Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Monte-Carlo, 2013

Testing row casts shadow over Rosberg’s win

2013 Monaco Grand Prix reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Mercedes went into the Monaco Grand Prix as hot favourites to win. Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton duly locked out the front row of the grid on Saturday.

But on the morning of the race it emerged both drivers had taken part in a secret tyre test following the last race. Red Bull and Ferrari confirmed they were lodging a protest.

Mercedes have struggled with tyre wear in the races more than any other team this year. Suddenly their form in Monaco seemed to owe less to how the low-grip track flattered the W04, and more to what they might have learned covering three Grand Prix distances in a clandestine test.

Slow starting Mercedes stay ahead

Start, 2013 Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo,Neither Mercedes driver got away particularly well when the lights went out, and Vettel took a speculative look down the inside of Rosberg. “I think I could have gone past both Mercedes but didn’t have the room, had to lift,” he said afterwards.

Rosberg went into the first corner side-by-side and that was it for Vettel’s chances of separating them, though he gave Hamilton a hard time over the opening laps.

The next cars behind them also remained in grid order. Mark Webber was followed by Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez. The first driver to have gained a position at the start was Jenson Button, who’d taken Adrian Sutil at Sainte Devote.

He’d also got down the inside of his team mate at the chicane, only for Perez to cut across the run-off to stay ahead. The same happened at the swimming pool complex, and the fact that they are team mates did not stop Button pointing out on the radio that he should be given the position.

“I know we’re both team mates but he cut the chicane when I was up the inside of him to keep the position,” he complained. It took ten laps for the stewards to intervene and Perez was fortunate they told him to hand back the place instead of issuing a penalty. Nor was it his last incident of the day.

Mercedes control the race

The Mercedes drivers controlled the pace early in the race, saving their tyres and preventing the field from spreading out – denying their pursuers the chance to pit.

“I think we could see that the field didn’t spread out,” said Vettel, “they did what worked best for them”.

“It was just basically saving tyres and making the one-stop work,” said Webber. “It was completely predictable that if the race was going to stack up then the two-stop was not really an option to come back into traffic.”

It wasn’t until lap 25 that enough of a gap had opened up behind for one of the front runners to consider making a pit stop. Webber arrived first, reappearing in a gap left by the struggling Williams of Valtteri Bottas.

Raikkonen, who’d been running close behind Webber, came in next. This looked like it would present an opportunity to Alonso, who had been shadowing the pair of them, and had dropped back early apparently trying to make his tyres last longer.

On lap 28 Alonso headed for the pits and for once he wasn’t even to get ahead of Raikkonen’s Lotus – although there wasn’t much in it. This was a disappointment for Ferrari, but it was nothing compared to what happened next.

Massa shunts, Hamilton loses out

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monte-Carlo, 2013Felipe Massa had started from the back row after a nasty shunt in practice kept him out of qualifying. Massa had lost control of his car on a bump approaching Sainte Devote, crunched into the barrier on the left which fired him into another barrier on the exit of the corner.

Beginning lap 29, two laps after changing to the super-soft tyres, he had a very similar accident. Massa was whisked away to hospital where the doctors found all was well, but having two similar and destructive crashes in a short space of time can’t help but have an effect on him.

It certainly had consequences for the race, as the Safety Car was summoned. Vettel made it onto the pit lane before it arrived but the Mercedes pair had to finish a lap at reduced speed, driving to the Safety Car delta time, having not caught up with it yet.

Vettel returned to the track ahead of Webber and soon caught up to the Safety Car, which waved them past on the approach to Mirabeau. While they pressed on, Rosberg was arriving in the pits. Hamilton had been told to drop back so he wouldn’t have to wait too long behind his team mate. But he allowed too much of a gap to build up, and the time lost meant he fell behind both Red Bulls.

Perez takes Alonso on

The race resumed with Rosberg now missing his rear gunner. But he had little to fear from Vettel, who while the Safety Car was out was warned by his race engineer that his tyres had been “marginal” at the end of the last stint. Rosberg was advised his tyres had more than half their life left in them.

Rosberg pulled out a 1.9 second lead over Vettel on the first flying lap while a queue developed behind the Red Bulls. Hamilton was being particularly aggressive in his pursuit of Webber, even diving down the inside at Rascasse at one point. They came out side-by-side but Webber out-accelerated him to Anthony Noghes and stayed ahead.

Behind them Alonso had the McLaren pair on his heels. Button knocked the Ferrari at the Loews hairpin and Perez took advantage. He dived down the inside of his team mate at the chicane to take back the place he’d surrendered earlier. “Checo got a really good run on me coming out of the tunnel,” Button admitted afterwards, adding “I wasn’t paying attention”.

