Ferrari mistakes let Hamilton in for win despite crash

2008 Monaco Grand Prix review

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Monaco, 2008, 470150

Wet conditions got the better of Ferrari at Monaco allowing Lewis Hamilton to claim victory at the principality despite hitting the barrier in the early running.

Kimi Raikkonen went backwards and ended up crashing into Adrian Sutil and Felipe Massa was out-raced by Robert Kubica on a drying track at Monte-Carlo.

Wet track at the start

Jenson Button, Nick Heidfeld, 2008, Monte-Carlo, 470313

Rain had threatened all weekend long but stayed away from qualifying. An all-Ferrari front row is not often considered a surprised in Formula 1 but at Monaco, where the team hasn’t won since 2001, it was.

Felipe Massa has never pretended to like Monaco – and when he took pole position the general expectation was that he was running a light fuel strategy. But that assumption was never really tested because of the rain that fell on the Monte-Carlo circuit 20 minutes before the race started.

More drama before the start: Heikki Kovalainen’s McLaren stalled due to a software problem, and the Finnish driver was pushed into the pits to start. But despite the treacherous surface the field kept good order through the first corner, with Lewis Hamilton beating Kimi Raikkonen away from the lights to steal second.

But before the first lap had finished the bumping had begun. Nico Rosberg tapped the rear of Fernando Alonso’s Renault at the hairpin damaging his front wing. The Jenson Button, who had made an excellent start, tried a hasty move on Nick Heidfeld and clouted the BMW, requiring a pit stop of his own.

That left Massa in the lead, drawing away from Hamilton and Raikkonen, followed by Robert Kubica and Fernando Alonso, both of which looked quick. Jarno Trulli in sixth began to fall back, holding up his team mate Timo Glock, then Heidfeld, Mark Webber, Kazuki Nakajima, David Coulthard, Rubens Barrichello and Adrian Sutil.

Yes, Adrian Sutil. The Force India driver had prospered at the start and was already up to 13th. That became 12th when Glock lost his front wing on lap three. Sutil would gain several more places by not making that kind of mistake.

Hamilton hits the wall

Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen, Robert Kubica, Monte-Carlo, 2008, 470150

The slow speed of the ‘Trulli train’ had an important bearing on the race when Hamilton hit the barrier at Tabac on lap six. It wasn’t a huge hit, but it was enough to deflate his right-rear tyre. The McLaren limped back to the pits where he took on a belt of fuel and his pit crew resisted the temptation to switch him onto extreme wet tyres.

It looked like a mistake at the time because the rain was still falling and the track was getting ever wetter. But within a few laps the rain had ceased and would not return. Thanks to the ‘Trulli train’, Hamilton came back out of the pits in fifth place, With Raikkonen now second ahead of Kubica and Alonso.

A trio of crashes at Massenet on lap eight brough the safety car out. Alonso was the first to run wide and hit the barrier, but just like Hamilton the damage was restricted to a tyre that was quickly replaced. Alonso had been on the standard wet tyres but on the formation lap had pressed his team to switch him onto the deeper extreme wets, which they did not do.

Moments later David Coulthard and Sebastien Bourdais also crashed at Massenet, bourdais hitting the crashed car of Coulthard having already lost control.

Massa loses the lead

Robert Kubica, Felipe Massa, Monte-Carlo, 2008, 470313

The safety car period eliminated what had been an impressive 11.5s lead for Massa. It was at this point that Ferrari’s race began to unravel. First of all Raikkonen was served with a penalty as his mechanics had not cleared the grid quickly enough before the start of the race. He served the penalty on lap 13.

The recovering Alonso slotted past Webber and began attacking Heidfeld. But a poorly-timed move at the hairpin on lap 14 cost Alonso his front wing and damaged Heidfeld’s car as well. Webber passed the pair of them and Alonso, along with Nico Rosberg, headed for the pits. Heidfeld followed a few laps later after being passed by Sutil. The Force India driver was now sixth, although it later transpired he had passed Barrichello, Nakajima and Nelson Piquet Jnr under yellow flags, but escaped a penalty.

