Rain may add further spice to tense Mercedes rivalry

2014 Monaco Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monte-Carlo, 2014The escalating tension between the two Mercedes drivers was ratcheted up in qualifying for Monaco where Nico Rosberg took pole position in acrimonious circumstances.

The stewards eventually ruled he did not deliberately attempt to disrupt Lewis Hamilton’s last lap by going off at Mirabeau and causing the yellow flags to come out. But Hamilton will surely be suspicious about the circumstances in which he was beaten to the most important pole position of the year.

Winning at Monaco without the benefit of pole position is extremely difficult. It’s only been done once in the last ten F1 races at the track.

But the driver who did it was Hamilton – in the rain hit 2008 grand prix. And tomorrow’s weather forecast makes for interesting reading on that point…

Weather

The weather forecast for Sunday has changed over the past few days and the possibility of race day showers has grown.

What remains uncertain is whether they will arrive soon enough to affect the race. Some models indicate rain will fall around midday, which would completely change the complexion of the race, while others predict it won’t arrive until long after the champagne has been sprayed.

The Red Bull drivers arguably have the most to benefit from rain, as it was in the wet qualifying sessions earlier this year that they got closest to Mercedes.

But whether or not the rain appears a repeat of Saturday’s clear skies and high temperatures looks increasingly unlikely. “We expect more cloud cover tomorrow and there is even a chance of rain,” noted Nico Hulkenberg.

Rain fell earlier in practice and Fernando Alonso is concerned traction will be very poor if it returns. “If it was to rain, as has been suggested, then just getting to the finish will already be a good result,” he said, “because as we saw on Thursday from the few laps we did, it’s really on the limit, like sliding around on ice.”

The start

Start, 2013 Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo,Rosberg knows his starts have been one of his weaknesses this year and it represents his team mate’s best chance to get ahead.

On the only previous occasion he started in front of Hamilton this year – Bahrain – Rosberg was passed before the first corner. But Hamilton doesn’t have anything like as long a run to the first corner to exploit here, and Rosberg has the added advantage of starting on the inside.

Last year the pair started from the same positions, and although Hamilton got a better start and got his nose in front of Rosberg’s, he had to back down when they reached turn one.

Third-placed Daniel Ricciardo is disappointed at having qualified behind both Mercedes, and is hoping to demote them at the start:

“I think we have the pace to hang with Mercedes, so hopefully we can at least get one of them off the line and maybe do something with strategy and give ourselves a real chance of taking a win.”

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Strategy

Last year Mercedes used their position of superiority to force a slow pace to the race. They did this out of concerns over how long they could make their tyres last, and the need to deny their rivals the opportunity to get ahead by making an earlier pit stop than Mercedes could.

As a result most drivers who started on super-soft tyres ran them until lap 25, when they made what would likely have been their only pit stops. As it turned out the suspension of the race a few laps later allowed them all a free change to another set of tyres.

The teams have found it hard to warm up the harder 2014-specification tyres. “Compared to what we expected, the tyres seem too hard and we are struggling a lot to get them up to temperature,” said Alonso.

“If the race is run in the dry tomorrow, then it will be an endurance race to see who can stay out on track the longest.”

This could give some drivers the incentive to make a very early pit stop and try to finish the race without stopping again. The high chance of a Safety Car appearance at Monaco gives another reason to risk this kind of strategy.

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’17.678 1’16.465 (-1.213) 1’15.989 (-0.476)
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’17.823 1’16.354 (-1.469) 1’16.048 (-0.306)
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1’17.900 1’17.233 (-0.667) 1’16.384 (-0.849)
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’18.383 1’17.074 (-1.309) 1’16.547 (-0.527)
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’17.853 1’17.200 (-0.653) 1’16.686 (-0.514)
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’17.902 1’17.398 (-0.504) 1’17.389 (-0.009)
7 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’17.557 1’17.657 (+0.100) 1’17.540 (-0.117)
8 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1’17.978 1’17.609 (-0.369) 1’17.555 (-0.054)
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1’18.616 1’17.594 (-1.022) 1’18.090 (+0.496)
10 Sergio Perez Force India 1’18.108 1’17.755 (-0.353) 1’18.327 (+0.572)
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’18.432 1’17.846 (-0.586)
12 Jenson Button McLaren 1’17.890 1’17.988 (+0.098)
13 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1’18.407 1’18.082 (-0.325)
14 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’18.335 1’18.196 (-0.139)
15 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1’18.585 1’18.356 (-0.229)
16 Felipe Massa Williams 1’18.209
17 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1’18.741
18 Adrian Sutil Sauber 1’18.745
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1’19.332
20 Max Chilton Marussia 1’19.928
21 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1’20.133
22 Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1’21.732