Now Perez set his sights on Alonso. Again he took his opportunity at the chicane with an uncompromising move. Alonso, knowing that championships aren’t won by needless collisions in a contest over sixth place, cut across the chicane rather than bang wheels with the McLaren.

But he knows well enough from his own experience (Silverstone 2010 in particular) that you don’t get to do that and keep your position. Protesting on the radio that he did it “to avoid a collision” was never going to wash.

Crash stops race

Max Chilton, Marussia, Monte-Carlo, 2013Before that matter was settled an alarming crash at Tabac brought the race to a temporary stop. Max Chilton had slowed at the chicane after being passed by Esteban Gutierrez, and Pastor Maldonado had drawn alongside him at the following corner.

Chilton drifted right into Maldonado’s path, pitching the Williams into the air and heavy contact with the barriers. The impact was so great one barrier broke loose and was collected by the following Marussia of Jules Bianchi. All involved were fortunate to escape injury.

During the stoppage the remaining drivers took the opportunity to change their tyres. The stewards also told Alonso to give his place to Perez when the race resumed, which he did.

After a 25-minute minute interruption the second Safety Car restart of the day saw Rosberg resume in the lead followed by the two Red Bulls, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Perez, Button and Sutil. All bar Raikkonen had opted for super-soft tyres – the Lotus driver taking a second set of softs instead.

Sutil and Perez go on the attack

Sutil went on the attack after the restart. He caught Button completely by surprise at Loews hairpin, diving down the inside of the McLaren. Five laps later he pulled exactly the same trick on Alonso, leaving the Ferrari driver eighth. The next driver ahead was Perez and McLaren were quick to warn him of Sutil’s chosen method of attack.

Perez had his hands full trying to get past Raikkonen. The pair have already crossed paths this year and Raikkonen was none too impressed when the McLaren came down the inside of him at the chicane too quickly, forcing both to cut the corner. “That idiot would have crashed into me if I hadn’t gone straight.”

Raikkonen was even less impressed when the pair collided on lap 69. Perez came from a long way back at the chicane and Raikkonen was not inclined to give him in space, moving towards the inside. The contact between them left Raikkonen with a puncture. He limped into the pits and resumed in 16th, his chances of scoring points seemingly lost.

But as in China, for all Raikkonen’s fulminations about Perez (and there was more to come after the race), the stewards found nothing wrong with what was clearly a racing incident.

Not that Perez get away cleanly. His front wing had lost several elements but he was able to continue. More serious was the damage to his brake ducts. The discs began to overheat, forcing him to pull off. As he did Alonso tried to take advantage and claim his place back from Sutil but succeeded only in losing a position to Button.

Rosberg brings it home

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Monte-Carlo, 2013Rosberg had to cope with a third interruption from the Safety Car before he finally got to see the chequered flag. Romain Grosjean drove into the back of Daniel Ricciardo at the chicane, taking both out of the race.

However Rosberg never looked likely to come under threat from Vettel, even if the Red Bull driver did reel off a rapid lap on the penultimate tour “for satisfaction”.

Last year’s winner Webber joined them on the podium after a race of “just driving around, saving the tyres and waiting for the chequered flag”.

Hamilton was followed home by Sutil, Button and Alonso. The latter had a strangely off-colour day which was only partly due to picking up debris on his car during the race. He suspected poor traction was the root of his problems.

Jean-Eric Vergne and Paul di Resta were promoted into the points by the late race incidents. The last point was taken – remarkably – by Raikkonen. Thanks to a performance advantage in the region of four seconds on fresh tyres he picked off both Saubers and Bottas in the final two laps.

After serving a drive-through penalty for his part in the race-stopping crash, Chilton passed Giedo van der Garde for 14th two laps from home, also aided by fresher tyres.

Van der Garde has spoiled his qualifying result by crashing into Maldonado on the first lap, forcing both to pit. The other Caterham of Charles Pic had gone out with a fire early in the race.

Controversy casts shadow over race

Nico Rosberg dominated the Monaco Grand Prix weekend. He topped all the practice sessions, took pole position and led every lap on his way to victory.

It was effectively a home race win for the German driver with a famous Finnish father, who spent much of his life in Monaco. And it came 30 years after Keke scored a memorable and brilliant Monaco win of his own.

But if Rosberg hoped any of that might take people’s minds of the controversy which came to light on the morning of the race, he was to be disappointed. The first question he faced from a journalist afterwards was: “The secret test days that you had in Barcelona – how helpful were those days for you?”