Heavy with fuel, Hamilton started to lose touch with Massa and Kubica. Kubica was putting Massa under pressure and Massa responded with some faster laps – and then went straight on at Ste Devote. In a replay of Michael Schumacher’s mistake at the same corner in the last wet Monaco Grand Prix in 1997 he was able to continue without hitting anything, but he was powerless to stop the BMW driver taking over the lead.

At this point the race settled briefly, with Kubica a couple of second ahead of Massa, Hamilton seven seconds back and falling further behind, and Raikkonen a further second back and losing touch with Hamilton.

On lap 26 Kubica made his first pit stop, his lead over third placed Hamilton having grown to 18.5s. The Polish driver came out of the pits just as Raikkonen was about to go past, but the Ferrari went wide at Ste Devote allowing Kubica to keep third. That damaged Raikkonen’s front wing, forcing him to pit.

Massa stayed out six laps longer than Kubica and moved ahead of him, but his pit stop promoted Hamilton into the lead. Now the track was drying rapidly and the fastest lap time began to fall.

Hamilton pulls ahead as track dries

Hamilton was able to extend his lead by entire seconds at a time, extending his advantage from 13.2s on lap 34 to 23s by lap 42. Kubica meanwhile was falling back from Massa and was now six seconds adrift. Behind him were Webber, Sutil, Raikkonen, Barrichello and Nakajima.

By lap 50 the track had moved into the zone where teams were starting to consider switching to dry-weather tyres. As the remaining moisture began to dry Massa suddenly began to lose pace and the gap between him and Hamilton grew to 33 seconds, and Kubica was right on his tail.

One of the first drivers onto dry tyres was Mark Webber, although the Red Bull driver struggled to get up to speed at first. Alonso then switched to dry tyres, as did team mate Piquet, but the Brazilian crashed out at Ste Devote not long afterwards.

Alonso, however, fared far better on the dry tyres and when he set the fastest middle sector of the race it signalled to the rest of the field that the track was ready for grooved rubber. Nonetheless McLaren took the precaution of bringing the out-of-position Kovalainen in for dry rubber first on lap 49 before Hamilton followed five laps later.

Massa delayed his switch to dry tyres until lap 56, three later than Kubica, which proved to be a mistake. The BMW driver was quickly up to speed and when Massa came out of the pits Kubica was already through into second.

Rosberg crashes hard

Adrian Sutil, Kimi Raikkonen, Mark Webber, Monte-Carlo, 2008, 470150

But with Hamilton 40 seconds ahead it looked as though there would be no battle for the lead – until Rosberg crashed heavily on lap 62, causing the second safety car period of the day. The Williams driver ran wide on the entry to the Swimming Pool complex, clipped a kerb and hit two barriers before coming to a rest. Shattered parts of his FW30 were spread across the track.

The lapped cars took a long time to disentangle themselves from the safety car queue and when the race got going again Hamilton led Kubica and Massa, with Sutil a remarkable fourth having changed to dry-weather tyres and stayed ahead of Raikkonen. Webber’s delay had dropped him to sixth ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Barrichello.

But Sutil’s strong run came to a cruel end after the restart on lap 67. Raikkonen wasn’t even looking to make a move on him at the harbour chicane when the Ferrari slewed out of control and Raikkonen hit Sutil’s car square up the back.

Both drivers headed for the pits but only one came out – and it wasn’t Sutil, whose car had sustained too much damage. Raikkonen took a new front wing and kept going, but he fell to ninth and out of the points for the first time this year.

Hamilton wins in Monaco

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Monte-Carlo, 2008, 2, 470313

That was the final act in a dramatic and chaotic race. Hamilton took the chequer and on his slowing down lap discovered he had a puncture – most likely caused by Rosberg’s crash, although exactly when he picked it up is not clear.

Kubica and Massa filled the podium with Webber inheriting fourth from Vettel, Barrichello, Nakajima and the recovering Kovalainen.

Outside the points were a few drivers who must have rued hasty moves at the start of the race: Alonso, tenth behind Raikkonen, Button in 11th, and 12th-placed Glock who reversed into the barrier at Mirabeau on lap 39. He still finished ahead of team mate Trulli and last of the classified finishers Nick Heidfeld.

Giancarlo Fisichella in his 200th Grand Prix suffered the only mechanical failure of the race, retiring on lap 26 with suspected gearbox problems.