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Nico Rosberg 19.826 (1) 35.241 (2) 20.922 (3)
Lewis Hamilton 19.906 (2) 35.140 (1) 20.935 (4)
Daniel Ricciardo 20.011 (3) 35.454 (4) 20.875 (1)
Sebastian Vettel 20.137 (5) 35.446 (3) 20.882 (2)
Fernando Alonso 20.067 (4) 35.498 (5) 20.968 (5)
Kimi Raikkonen
Jean-Eric Vergne 20.321 (7) 35.703 (6) 21.294 (10)
Kevin Magnussen 20.221 (6) 35.792 (7) 21.234 (7)
Daniil Kvyat 20.326 (8) 35.893 (8) 21.282 (8)
Sergio Perez 20.418 (9) 35.962 (11) 21.287 (9)
Nico Hulkenberg 20.452 (10) 35.945 (10) 21.340 (13)
Jenson Button 20.459 (11) 35.925 (9) 21.197 (6)
Valtteri Bottas 20.507 (14) 36.015 (12) 21.334 (12)
Romain Grosjean 20.481 (12) 36.163 (15) 21.321 (11)
Pastor Maldonado 20.489 (13) 36.114 (14) 21.398 (14)
Felipe Massa 20.614 (15) 36.053 (13) 21.515 (15)
Esteban Gutierrez 20.803 (17) 36.376 (17) 21.518 (16)
Adrian Sutil 20.754 (16) 36.310 (16) 21.647 (17)
Jules Bianchi 20.951 (18) 36.484 (18) 21.759 (18)
Max Chilton 20.957 (19) 36.951 (20) 22.020 (19)
Kamui Kobayashi 21.083 (20) 36.863 (19) 22.027 (20)
Marcus Ericsson 21.209 (21) 37.593 (21) 22.565 (21)

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Engine Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 292.0 (181.4)
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Mercedes 290.9 (180.8) -1.1
3 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 290.1 (180.3) -1.9
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 290.0 (180.2) -2.0
5 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 289.7 (180.0) -2.3
6 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Renault 288.8 (179.5) -3.2
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 288.0 (179.0) -4.0
8 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso Renault 287.7 (178.8) -4.3
9 Kevin Magnussen McLaren Mercedes 286.2 (177.8) -5.8
10 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber Ferrari 285.7 (177.5) -6.3
11 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes 285.4 (177.3) -6.6
12 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault 285.0 (177.1) -7.0
13 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari 284.9 (177.0) -7.1
14 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 284.8 (177.0) -7.2
15 Jules Bianchi Marussia Ferrari 284.8 (177.0) -7.2
16 Max Chilton Marussia Ferrari 284.2 (176.6) -7.8
17 Adrian Sutil Sauber Ferrari 284.0 (176.5) -8.0
18 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham Renault 283.8 (176.3) -8.2
19 Marcus Ericsson Caterham Renault 283.4 (176.1) -8.6
20 Pastor Maldonado Lotus Renault 282.5 (175.5) -9.5
21 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault 281.9 (175.2) -10.1
22 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault 281.7 (175.0) -10.3

Over to you

Will it be another typical Monaco pole-to-win run for Rosberg? Can Hamilton find a way to claim his fifth win in a row?

Share your views on the Monaco Grand Prix in the comments.

2014 Monaco Grand Prix

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Images © Daimler/Hoch Zwei

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61 comments on Rain may add further spice to tense Mercedes rivalry

  1. David BR2 said on 24th May 2014, 21:57

    Last year the pair started from the same positions, and although Hamilton got a better start and got his nose in front of Rosberg’s, he had to back down when they reached turn one.

