The 67th running of the Monaco Grand Prix was not a classic. But it was another vital victory for Jenson Button who stretched his 2009 win record to five from six starts on a day when simply no-one could touch him.
Drivers struggle on super-softs
Any concerns Button might have had about Kimi Raikkonen passing him on the run to the first corner vanished when the red lights went out.
Rubens Barrichello made a perfect getaway from third on the grid to pick off Raikkonen for second. It was the only position change in the top ten as the race got off to an orderly start.
Barrichello’s lightning start was thanks in part to his decision to use the super soft tyres. Button had done the same, and the pair quickly left Raikkonen behind.
Sebastian Vettel, fourth, had also started on the super soft tyres but soon hit trouble. By lap five he’d already dropped six seconds behind Raikkonen and Felipe Massa was starting to make moves to pass at the chicane.
On lap six Massa out-braked himself and cut the chicane. It put him ahead of Vettel but Massa quickly acted to give the position back, wary of getting a penalty.
But he reckoned without the opportunistic Nico Rosberg. The Williams driver latched onto the rear of Vettel’s Red Bull and followed him past Massa, who was powerless to respond.
Four laps later Rosberg got past Vettel on the run towards the chicane, and Massa followed him by. As Heikki Kovalainen demoted Vettel further, the Red Bull driver came in for an early pit stop.
Up at the front, Barrichello was also struggling with the super soft tyres, his rear tyres having started to grain. By lap 12 he’d fallen 7.5s behind Button and had Raikkonen all over his gearbox. Rosberg was 16.5s adrift thanks to his delay behind Vettel.
Drama at Ste Devote
Vettel’s race had started poorly, but with his super-soft stint out of the way he at least had the potential to progress later on. But it didn’t work out that way – on lap 16 he carried a little too much speed into Ste Devote, lost the rear of the car, and spun into the barriers. It ended his race – and may have ruined his championship chances as well.
This was the second drama of the day at Ste Devote. Earlier on Sebastien Buemi out-braked himself and shunted Nelson Piquet Jnr out of the race.
Raikkonen made his first pit stop on lap 15 and took another set of soft tyres. Brawn reacted by bringing in Barrichello on the next lap to cover, and kept the Ferrari behind.
Button came in on lap 17 and, like Barrichello, switched from super-softs to softs. It allowed Rosberg briefly into the lead, but only for one lap before his pit stop.
Williams took a gamble on Rosberg, electing to give him a long middle stint to limit the amount of time he would have to spend on the super-soft tyre later on. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out too well for him.
Barrichello made some progress in reducing Button’s lead during their second stint – shaving off two seconds between laps 23 and 46, but that still left Button 14.5s ahead. Plus, Barrichello had less fuel on board, so he had to pit earlier, leaving Button comfortably in control.
Hamilton’s race to forget
Lewis Hamilton made his final pit stop a few laps later on the 53rd tour, taking on a new front wing as well as fresh tyres. His race had begun poorly as he tried to make progress on a short-fuel strategy that was hopelessly unsuited to the tight confines of Monaco.
He was, at least, still in the race, which could not be said of team mate Kovalainen. He lost his car at the entry to La Piscine, much as Massa did in qualifying yesterday, except he made it as far as the barrier…
Raikkonen was the first of the leaders to switch to the super-soft tyres, pitting on lap 53. That left him with 25 laps to complete on the unfavourable rubber, when other drivers had struggled to manage a dozen earlier in the race.
However the increased build-up of rubber on the track surface meant the super-softs now coped much better. This was bad news for Rosberg, who made his final stop 12 laps later than Raikkonen but wasn’t able to capitalise. Having run fourth, he fell to sixth by the finish.
His team mate failed to see the chequered flag, as he understeered off at Mirabeau, crashing into the barriers. He joined the three other drivers who had crashed out of the race plus Robert Kubica, who retired in the pits on another miserable day for BMW.
Button runs in the winner
The Brawn pair took their third one-two of the season with no such dramas in the closing laps. Button did not make a single error until after the race had finished, when he parked his car in the pits instead of on the start/finish straight, as is traditional at Monaco.
In a remarkable display of fitness, he sprinted down the start/finish straight seemingly oblivious the the 78 laps and 1hr 40 minutes of racing he had just been through.
It wasn’t just the driver that showed exceptional longevity but his engine as well. The Mercedes V8 in Button’s car was the same one he’d used in the last two Grands Prix, meaning he’d won three races on the trot with the same engine.
Barrichello finished second ahead of the resurgent Ferrari duo, Webber salvaging some points for Red Bull with fifth. Rosberg was sixth ahead of Fernando Alonso, and Sebastien Bourdais scored the final point.
In ninth place was Giancarlo Fisichella following an excellent drive from 13th. Timo Glock, who started the race from the pit lane with 95kg of fuel on board, was tenth after a single pit stop on lap 57.
Nick Heidfeld was 11th, his BMW faltering in the final laps, with Hamilton 12th ahead of Jarno Trulli and Adrian Sutil. Despite his crash, Kazuki Nakajima was classified 15th.
It was a predictably one-sided race but Ferrari have shown signs of genuine progress with their best result so far this year. Sebastian Vettel has lost another ten points to Button in the championship hunt and must turn things around at Istanbul in two weeks if he is to have any chance of keeping Button from the crown.
Driver of the Day
rjmoseley It has to be Button, a superb drive, he didn’t put a foot wrong and led for all but
filipefurtado Button. But both Webber and Bourdais did a great job on the back
ducolombi Webber did a great race, but the driver of the day is Button, who had a perfect weekend
Clarekelsio absolutely kimi! This is definitely a huge breakthrough for Ferrari and Kimi himself. 1st time to get a podium this year
MarkF1 It has to be Jenson Button he drove a perfect race
smboyce It has to be Button – so fast and consistent. Rosberg was unlucky with strategy…the team can’t sack him now surely
Lou_uk Jenson. Did exactly what he had to, flawless race, and enough energy left over for a little jog’n’skip to the podium! :-)
noelinho Jenson. No other candidate today. Honorary mention to Buemi for his expert take-out on Piquet – beat him at his own game
matthewmaber why Button of course!
AlasdairCM1982 Fisichella, as much as it pains me to say it
40_thieves How about Brundle and Legard for finding enough to talk about during that boring race?
Name your Driver of the Day below…
Main image (C) Bridgestone