Hamilton’s win puts him back on top of the drivers’ championship with Massa and Raikkonen in close attendance. In two weeks’ time he returns to the scene of his maiden Grand Prix victory, Montreal, looking to extend his advantage.

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34 comments on Ferrari mistakes let Hamilton in for win despite crash

  1. George said on 26th May 2008, 3:05

    A race and a performance (or two) to savour. Sutil was desperately unlucky – he may never have such a chance again. He had driven a perfect race and to lose it all through no fault of his own is hard. Lewis was simply sublime today – on another level to the rest. Yes, he got lucky with the safety car but, that got levelled out in the last few laps with a second one. If you followed his race lap by lap on the live timing it was a perfectly sustained charge, at the maximum each time around. He cut through the traffic like a knife through butter, lapping routinely at around 1 second quicker than the chasing pack. The legend grows – his performance today was supremely evocative of past heroes of Monte Carlo. And, rather poetically, on the same weekend that a Senna won at Monaco for the first time since 1993. I could watch Hamilton dance his way around Monaco for another two hours right now. An artist.

  2. William Wilgus said on 26th May 2008, 3:17

    George: As much as I hate to admit it, Hamilton did drive a good race. But he was also damned lucky!

  3. the limit said on 26th May 2008, 4:36

    To Nick.

    In my defence, I did say ‘he’. Everybody knows that Alonso won last year’s race fair and square, thats why I wrote ‘he’ like I did.
    As you suggested, Raikkonen retiring would make it easier for all concerned, including Ferrari, in ataining Alonso’s services. However, if it is Massa who is crowned champion this year, then what?
    Nobody has thought of that scenario have they, and it is perfectly possible as long as Felipe keeps up with the pace?
    Don’t forget, the last time Ferrari wanted a change in direction, they forced the hand of a certain seven time world champion. Nobody is irreplacable.

  4. cyanide said on 26th May 2008, 7:10

    I couldn’t watch the GP on TV since Star Sports was busy showing Tennis. And the video quality of the online feed meant that I was getting my race updates from the Live Blog here. So firstly, a big thanks to everyone who participated in it, and to the mods for handling everything so well. Had a great time talking to other F1-heads.

    About the race, well, it was one of those classics which contained its fair share of unfortunate moments for a Ferrari/Raikkonen fan and an Indian at the same time. But watching the supreme drive by Hamilton, Massa proving his critics wrong (including me) and seeing so many mid-field teams scoring points made it a day and a Grand Prix worth remembering. These oldschool circuits, while being incredibly unsafe or unpolished, still beat the living shit out of dull tracks at dull locations like China and Bahrain. And the rain, I’d like to have that at every circuit, even if it’s just for a few minutes at the start/middle.

    All in all, a Sunday worth remembering. Let’s see what Singapore can throw up!

  5. Noel said on 26th May 2008, 8:51

    I had a tear in my eye for Sutil when Kimi knocked him out. A fantastic opportunity taken away by a mistake from the World Champion. A massive, massive shame for him and the team alike.

    I really enjoyed this race because it had everything a good race should have – opportunities for overtaking. Monaco is usually a parade, but varying levels of grip and ability made for a truely fascinating race. For the first time in years I sat in awe right in front of the TV set :)

  6. My highlites:

    Webber – had no choice but to come in as he had no fuel, and went out early on grooves but really kept the race together and was very consistent throughout. He deserved P4 and is probably the 4th best driver on the grid. Has as many points himself as Williams do

    Kubica – very solid, cool, race. Kept his composure and drove the BMW at 100% for 2 hours.

    Massa – I am really starting to like this guy, not only a lot of fun and a guy who can smile but drove a good race despite the troubles with team strategy

    Sutil – Took 3 positions under yellow, but deserved at least a point.

    Hamilton – consistently very fast and while some may say that he was lucky, he did build a 34s+ lead

    Nakajima – the quiet guy with a lot of promise proving that not all Japanese drivers are a joke

    And the bad:

    Piquet – would be out mid-season if it wasn’t for his sponsors being tied up with Renault. Just can’t take the pressure of a race weekend

    Coulthard – counting the days remaining in his career. I supported him until this weekend, now he is just letting down a team that could finish 4th.