    One factor that may have changed. That could be one big game of chicken at the first corner with Hamilton as ‘unbothered’ about them colliding as Rosberg was about fluffing the corner and causing a yellow.

    • HiPn0tIc (@hipn0tic) said on 24th May 2014, 22:04

      IF so, a Toro Rosso will win the race :D

    • Feuerdrache (@xenomorph91) said on 24th May 2014, 22:49

      A collision may not play out as he wants it, especially since he is on the outside. Rosberg could still survive, get big points whilst he gets 0 points. And if he causes the collision, he might recieve a +10 place grid penalty for Canada.

      If he really is that certain in his abilities that he will beat Rosberg over the season, he will wait and take the second place. After all, he might easily have Rosberg under control in the next races.

      • David BR2 said on 24th May 2014, 23:26

        I’m also certain Hamilton will get a penalty if he does that, since everyone will be watching in anticipation. And he could be shunted into the side, leaving Rosberg still on track and largely undented. So yes, he should stay cool, collect some points and take his revenge cold (if he believes it was deliberate still tomorrow morning). It will be fascinating to see which.

      • Breno (@austus) said on 25th May 2014, 2:08

        You know… I honestly think Hamilton can come back from 10th and still beat Rosberg, just because its Canada.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 25th May 2014, 9:17

        If Hamilton does cause a collision, after what he has said in the media about “thinking about how Senna resolved that” being the race stewards, I would certainly bench him for a race or 2 rather than just giving a grid drop @xenomorph91

    • Bob Down said on 25th May 2014, 0:53

      Given Lewis now thinks he’s Senna, Prost needs to slam the door in his face this time around.

    • Hamilfan (@hamilfan) said on 25th May 2014, 5:05

      Yeah , it will elbows in the first corner . I hope Lewis isn’t stupid enough to crash . As all the comments above have stated , he would be put in a worse position if he crashes and Nico is unscathed . Also , enough if it puts him in a better position , it’s not ethical .

    • William Stuart (@williamstuart) said on 25th May 2014, 11:03

      I think that Lewis will probably get a good enough start that he is maybe a little bit ahead, and then he tries to outbreak Nico, and ends up taking the wing off of Nico. If he manages to get out of that unscathed then he will be on to win the race, if he gets a puncture then I think it is Nico’s. Of course, it is more likely it’s just a standard race start with the only collisions between Maldonado and Massa (what a pair to have next to each other!!) lol.

  2. magon4 (@magon4) said on 24th May 2014, 21:57

    here’s hoping for rain after 10 laps…

  3. Nick (@npf1) said on 24th May 2014, 22:15

    I’m willing to bet my beard on the rain happening exactly 5 minutes after the race, OR in such a fashion the race is stopped.

  4. ME4ME (@me4me) said on 24th May 2014, 22:15

    If there is a collision on the first lap, not involving any of the Merc drivers, i wonder if the Redbulls or Alonso could pit for prime tires under the safety car, and do the rest of the race on them. This year’s soft tires compare to last year’s mediums. I don’t know how many laps they managed to do last year on a set of softs, but maybe it is just about possible to do all but 1 lap on the same tires this year.

    • fractal (@fractal) said on 25th May 2014, 1:12

      exactly same thoughts here too… if not bulls/ferraris we have likes of mid fielders to backmarkers who might go for anything and everything in such situations.. its going to be interesting to how teams will respond to such a scenario…monaco being notorious for overtaking.. anything can happen…

  5. OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 24th May 2014, 22:51

    Not in Monaco, but I guess Hamilton fans will have a new guy to boo all year long. His name starts with “N”

  6. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall) said on 24th May 2014, 22:58

    I’d really like a wet race. Rain in monaco is always entertaining and with these cars it should be a blast. Also, the last wet race was over a year ago now and even that only lasted for about 2 laps. The last proper wet race was 18 months ago now.

  7. Jake (@jleigh) said on 24th May 2014, 23:08

    No doubt a boring race, with everyone saving their tyres just in case it rains. Only for it to rain 5 minutes after the race. A la 2012.

  8. Uzair Syed (@ultimateuzair) said on 24th May 2014, 23:33

    PLEASE GOD!!! OPEN THE HEAVENS AND MAKE IT RAIN IN MONACO TOMORROW!!!!!

