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The Crofty Blog – Monaco 2016

There were parties, of course there were parties, there were late nights too. It was Monaco Grand Prix week and if I said that I went to bed early and didn’t enjoy a drink or two on one of the yachts in the harbour, you’d never believe me.

Ten years after I first came to this race, the appeal, excitement and enjoyment haven’t diminished in any way. Plus, the view from the back of the commentary boxes still remains one of my favourite vistas and I could spend hours just watching the comings and goings in the harbour.

Monaco2This one isn’t too shabby either. It was taken from Hotel Hermitage on a gloriously sunny Wednesday evening. The back of the stand where the Commentary Boxes are situated is partially hidden by the lamppost, if you want to know where we are. It’s the stretch between the exit of the swimming pool chicane and Rascasse.

I was at the Hotel Hermitage as I’d been invited to a reception by Moonlake Entertainment, who were in town to film a series of interviews for their forthcoming film on the history of the Monaco GP. Watch out for that later in the year.

Meanwhile, Friday night, backstage at Amber Lounge Fashion it was selfie time. All smiles and nothing to do with the models in the background, who, unlike last year, weren’t completely frozen in their bikinis as the sun was still shining.

Monaco3I’m glad that picture was taken on the Friday night though. If I’d have tried the same pic on Sunday evening, I’m not sure I’d have got the same level of smiles. Esteban Ocon and Marc Gene would have still been smiling, they never stop. But, let’s face it Rio, Pascal, Marcus, Felipe and Jolyon have all had way better days on a racetrack than they did on Sunday. And as for Daniel Ricciardo, well, where do you start to pick through the pieces of the 78 laps he experienced?

Interestingly, as I stood waiting for my luggage at Nice airport, I got into a conversation with a race engineer from one of the teams, about Danny Ric and his race in Barcelona. I wondered if there was any way that he’d deliberately been put onto the wrong strategy so as to enhance Max Verstappen’s chances of winning. The race engineer replied that whilst we all loved a conspiracy theory, he’d gone over what had happened in Spain and debunked any theories that that might have been the case. He wasn’t from Red Bull, but he did know a lot more information than the likes of us mere mortals, so I was prepared to go with his explanations.

We saw Ricciardo produce some very fast laps on Thursday practice and then a quite sensational lap to take his maiden pole on Saturday. The 11th driver to win his first ever pole at the Monaco Grand Prix, and surely here was his moment to wipe away all the negatives from Spain.

But we all know that life isn’t that straightforward sometimes and it does have a habit of kicking you in the teeth, which of course it did, as he sat waiting for his slick tyres on lap 32. Called in by the team, he’d have been expecting to see four new tyres waiting for him, not a bunch of mechanics scrambling around for the correct sets of super softs. Sadly they’d got trapped at the back of the garage. Easy to happen, there isn’t much space in Monaco and given that at one stage we’d had Wets, Intermediates, Softs, Supersofts and Ultrasofts, all in use on the track on the same lap, you can imagine how chaotic it was.

But it shouldn’t have happened and that 13 seconds spent waiting for the tyre change to happen cost Ricciardo victory. We knew it at the time, he knew it at the time and sadly that’s the way it worked out.

Now, I’ve known Daniel a few years now, ever since Karun Chandhok introduced me to him at Dubai Airport. We were en route to a race, “Meet the future F1® World Champion”, Karun said, Danny wasn’t even in F1® at this stage, I shook his hand and said it was an honour. Which it was, and it still is. There’s no doubt that he’s one of the most popular drivers with the fans and if he heads into Abbey at the start of the British Grand Prix, leading the race, I’m pretty certain that a lot of fans in the Grandstands will be cheering their heads off for him.

Incidentally there’s a new Grandstand that’s just been added at Silverstone, ‘The View’, with some brilliant views of the main straight and pit lane. If Daniel Ricciardo is leading into Abbey, you’ll get a magnificent sight of it from there. Not long till Silverstone now, so if you are thinking of coming and you haven’t got your tickets yet, check this spot out.

He’s a popular man is Danny Ric, he tells it how it is, never stops smiling, and let’s face it, drives quite superbly race in, race out. So, for him to tell Rachael Brooks after the race that he’d told the team “to save their breath, as there was nothing they could say to him that would make any difference” just showed how badly he was taking the result.

It was an honest mistake and sadly mistakes happen. Jenson Button for instance, wasn’t overly chuffed that his gamble to change to slick tyres earlier had resulted in being stuck behind Wehrlein, which ruined his chances of a better result. The inference being that his team could have told him it was likely to happen and kept him out for a bit longer until a gap appeared to feed him back into.

A driver needs his team to win a race, and the team needs the driver. Sometimes they get it right, sadly for Daniel Ricciardo, for two races running Red Bull have got it wrong. But, as the dust settles and the super yachts head elsewhere for their parties, he knows that his team have delivered him a competitive car that he can go and win races in. And that there will be more opportunities for him to win races in the future. He’ll know that the position he finds himself in, is way better than he expected at the start of the season and that will bring the smile back long before he gets on the plane to Canada.

In fact I heard a story involving him, Fernando Alonso and a live lobster on Sunday night that showed he was well on his way to getting over the win that got away. It’s good to hear, a smiling Ricciardo, competing at the front with the two Mercedes, his team mate and both Ferrari’s? Well that’s a fight that could bring out a smile as big as the one we’ll surely see him sporting on the top step of the podium before long.

The Crofty Blog - Canada 2016

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