2008 Monaco Grand Prix notes

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Monaco, 2008, 3, 470150

Here are my notes on last week’s Monaco Grand Prix.

Some people have suggested it showed McLaren now have the upper hand in the championship but I’m not convinced.

Plus, Massa’s impressive start to the race, the drivers who missed opportunities, and more.

Missed opportunities

It was a day for drivers from lower down the grid to grab big points and several of them missed big chances to score:

Fernando Alonso – Just like Lewis Hamilton he had to pit early after contact with the wall but Alonso’s chances really went south when he hit Nick Heidfeld. To his credit, the Renault driver took full responsibility.

Jenson Button – While Rubens Barrichello collected a useful sixth place for his first points since 2006, Button his first-lap collision with Heidfeld that left him without a front wing.

Nico Rosberg – It was a bit of a shocker for Rosberg who seemed to come past without a front wing on every other lap, before finally coming to a rest having battered two barriers at the Swimming Pool complex.

Adrian Sutil – Easily the most hard done by driver of the day. Much has been made of his escape for passing three drivers under a yellow flag but although there appears to be no video of it from what I have heard the stewards’ decision not to punish him was a fair one.

He certainly didn’t deserve to be punted out of fourth place with less than ten minutes to go by, of all people, the reigning world champion. Kimi Raikkonen, however, might be grateful that Sutil was there to keep him from hitting the next car up the road, that of Felipe Massa…


While ITV’s James Allen couldn’t let five minutes go past without invoking comparisons between Ayrton Senna and Lewis Hamilton, I thought Hamilton’s drive much more reminiscent of Michael Schumacher’s maiden win at Belgium in 1992.

On that day Schumacher went off as the track was drying and so decided to gamble on slick tyres. Hamilton too went off but his subsequent early pit stop paid dividends later.

One swallow does not make a McLaren summer

Alan Henry’s write-up in The Guardian after the race surprised me:

It could well come to be regarded as the moment the torch passed to McLaren from Ferrari in the battle for the 2008 world championship.

The way I see it, Hamilton took an opportunistic win on a weekend when Ferrari appeared to have surprised McLaren by being in contention for victory at the kind of track where they struggled last year. They annexed the front row of the grid on Saturday for the first time at the principality since 1979 and there was little to suggest they’d done it by putting less fuel in their F2008s.

The good news for Hamilton was that bad luck struck his team mate Heikki Kovalainen once again. Now 23 points behind championship leader Hamilton, Kovalainen may find himself having to play the number two role sooner than expected, which we be an ironic reversal of the situation last year.

Felipe Massa in the wet

He’s never been the kind of driver who excelled in the wet but look how Massa dropped Raikkonen over the first few laps of the race:

Lap Felipe Massa Kimi Raikkonen Difference
2 1:37.079 1:38.078 +1.001
3 1:35.484 1:36.430 +0.946
4 1:34.600 1:39.028 +4.428
5 1:36.385 1:38.227 +1.842
6 1:38.445 1:39.942 +1.497
7 1:40.103 1:39.617 -0.486
8 1:40.198 1:41.742 +1.544

That’s 10.772 seconds in seven laps! A far cry from the Massa who floundered in the closing stages at the Nurburgring last year, and who never really figured in the season’s two other races at Shanghai and Fuji.

And a pity for him that the early safety car period destroyed his advantage. Although it’s a point of speculation whether it cost him the win…