Monte Carlo, Monaco -
The Grand Prix of Monaco inspires images of narrow streets navigating throughout various elevation changes, while the world's wealthiest people are often partying on the stern of their mega yachts docked in the marina a mere feet from the racetrack. The hairpin by the casino, the tunnel housing a sweeping right turn, the near impossibility of passing, and of course the glitz and glamour are all archetypes in conjunction with this Grand Prix.
It's every racer's dream to win this race, and for Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, who have called the city of Monte Carlo home in the offseason, it's just that much sweeter when you do. Everyone dreams of becoming the next master of Monaco a la Ayrton Senna, who won the race an impressive 6 times.
Prior to Sunday's race, qualifying had several surprises in store. The first being Daniel Ricciardo's pole position, followed by the two silver arrows of Mercedes in Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton again experienced a fuel pressure issue resulting in his P3 qualifying result. These issues seem to be more along the lines of par for the course for the British star. Rosberg, on the other hand, simply felt he left his potential out on the track as he qualified P2.
Kimi Raikkonen was handed a five grid spot penalty for swapping his gearbox, so the number 7 Ferrari has somewhat of an uphill battle on his hands. The second Red Bull piloted by Max Verstappen had an unfortunate crash in Qualifying resulting in a 22nd place start.
For race day, a different kind of surprise arrived: rain. Three-time winner, Nico Rosberg, began in an arguably optimistic P2 spot on the grid while hoping for a mistake by the Australian, Ricciardo. Daniil Kvyat pulled into the pits to swap his steering wheel which seem to be malfunctioning. It's unclear as to whether it was rain-related, however, needless to say, it was to be an exciting race with wet conditions.
Lap 8 hosted the race's first crash by Jolyon Palmer, while Hamilton, still in P3, began pressuring his teammate on lap 11. Kimi Raikkonen ended his race by hitting the wall in the hairpin, dragging his front wing which wound up under his front left tire. Ricciardo was seemingly pulling away from the Mercedes team with his newly-installed power plant from Renault. Sebastian Vettel was sitting tight in 5th place when he decided to pit on lap 14, exchanging his wet weather tires for intermediates, one of the first to do so.
Ricciardo's lead continued by lap 15 with greater than an 11 second gap over Rosberg while on lap 16, Rosberg gave way to Hamilton after instruction by his team. Kevin Magnussen and Kvyat kissed the wall as the Russian was unrelenting in Magnussen's pursuit. Kvyat dove into the inside of the German causing both cars damage, though both were able to continue their drive.
Max Verstappen, who started from pit lane, worked his way to 11th place by lap 24, but later crashed out of the race. Ricciardo finally got his intermediate tires on during a lap 24 pit stop which allowed for a P1 takeover by Hamilton. Rosberg who was evidently battling some sort of mechanical error, seem to be falling back. The issue was later determined to be a braking problem.
Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez set the fastest lap on lap 29, an impressive feat for the new U.S.-based team. With the sun out, and the tracking becoming dryer, Hamilton finally pulled into the pits on lap 32 onto the ultra soft compound.
Ricciardo followed suit with another tire swap and paid a severe price as his pit team was not ready. As a result, the tires were late to be installed while Hamilton took P1 back after relinquishing position when he pit the prior lap.
Lap 37 presented some excitement during the exit of the tunnel when Ricciardo nearly squeezed by Hamilton who then almost pinched him into the wall after the chicane. In excellent form, Sergio Perez, by lap 42, was steadily in 3rd place ahead of Sebastian Vettel and in hot pursuit of the Australian Red Bull ahead of him.
Fernando Alonso, in his Mclaren Honda, worked his way all the way to the top 5 ahead of a 6th place Rosberg, and his teammate Jensen Button in a healthy 9th place. As in Sochi, both Mclarens finished in the points.
Teammates Phillippe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson nearly took each other out in yet another same-team tussle following a radio exchange for Nasr to allow his Sauber teammate by and did not do so. It's been announced since that Ericsson will suffer a grid penalty in Montreal for his shenanigans.
At the end of the day, Hamilton's ability to keep the ultra soft tires' degradation under control allowed him the win over an absolutely distraught Ricciardo who's utterly inept pit stop cost him the race. Bravo to Force India's Sergio Perez for nabbing 3rd; quite the accomplishment for the Mexican driver and his team.