OK, time for my race review.
Steve and I didn’t share setups in Monaco as we’d not bothered to practice for the race and find something decent. It was actually the first time all year (to my knowledge :P ) we’d ran different setups for a race, but this was only down to laziness. Steve outqualified me by 3 tenths on our first run before we both pitted for another shot at pole. Whilst we discussed strategy in the pits, Ed set provisional pole, prompting us to hastily head back out and put in a second flying lap. I ruined mine in the final sector, but Steve somehow managed to pull an amazing lap out and outqualified me by *whispers* well over a second…
Starting from 4th on the grid, I was in a Sauber sandwich, and a poor launch ensured Magnificent Geoffrey passed me off the line. But he was extra cautious through Sainte Devote, and I managed to accelerate back past him before Beau Rivage. Ed and Electrolite had an extraordinary wheel-rubbing battle all the way around Massanet, before Ed was flicked into the outside wall at Casino Square. Sensing I’d not get many opportunities to pass him, I tried a risky move into Mirabeau which had thankfully been executed before the braking zone. As I exited Portier, Steve led Electrolite, but the latter understeered into Senna’s wall and bounced back across the track in a spin. As I looked behind, I saw Ed had no-where to go, and was caught in the tangle. It was a Red Bull 1-2 for the first time all season!
I planned on making my first pit stop at the end of lap 7, but by that stage Steve was visibly stuggling for grip and his early-race lead was now gone. As we rounded La Rascasse, the number 1 Red Bull driver peeled off into the pits, meaning I could either queue or risk an extra lap on my worn options. I chose the dangerous option, and paid the price at the Nouvelle chicane on my in-lap, where I lost all rear grip under braking and slid into the barriers, allowing Magnificent Geoffrey to slip by as I struggled to recover to the track. The back end stepped out on me under braking for the exit of the Swimming Pool, so I straight-lined the chicane and short-shifted my way around La Rascasse and into pit lane. I had somehow managed to overcut Steve in the process! (You’ll also notice I nearly made the same mistake as last year when exiting the pits by not following the line, but I cut back in at the last minute to avoid getting in the way of traffic!)
Magffrey had started on the primes, and was able to put in a much longer first stint than my team-mate and I, so I had to try to get the undercut to work on my fresh primes. Steve’s tyres were already up to temperature, and instead of wasting time battling, I let the quicker car go. When my tyres were warmed up, I began to push. Unfortunately, a few laps later, Magnificent Geoffrey exited the pits just ahead of me, and I spent the next few laps trying to find a way past. Steve, meanwhile, had managed to extend his lead and was now out of sight. But as he’d pitted a lap earlier than myself, he came back to us towards the end of our middle stint, and the battle I was enjoying with my old arch-nemisis now included the leader. It was just like the 2011 Monaco Grand Prix! I spent a few clumsy laps trying to stay with the iamsa8-train before his tyres reached the ‘cliff’, and he lost out to both of his immediate pursuers in the tunnel, having stayed out for one lap too many.
While Steve was busy spinning at the Swimming Pool, I headed for the pits to make my final stop. The tyres were degrading much quicker than I had anticipated, therefore I wasn’t willing to risk fitting another set of options, so I instead decided to ensure I’d make it to the finish by selecting primes. This left Magnificent Geoffrey with a comfortable lead to manage while I tried to undercut him. Could I do it this time? I was going to give it a good go!
I put in several tidy laps that I was more than pleased with before Magffrey had to make his final stop for the option tyres. I hadn’t worked out the pit-stop delta time, but I assumed it was around 15 seconds. Magnificent Geoffrey enjoyed an 18 second advantage when I started my last stint, which I was less than pleased about, and I tried to get it closer to 10 seconds in order to ensure he wouldn’t exit in front of me. Sure enough, the Sauber’s tyres fell away, and the gap plummeted rapidly. I had comfortably managed to undercut him this time! But I wasn’t getting too excited, as I knew Geoff had a fresh set of the quicker option tyre on. The run to the flag was going to be a showdown…
Coming into the final 3 laps, I lost a little bit of time in traffic, but my general lack of pace at this stage (despite having selected mix 3 after some careful fuel conservation earlier in the race) was the main reason Magffrey was able to catch up to me. With 2 laps to go, he couldn’t get any closer without actually touching me. I would now have to spend two enormously stressful laps concentrating on keeping my car on the racing line and not succumbing to the enormous pressure being exerted on me. I honestly thought I was going to crash at any moment, and I was bracing myself for the disappointment of throwing away another strong finish. Basically, I wasn’t at all confident!
Fortunately, I had enough grip left to get out of the corners with enough speed to prevent Magnificent Geoffrey from getting alongside before the braking zones, which was all I needed to do in order to stay ahead. As I crossed the line, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. I know it’s just a game, but wow, that was the most satisfying feeling I’ve had all year! I could not believe I’d won a race!
Now you’ve read my boring essay, you can see the movie:
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Thanks to everyone for yet another thrilling race. The championship battle is really hotting up now…