenberg stopped at the same time.
One lap later Alonso came in and picked Hamilton’s pocket. Schumacher stayed out until lap 34 and jumped Räikkönen. The Finn had emerged behind the Marussia of Charles Pic and, with no way through, was forced to lap three seconds slower than Schumacher for several tours. Vettel led the race and began to put in a series of fast laps. His hope would have been to build up a cushion of over 20 seconds to be able to stop and retain his lead, but Webber began to pace himself against his team-mate and Vettel’s lead never got above 18 seconds. Finally it began to decrease as his tyres went away: he pitted on lap 46 and emerged in fourth, having jumped Hamilton and Massa.
“I was a little surprised that [Rosberg] went then because the tyres were still going not too bad – but it was worth a go,” said Webber in the FIA press conference after the race. “The prime tyre was a very tricky tyre to get started. Obviously Seb was in the groove and underway and he was doing some very quick lap times in that part of the grand prix. And it was hard for us to get going, so I had to keep an eye on the Sebastian gap but also manage the tyres. So when Seb pitted, then I could revert my concentration back to Nico. It was pretty good after that.”
Schumacher was forced to retire from seventh with a fuel pressure problem and then rain began to threaten but only a few drops fell on the circuit. It was enough to make Webber drop his pace by a few seconds and the leaders bunched behind him.
“It’s always tricky when you’re the first guy arriving into corners when it’s sprinkling,” said Webber. “On other tracks, a little bit of rain like that, you wouldn’t really have to back off so much but all of a sudden the car is wheel-spinning, the front’s not biting, and around this place that’s not very encouraging. Particularly when you’re in the lead with only ten minutes to go in the race. So it required me then to really, really control the race and get the car home.”
Despite the first six being covered by two seconds, no-one attempted anything desperate in the damp laps. “I was hoping I might get a chance or something but my tyres were really struggling too,” said Rosberg. “Also, I had Fernando behind me and at times it was very difficult, just front and rear warm up, tyres lost temperature and then they picked up again towards the end.”
Alonso, whose third place lifts him into the championship lead, agreed. “Five or six laps to the end with the drops of rain that we had, I think we were all praying ‘no more rain’ because it was so difficult.”
What rain there was soon abated and the track dried, allowing the front runners to resume lapping at their previous pace. Webber took victory, pushed across the line by Rosberg, Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton and Massa. Further back Force India had a good day with di Resta and Hulkenberg seventh and eighth. Kimi Räikkönen was ninth for a disappointed Lotus and Bruno Senna took a consolation point for Williams.
Alonso leads the Drivers’ Championship on 76 points, closely followed by Vettel and Webber on 73 each. Red Bull Racing had a fine day and extended their lead in that competition to 38 points, with 146 to McLaren’s 108.
“It was a very, very special victory today, and hopefully there’s more to come,” said a jubilant Webber. “The start was key, the pitstop was key, both of them went well. I did a little bit of work in between and we got an incredible victory that I’m very, very happy with. It’s great memories for me to win here twice, fair and square off the pole positions. Nico kept me honest. I had him under control but he drove well. It was good grand prix.”