“I’m not going to comment,” Rosberg replied. “I’m not going to comment on that. You have to ask Pirelli.”

2013 Monaco Grand Prix

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Images © Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Marussia

79 comments on “Testing row casts shadow over Rosberg’s win”

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  1. I was somewhat surprised that Alonso was asked to relinquish his position to Perez after that attempted “Hail Mary” overtaking maneuver.
    And it was somewhat funny that Martin Brundle in one breath said that drivers need to leave room when attempting an overtaking maneuver then in another breath saying that Alonso needs to relinquish his position when Perez did not leave any room for Alonso,forcing him to run straight on.

    I am also surprised by the news that Merc had a clandestine test session with Pirelli.
    I would hope that all the other teams are allowed to have a similar test session and/or Merc should be penalised.

  2. Can anyone explain the difference between Van De Garde crashing into Maldonado, Grosjean hitting Ricciardo, and Perez taking on Raikkonen? I saw three overly aggressive moves/mistakes, yet only Grosjean is heavily penalized.

  3. So the super-secret tire test row is basically down to whether they asked other teams to participate or not. Pirelli says they did, a year ago, some teams refused, some didn’t even reply ( ) . Now Ferrari and Red Bull seem to be mostly upset not by the fact that the test has occurred, but with the fact they used at least some current tires. To me it looks like everyone knew about the test, they just didn’t expect to gain anything form it. Now as it seems that Mercedes gained something there is an outrage.

    Hembery’s explanations don’t add up in their entirety. The same goes for the perceived gains for Mercedes. As they were not allowed to gather data, they didn’t know which compounds they were running etc. I don’t think anything could be gained. Also Mercedes performance in Monaco doesn’t make the picture any clearer. Everybody knew that Mercedes have the best chance of wining in Monaco due to the nature of the track. It’s not by any means representative of overall performance of the car. Nor the tire degradation which said car produces.

    1. Sure, @cyclops_pl, Mercedes was foreseen to be very strong at Monaco, and they were. It’s no surprise they won and probably not related to the testing (though, as VET pointed out, it probably did not harm them; even with no access to datas, you at least get the drivers’ feedback). But the question about the test remains:

      _ why using 2013 cars to test for the tyres, especially given the big changes forthcoming next year?

      1. @js

        This is exactly the thing which doesn’t add up in Hembery’s explanations. The in-season test is for emergency reasons, thus it is done to test current tires. That’s why they use a current car. Using old Renault chassis doesn’t make any sense and probably is one of the reasons the current-spec tires are behaving badly. Pirelli needed this test and needed it fast, so they didn’t bother to ask all teams for the second time as it would take time. Time Pirelli don’t have before Montreal. And this is where they put their foot wrong. They also underestimated F1’s politics, the area Red Bull and Ferrari are very capable in.

        1. @cyclops_pl but then one thing I don’t understand: they said that 90% of the test concerned tyres for next year, and only 10% for Montreal. Next year cars will be different from this year, as 2011 were for that year, anyway…
          So, either this information is wrong, or something else is very wrong here…

          [We could also wonder why doing the test with the current pilots, and not Mercedes (or Pirelli; maybe more delicate) test drivers…]

          1. @cyclops_pl

            Now as it seems that Mercedes gained something there is an outrage.

            I don’t think there is an overwhelming feeling that Merc has gained something. If there is the possibility that the testing team would gain something (which to me would mean Pirelli would have had to share data which I don’t think they did) then why wouldn’t all teams be fighting very hard to help Pirelli do this test?

            They also underestimated F1′s politics, the area Red Bull and Ferrari are very capable in.

            I doubt highly that Pirelli underestimated F1’s politics…they’re living it as we speak and have been since their tires came under scrutiny, even last year when drivers complained they couldn’t push their cars to the limits, let alone this year. I also think Pirelli would be highly aware of how volatile this test would have been if in fact they did it with a current top 3 team.


            but then one thing I don’t understand: they said that 90% of the test concerned tyres for next year, and only 10% for Montreal.

            I’m guessing they said this because they know they can’t change the tires drastically this season…just enough to dissuade the need for 4 stop races, and to elimate the delaminations, but not enough to totally change each teams’ chassis/tire relationship that they developed based on tire specs they got last September for using toward this year’s chassis’.

            As Hemberey has hinted at, and assuming they are the tire maker for next year… next year the cars with their new engine packages and hence drastically new chassis, will on their own shake things up on the grid presumably, and so degrady tires may be needed much less so to help shake things up in F1 and make for multiple potential winners throughout the season and no processions nor one team running away with the Championship. ie. expect next years tires, whoever makes them, to be much less relied upon to shake things up. Next years tires will be more stable and it will be a chassis/engine contest next year rather than a tire conservation contest like this year.