  9. Theo Parkinson (@theo-hrp) said on 24th May 2014, 23:38

    I hope Lewis doesn’t try to be too aggressive. It’s better to finish second (lose 7 points to Nico) and gain them back in a likely win in Canada (gain 7 back) than risk a trying to take Nico out (gain 0 points) and receive a penalty in Canada (lose 7 points) incase it backfires(losing 25 points).

    • William Stuart (@williamstuart) said on 25th May 2014, 11:10

      Yeah I think he realises that. I can’t really see anyway of Nico winning the championship bar Lewis being unlucky with reliability. Nico doesn’t seem to have the ‘killer instinct’ where he can go and set an insane lap at the end of qually, whereas Lewis and probably Vettel do. (I honestly think Vettel is a good racer, he managed to qualify his slightly broken Red Bull fourth, look at the speed traps, he is about 10mph off of other comparable cars).

  10. Michael C said on 24th May 2014, 23:56

    I’m a Lewis fan so thought of it raining at Monaco is an exciting prospect however it never rains when they its going to does it?

  11. juan fanger (@juan-fanger) said on 25th May 2014, 2:52

    “If the race is run in the dry tomorrow, then it will be an endurance race to see who can stay out on track the longest.”

    This could give some drivers the incentive to make a very early pit stop and try to finish the race without stopping again. The high chance of a Safety Car appearance at Monaco gives another reason to risk this kind of strategy.

    If it is dry then I’m hoping Massa pits at the end of the first lap so that he can run in clear air for a lot of laps, massively undercut the midfielders in front of him and then try to get all the way to the end. Not very original (e.g. Alonso 2010 did this to finish 6th from 24th on grid) but not sure whether these tyres can do a whole race. Safety car(s) would help.

    • Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 25th May 2014, 3:48

      That sounds like a decent idea actually.
      He’s just got to try and not get held up behind the backmarkers when he eventually catches them, because they’re so slow.

    • Dennis the menace (@) said on 25th May 2014, 4:55

      Considering the high likelihood of at least 5 laps behind a safety car at Monaco it may be on the cards for Massa otherwise it will be just a hard day battling through slower cars.

  12. William (@william) said on 25th May 2014, 5:35

    Accuweather – The threat of rainfall will increase on Sunday, although any rain will likely be limited to late in the day, after the race comes to an end. Any rainfall on the tight, city streets of Monaco could make for a dangerous time and risk crashes for any of the competitors. To add to this, this rain may be accompanied by lightning as it first moves in

  13. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 25th May 2014, 6:00

    I think Hamilton needs to be careful of two things in the race: being pushed into the barriers at the first corner, as pointed out above, and destroying his tyres in the first stint in frustrated attempts to get by Rosberg, which could destroy his race, as he cannot pit first. I think it is possible to overtake someone by staying out or lap longer, as the tyres (especially the softs they’ll be changing onto for a one-stop race) will take some time to get up to temperature.

    Red Bull can play an interesting role in this race if one or both of the drivers can attempt an undercut, forcing the Mercedes drivers to respond if they are close enough. If Rosberg plays it really tight, he could time his pit stop so that he is just ahead of the Bulls, with Hamilton falling behind them due to stopping later.

  14. Albert said on 25th May 2014, 7:24

    I hope Rosberg takes this one, because after all the internet drama after yesterday’s qualy, a victory for Rosberg will stir things a lot more, which is always funny.

  15. brny said on 25th May 2014, 10:22

    Interesting to look at sector times in Q3, and the speed trap. Maybe Vettel was really suffering from some sort of power unit problem which I presume would show up most on the hill in the first sector. Otherwise him and Dan were matching each other.

    • William Stuart (@williamstuart) said on 25th May 2014, 11:17

      Yeah, that or he was running a very high downforce set up, but it does seem to correlate. I don’t understand all of the hate for Vettel, he always seems to be the most light hearted driver, he is very intelligent and very dedicated. In 2012 (or ’13) when they introduced the new tyres, Vettel was the only driver to go to the Pirelli factory and learn about the tyres, then during the season, he was the fastest driver to react to the new tyres.

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