2008 Monaco Grand Prix notes

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…

Schumacheresque

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…

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19 comments on 2008 Monaco Grand Prix notes

  1. M Smith said on 31st May 2008, 19:39

    About Sutil’s overtaking cars under yellows, I think those three cars (Barrichello, Nakajima and Piquet I think) were passed that Loews harpin when Alonso and Heidfeld collided. I may be wrong, but if I’m right, then that incident rightfully wasn’t punished, as in that traffic jam, it isn’t unsafe to just crawl past the cars blocking the road…

  2. Ago said on 31st May 2008, 20:05

    After 6 GP McLaren is 33pts behind their ’07 score (I have compared with the same GPs), Ferrari -5, BMW +16. So relatively to last year and compared to McLaren, Ferrari has moved forward +28pts.

    I do not believe McLaren will be able to catch up on their number of points before the European GP. Now the good news for McLaren is that last year the 3rd part of the championship was pretty poor (24 pts in 5 races) so expect a dreamatic finish, with -maybe- BMW as an intruder…

    Ferrari seems to be in good form, front line at Monaco is pretty bad news for McLaren… And it has to be said that in the 2 last GP McLaren gambled and won. Congratulations for being audacious and successful but this doesn’t draw any conclusion on them getting closer to Ferrari.

    Of course this doesn’t affect the pilots as Lewis is only 4pts behind schedule and Kimi +4. Massa is coming back (-9) with 34pts in 4 races only! and Kubica (+19) might be a good surprise…

    I believe this year will be even more disputed than ’07 with may be 3 constructors and 4 pilots fighting for their respective titles…

  3. I agree that Ferrari is the strogest team on the grid.
    I know that statistics are there to be broken, but i heard somewhere that only three times the winner in Monaco won the championship.

    Am I wrong?.

  4. Sav722 said on 31st May 2008, 21:36

    Well, Mclaren’s relatively poor qualifying performance is partially explained by Ted Kravitz here. The team before qualifying opted for a wet brake set up, knowing it would rain on race day: http://www.itv-f1.com/Feature.aspx?Type=Ted_Kravitz&id=42809

    Traditionaly Ferrari like to get pole and control the pace, but if that report is true then it may explain why both Massa and Kimi both lost control at St Devote last Sunday.

    Mclaren still has a shorter wheelbase, as reported in Autosport a number of times. So I think Canada will suit them, so will both new street tracks, Hungry and Fuji. Turkey also showed that Mclaren have started to catch up on the high downforce circuits. Also, in changing conditions the Mclaren generally tends to be faster.

    Mclaren now can put all their weight behind Lewis for the title, but for Ferrari they can’t pick a favourite, because both are so close in the standings. Plus, with Ferrari’s world champion appearing to fade, it could result in a further loss of points for Ferrari.

  5. Ago said on 31st May 2008, 23:12

    I’m not calculating statistics here I am counting points. There are only 18 GP to mark points. If you don’t mark points in a race (and nobody is going to mark points in the last 6 races ;-) you’ve got to mark these missing points in the next races. Let’s concentrate on the 2nd third of the season (races 7-12)So let’s count:

    - Wins : 2 same as last year ok but to keep the pace they have to win 4 out the 6 races to come (though job, but they did it last year so why not!)

    -2nd place : they had 5 last year (0 this year) so they’ve got to mark 5 more to what they did last year (2). Mission impossible you can’t have 7 2nd place in 6 races : Cost = minimum 8pts.

    - 3rd place : they had 3 last year (2 this year) so they’ve got to mark 1 more.in races 7-12 last year they had 2 so this year it must be 3…
    total : 4 (win) +6 (2nd) +3 (3rd) and with that they will still be late of 8pts. Well 4+6+3= 13 You can’t mark 13 times with 2 cars! so it will be 12 results max. As a consequence that is going to cost them 6 points mini. Total loss =8+6 = 14 pts.

    Even with God in the car they cannot do better that still being late of 14 points compared to last year.

    That is not statistics it’s arithmetics ;-)

    Can talk about wet brake set-up this is NOT going to change the facts…

  6. Ago said on 31st May 2008, 23:21

    Ooops sorry I didn’t finish.
    OK they could have 6 wins (yes Ferrari is going to sleep in their garage ;-). Fine but then they’ve got to substract the points from the 2 third places (as you can achieve only 12 results in 6 races. so +20 (2 wins) – 12(2 x 3rd) = 8 more points so still 6 points behind last year after 12 races.
    This is why I am saying they won’t be back in points before the 3rd part of the season….

  7. Any word of Kimi getting a penalty?

  8. Tom said on 1st June 2008, 9:01

    I sincerely hope you are not waiting for Kimi to receive a penalty for colliding with Sutil, Alonso had more control over the race incident he caused frankly…

  9. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 1st June 2008, 9:55

    Raikkonen just crashed, if he hadn’t have hit Sutil he’d have hit the wall or something, you can’t punish someone for that.

  10. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 1st June 2008, 10:24

    Sav – very useful information, thanks.

  11. Dorian said on 1st June 2008, 11:11

    Agreed. Just an unfortunate error certainly not punishable. Blimey, losing the lead in the championship, he probably feels as punishment enough.

  12. Jian said on 1st June 2008, 13:09

    Santigao: “I know that statistics are there to be broken, but i heard somewhere that only three times the winner in Monaco won the championship.”

    Yes 3 times in the last 10 years, before that I am not sure but there have been plenty more times but yeah, the race is not the best indicator.

  13. SoLiD said on 1st June 2008, 21:10

    Ferrari still has the edge… but Lewis didn’t get victory just because Ferrari made mistakes.
    Sure he had luck but he was blindingly fast when it mattered… guys that had live timing next to them can agree I think.
    He could have done an extra pitstop without a problem.

  14. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 2nd June 2008, 17:23

    Nice spot becken. I love the cartoon above it as well. Is than Ivan Capelli’s site then?

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