Two topics of conversation dominated the #AskCrofty tweets following the Monaco Grand Prix.
- Was Kimi robbed of the win or just too slow?
- Is it time for Formula 1 to say goodbye to Monte Carlo?
On the first point, it could be a little of both. Certainly at the time it looked to both Martin Brundle and myself that Sebastian Vettel had been given the preferential strategy on his way to victory. But you could argue too that Kimi’s pace in the lead up to the pit stops wasn’t fast enough. After he pitted, the fact that he was caught up in traffic slowed him down sufficiently for Sebastian to leap frog him at the stop and take the lead.
Seb had put in a series of strong laps and you can’t take anything away from his performance. But on a day when it was widely predicted that the ‘overcut’ would be the best way to go on strategy it was interesting, to say the least, that Ferrari played that strategy out to the extent that one team mate took the win from the other.
They could, for instance, have brought Sebastian in a lap earlier than they did, which would have kept Kimi in front, and then let them scrap it out for the win. Surely, that would have been fairer given that Kimi had taken pole and led the early stages, normally the prerequisite for the optimum strategy between team mate.
There’s also a suspicion that Kimi was required to turn his engine down for whatever reason following the pit stops. Not confirmed by Ferrari of course, but certainly one explanation as to why, when running in 2nd place, he was lapping a second a lap slower.
There’s nothing like a good conspiracy theory in F1 and it should be noted that even if there were team orders, Ferrari did nothing wrong in executing them. To many, Sebastian winning the race is what Ferrari should have been aiming for, given that he is ahead in the Championship and consistent enough for the Scuderia to be backing that particular prancing horse for the title. To others Kimi was entitled to a little bit more support from his team, after all he was the man who had won pole on the Saturday and it was only the 6th race of the season after all.
Personally, I don’t like team orders, never have, especially when they alter the winner of a race. But they happen and sometimes for good reason. Formula 1 is a team sport after all and the interests of the team should come first. But in this case, Kimi’s pace wasn’t putting the Ferrari win in jeopardy, and to our knowledge he wasn’t asked to comply with a win for his team mate. His reaction on the podium suggested that whatever had been agreed pre-race, had played out to a different tune during the 78 laps. If Kimi was robbed, he wasn’t an accessory to it and how that affects him during the rest of the season will be fascinating to watch.
It was, as it always is, a brilliant week on the French Riviera. I love going to Monaco, and if you’ve been yourself you’ll know just how completely bonkers it is to even think about staging a Grand Prix there. The sun shone down, the harbour was absolutely rammed with expensive boats and the champagne flowed.
Billy was there with his megaphone on the rock, shouting at all who passed by on the way to the pits. Outside the Red Bull ‘floater’ home the fans queued up for autographs and a chat with drivers past and present, whilst sponsors entertained their guests, struck deals for the future and used the glamour of this unique event to highlight their presence in the sport.
So if you ever want to question whether F1 has outgrown Monaco? Think not only about the race itself but everything else that comes with it. It’s true that the race itself was pretty average. If there were overtakes, we didn’t see them – not that that is unusual, the one off director that insists on replacing the usual excellence from FOM, misses plenty during the course of 5 on track sessions across the weekend.
The wider cars for 2017 weren’t exactly going to promote overtaking now, were they? We had incidents; late on Jenson Button and Pascal Wehrlein tangled, for which Jenson received the most ridiculous penalty of 3 grid places at his next race this season! Did anybody tell the stewards he was only racing in Monaco as a one off?
So I can understand why a lot of fans reacted the way they did, but in all honesty, save your breath guys. Monaco isn’t going to disappear from the calendar anytime soon, it’s way too important to the sport for many reasons other than the racing. But also, it remains a unique challenge, for both the drivers and the teams. To win there is to get everything spot on, a reward for the excellence of execution, if I could borrow a phrase from Brett ‘The Hitman’ Hart. And to contemplate life without it in this sport we love, is like Batman without The Joker, Doctor Who without the Daleks, Spurs without Arsenal or Axel without Slash. They might not always seem like the best bedfellows but without each other, they are way poorer for it.
Meanwhile, on a totally unrelated topic, if you’re coming to Silverstone this Friday, I’ll see you there. What a day Williams have in store as they celebrate their 40th Anniversary with a cast list of great drivers and cars. If you have a ticket, you’re in for an incredible day and if you don’t, I’m sorry about that, but I’m sure you’ll hear plenty about it in the next few weeks.
See you Friday guys, don’t be late.