  4. he [Hamilton] fell behind both Mercedes.

    Surely you meant both Red Bulls. Now moderate me out.

  5. Hamilton had been told to drop back so he wouldn’t have to wait too long behind his team mate. But he allowed too much of a gap to build up, and the time lost meant he fell behind both Mercedes.

    Both Redbulls

    ps, this post is the only one on the front page with out a photo of a f1 car driving at the camera directly head on!

  6. @keithcollantine Meticulously (in a positive way) detailed review as always, great to relive the awesome moments. Just one small typo (may have been pointed out earlier in the comments). ‘Massa shunts, Hamilton loses out’ part, last line. It should be ‘…fell behind both Red Bulls.’

  7. Well all these rows and disputes are going to rage on and on. Its now ridicolous the tyre debate, no concorde agreement, disputes over engine costs and now this. I take Ross Brawn on every word he says but why did they use Rosberg and Hamilton if it was no benefit. Sam Bird was at Barcelona and he could have done it. Why were Pirelli called to the stewards’ if they are adamant that there was a contract in place to do a tyre test. Surely this whole thing has become a mess, Bernie has his own issues the teams cant agree on anything we as fans aren’t really enjoying it. Pirelli are taking all the heat and may leave the sport. Its just a mess and its not ending soon.

  8. Wouldn’t the FIA of needed to have one of its officials present at this test?

  9. After a couple days of everyone throwing in an oppinion and working it for their own gain, and making Mercedes either look bad or good, lets just stop. think to yourself this………. as this is what has happened:

    There is a testing ban on in F1, and the mercedes team who are struggling with their tyre-wear just did a 3 day test with Pirelli in their current with their current drivers.

    Ok, now lets stop the poletics and disqualify this immoral and unsportive team that did not follow FIA regulations. There is a precedent with Mclaren being disqualified a few years ago. It’s irrelevant if Mercedes do get an advantage (which they surely have), as even Mclaren may or may not have got an advantage in the Spy-gate saga. If the FIA have no balls to do this, since Mercedes seem to be the most powerful politically now, even more so then Ferrari, then they should at least organise a 3 day test for the other teams.
    If that does not happen, i hope the other teams find loopholes to even the score, like testing the Wheel Rims for 3 weeks, the wheel rim companies can say the construction of their wheels is important to safe tyre wear :P they can write up new contracts with Ferrari and Red Bull, and make a stipulation about testing, which will go other the top of any FIA sporting codes.

    This whole thing is so dodgy, but too many people are putting their lawyer hats on, the worst of those, as usual is Ross Brawn.

    1. Sounds like you actually think Merc did this test on their own even though in-season testing is banned. Surely you don’t think this is actually what happened and that Merc would think they were going to get away with said secret test? And how do explain then Pirelli going along with it and secretly supplying tires to Merc for the test? Surely you don’t think Pirelli would happily agree to help Merc this way, and not expect to get caught or for it to have massive ramifications?

      I would think that if it was as you suggest, then today’s headlines would read “Mercedes eliminated from 2013 Championships” and “Pirelli fined $100 mill for secretly helping Mercedes” (they can’t eliminate Pirelli from the Championship as that would end the F1 season).

      1. yes i do think that, and i think they probably just assume they can get away with it with rule loopholes and except the FIA not to come down on them because they are such a major player now in F1. i would not be surprised to see that type of headline in the next few days, infact i am expecting it. If Mclaren got such a penalty, then so should Mercedes. autosport website has just quoted a 2012 email which suggests that this test could only be conducted with unanimous agreement by all teams, which hasnt happened. I think Mercedes rolled the dice, 4th or 5th place is nothing – they took the 50/50 chance to go up higher this year, but i do not think they will get away with it.

        1. Well I vehemently disagree, but if you want to stick to your guns and suggest Mercedes did this on their own and against the rules due to there being no unanimous agreement, then what do you have to say about Pirelli therefore being a co-conspirator since Merc would have needed tires in order to test? If you don’t think Mercedes will get away with it, then what is your suggested penalty for Pirelli? You don’t seem to implicate them whatsoever. Or are they the ‘they’ you refer to in your first few lines above in that ‘they’ are such a major player now in F1, that what…they can do whatever they want in your mind, and get away with it? Your argument is not making sense to me.