    Alonso – Before the race he was telling ITV about how important it is to ‘be calm’ at Monaco. If only he took his own advice.. (exact quote in pre-race interview: “I think you need to be calm, because Monaco is a race where you need to choose exactly the moments to push, because you cannot push 78 laps because in the end you will crash”). Though he almost went into my ‘highlites’ after he mentioned he was a Liverpool supporter :)

    ITV – along with whoever the Monaco broadcaster was (I believe its one of only 2 races that is still broadcast by locals). Missed many of the incidents, pit stops, poor effort in showing the midfield, bad camera angles, water on lenses, etc. And please, no more interviewing dull football players or girlfriends please.

  7. oh and best quote to Nico Rosberg when asked if he volunteered for the fashion parade: “Bernie is a good persuader”

  8. Toncho said on 26th May 2008, 10:18

    Great report Keith. My view on the top drivers:
    HAM: He made two races in one, the first with a mistake than normally should have cost him the victory or even more, the second half a perfect race with fast pace and no mistakes, well done!
    KIMI: It seems like he is not as strong at it seems, if he on he’s the best one, but he not as consistent and cool as we could expect, shame on him for the incident with sutil
    MASSA: When i was thinking about coming here and admit that I was too hard with him he decided to park his car… In any case he is getting stronger, finishing in the podium in Monaco that is not exactly his cup of tea proves it.
    KUB: I think he made a great job yesterday and was the only one not to make any big mistake, even so he was not able to win, is that the real limit of the car or his??
    ALO: I enjoyed a lot his race till the HEI incident. He was clearly taking too many risks as he did have nothing to loose. It was just me or HEI blocked him in the previous lap of the accident? (coming to the left and then to the right in the place where he overtook webber)
    A final note on the start: did you notice how there was no FE strategy?? Massa actually blocked KIM… weird, isn’t it??

  9. Oliver said on 26th May 2008, 10:40

    Massa didn’t block Kimi, Kimi made a very poor start, Massa was only putting his car in best position to take the turn.

  10. George said on 26th May 2008, 13:34

    William Wilgus – you make your own luck. ;)

  11. Jean said on 26th May 2008, 15:14

    As I’ve only managed to watch bits of the race , maybe I’m wrong , but from my view Kubica should be driver of the day . I think he’s the only driver who never made a mistake , in the bad conditions. Massa drove a great race too , just one small slip on corner 1 , which he recovered super quickly from , but did not have luck on his side , so to finish 3rd in such conditions , well done to him. Hamilton drove very well too , had the luck and took the win. As someone said , Kimi must have been put off by the penalty , and things just got worse from there on. I’m sure he’ll be back in Canada though. Piquet of course , I would not mind being wrong and therfore surprised in future considering his racing “pedigree” , but I can’t see him making it in F1 much longer , let alone a world champion ? but then again , Heiki took some time adjusting , didn’t he ? Nakajima is full of promise , must be getting close to start rattling the ever highly Rosberg anytime soon.

  12. The drive of the race belongs to Vettel, 20 years old, manages to avoid most of the carnage and comes home 5th.
    All of the results were obviously skewed by the weather, but it was almost as action packed as a typical NASCAR race! That last comment should incite some backlash.

    I can’t get too excited about Sutil after finding out he passed 3 cars under yellow, but it was a shame he was taken out by a driver who should have known better.

  13. Gman said on 26th May 2008, 19:27

    Kubica, according to all the reports I’ve read, is a big fan of street tracks- his performance this weekend is proof positive, and it will be a treat to see how he drives on the new stops in Valencia and Singapore later on. As for Massa, someone we know is not a fan of Monaco, perhaps his shwoing is a sign of his overall improvement and consistency- I wonder if his critics are so eager to get rid of him after this weekend…

    The report on Alonso’s rumoured contract with Ferrari is indeed big news if it is true- no doubt we’ll all be tuned in for further news on the situation. At Red Bull, it’s becoming obvious who the #1 and #2 drivers are..dose anyone think DC can hang on after this season, or if he will even want to?

  14. J. Neale said on 26th May 2008, 19:31

    Does anyone know where I can watch the press conference? I had to record it and it cut off when the programme was meant to end.

  15. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th May 2008, 19:43

    Knowing FOM there probably isn’t anywhere you can watch it legally, but here’s a full write up.

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