The Monaco Grand Prix was all about tyres: super-soft tyres, to be exact.
Button mastered them, Vettel went to pieces on them, and Williams screwed up their strategy because they were spooked by them. Here’s how the Monaco Grand Prix unfolded.
The lack of room for overtaking at Monaco meant the start was very orderly.
The big move at the front was Rubens Barrichello taking Kimi Raikkonen for second. Further back, a poor start for Giancarlo Fisichella potentially cost him a points finish.
Button masters the super softs
The battle for the lead between the two Brawn drivers turned on how they managed the super-soft tyres in the opening stint.
Here Button excelled. Yes, his car was half a kilo lighter than Barrichello’s – not enough for Barrichello to stop a lap later. But he still managed to lap up to 1.7s faster, pulling out a lead of 12.59s before Barrichello pitted.
Vettel’s bad first stint
Barrichello’s difficulties on the super-soft tyres were nothing compared to Sebastian Vettel’s. This gap shows his time deficit to leader Button, along with Felipe Massa’s and Nico Rosberg’s.
Vettel held up Massa so badly it gave Rosberg a shot at passing the Ferrari. At one stage he lost 4.5s in a single lap.
Remarkably by the end of the race the increased build-up of rubber on the surface meant even Vettel’s team mate Mark Webber was able to complete a 22-lap stint on the super-soft tyres with nothing like as serious a loss of time.
Williams’ strategy blunder
Fear of spending a long final stint on the super-soft tyres pushed Williams into a strategy decision that cost Nico Rosberg a potential fourth place. The graph above shows his and Massa’s time deficit to the leader from lap 19, as Massa was making his first pit stop.
They put him on a very long middle stint so as to reduce the length of his final stint on the super-soft tyres.
However the long pit stop cost him track position to Massa and Webber, and his heavy fuel load restricted his pace, so that Massa was able to make his final pit stop (see lap 56, above) before Rosberg and still stay ahead.
Williams may have had cause to criticise Rosberg’s driving in recent races, but on this occasion they let him down.
One-stop strategy works for Fisichella
At the end of the race, Giancarlo Fisichella was just one place away from scoring Force India’s first point.
This graph shows how his one-stop strategy, leaving the super-soft tyres until the end, worked better for him than team mate Adrian Sutil, who stated the race on super-softs. Sutil’s lap times spike just eight laps into the race.
Had Fisichella not lost a place to Sebastien Bourdais at the start, he very likely would have scored Force India’s first point.
The chart above shows clearly how Vettel’s problem bunched the field up and, further back, Sutil’s had a similar effect.
It’s also clear that Fernando Alonso coped far better with the super-soft tyres than Rosberg did in the final laps.