          If Merc decided on their own to try to get away with a 3 day test at a time of in-season testing being banned (something that would seem impossible to get away with to begin with) not to mention would show them to be amongst the most cheaty and immoral teams in the history of F1, then surely at the same time all the teams would be asking for the immediate resignation of Pirelli, or since they need tires for the rest of the season and they are the only tire makers, then a massive fine for them.

      2. as for pirelli, i dont think they will be accused of “conspiring” with mercedes, they did less wrong then mercedes, they do not follow FIA rules, they more follow their contract.

        1. If this test was not about Pirelli needing help to test tires that will be an improvement for everybody going forward, that won’t require 4 stoppers and won’t delaminate, and instead was about them helping Mercedes with a 3 day test to help them do better in the Championships, then you think the other teams are going to just sit on their hands and do nothing? Gimme a break. You are suggesting an F1 that is far more corrupt than is imaginable by even the most paranoid.

          1. the other teams will not sit on their hands, THEY ARE ALREADY NOT, so you go have a break. it is not paranoia, it is f1 with lawyers and poletics. mercedes are trying to get one up over others because they have suddenly become important, they have sudden political power this year, and they have not much to lose trying this – if they are excluded from the championship – well at least they will still get better race results for the rest of the year, no one will care anymore at the end of the year, or next year when they may have more momentum, they didnt for mclaren after their exclusion. as for pirelli, . barcelona was the hardest on tyres on all f1 tracks as always. pirelli know this more then anyone else, and they do not need a 2013 mercedes to help them with tyre stops and delaminations, as monaco has shown. Pirelli are covered legally more then an f1 team is, they will get away with it. Mercedes will not – although Mercedes are such a rubish team (considering their budget), that Redbull and Ferrari may not follow this up if the protest is refused, they know the Mercedes history since 2010, they can not develop a car and 1000km of testing for them is like 200km for other teams, so if results do not flow for mercedes, all may be forgotten.

          2. Lol…Merc is suddenly important, and suddenly have political power? How so? And so much political power that they figure they’ll get away with this, or if excluded, so what? What rubbish.

            And you claim Pirelli did not need a 2013 Merc to help them with tire stops and delaminations…so why would the collude with Merc then and risk showing favouritism by providing tires for Merc’s test? Not that it was Merc’s test, it was Pirelli’s test anyway.

            Your argument holds no water.

  10. So, it seems the Ferrari test was nothing more than a Corsi Clienti promo.

    @keithcollantine I hope you’re satisfied now?

    1. @wsrgo Thanks for the tip.

  11. I expect Mercedes will show a piece of paper from the FIA saying the test was kosher. If Mercedes is accused of cheating and fined, Daimler-Benz (the parent company) may well sell the team and leave F1 – there have been numerous grumblings in recent years from the board in any case. Pirelli would almost certainly quit the sport if they are found to be guilty of some infraction and fined so close to signing a new contract.

    So the question is: given the already thin grid, will the F1 authorities want to see a leading team quit, possibly suddenly, and have to find another tyre supplier on short notice for next season? Moreover, what will the bods at Honda make of this, especially in light of the Ecclestone-Gribkowski bribery allegations? Investing in F1 is a big money game. If F1 looks uncertain, precarious, or even possibly rigged in favour of certain teams, I doubt we’ll see any serious new entrants, and the likes of Honda may not stay for long.

    Accordingly, I expect we’ll get “clarification” on the testing rules and there will be “reprimands” for Mercedes and Pirelli.

    But the bigger picture is that F1 needs a stronger, more transparent and accountable hand in charge. The secretive, private, and seemingly corrupt ways of the last 25 years have got to come to an end.

    1. I don’t even think we will see reprimands for Merc and Pirelli. I think this was a necessary test, likely agreed to by F1 and Pirelli and Mercedes. Other teams had been offered to help test, and given all the buzz about tires needing to be tweaked this season as Pirelli has gotten it a bit wrong, you’d think that teams, if it was so advantages to help Pirelli, would be lined up to be the guinea pigs.

      F1 is meddling with gadgety racing these days…degrady tires and DRS…to mix up the show and try to prevent any one team running away with the Championships. Pirelli, with F1’s blessing, have made gadgety tires and have taken it a step too far this year. They need tweaking and that rarely happens. But F1 has to take some of the onus on themselves since they are the ones that have asked Pirelli to do as they have…just not go quite so far as they have and that’s an unfortunate happenstance.

      Under the circumstances I think F1 and Pirelli needed to do this test with Merc and imho better them than a team that is in the top 3. And better them than to not do the test at all and everyone suffers for the rest of the season with ‘racing’ to delta times.

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