Mark Webber continued his dominant streak in Formula 1, absolutely dominating the Monaco Grand Prix. He smashed the opposition, including team mate Sebastian Vettel, with searing pace and composure through the midst of 4 safety car periods. There was smashing of a different kind down the field with Williams pair Nico Hulkenberg and Rubens Barichello suffering heavy crashes while Jarno Trulli took a ride on Karun Chandok with less than 4 laps to go. The 3rd of 4 safety car periods was a brief affair after a drain cover was apparently loose at turn 3 but this appeared to be a false alarm. Drain covers had caused delays during practice last year. Robert Kubica took a second podium for Renault, recovering from a poor start where he was passed by Vettel to fend off Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton.
They both had quiet races but it was rather more eventful for Fernando Alonso. He started from the pitlane on soft tyres but pitted on lap 1 after the safety car was deployed for Hulkenbergs crash, the German crashing in the tunnel after a front wing mounting failure. Alonso, now on hard tyres, began his charge clearing Chandhok before overcoming a robust rearguard action from Lucas Di Grassi. Moves out of the tunnel on Trulli, Glock and Kovalainen followed. The pitstops were in full swing now, Schumacher jumping Barichello who had passed both Mercedes at turn 1. When it all shook out, Alonso was 6th, brilliantly making the strategy work to be only 2 places behind Massa. The top ten was settled but Webber's pace at the front was to be pegged by constant safety cars.
Barichello suffered a failure on his left rear tyre going up the hill to Casino Square. As the Brazilian came to a halt in the middle of the track, he proceeded to chuck his steering wheel out on the track. It bounced onto the racing line and Karun Chandhok swept it up in his HRT. He carried it through until the tunnel where it bounced out. Bruno Senna in the other HRT then ran it over! It was a very silly thing for Barichello to do. He defended himself on twitter, saying emotions were high after his crash but really it was unneccessary and potentially dangerous. Another safety car followed for the drain cover issue and things were set again.
Webber started to back off and Vettel was pushing to catch but with 4 laps to go, he still had 4 seconds in hand but was approaching the battle for 14th between Chandhok and Trulli. The Italian had been on the Indians tail for a long time and made a lunge into Rascasse which proved dramatically unsuccessful as he ended up on top of the HRT. Webber narrowly avoided this but the gap was down to 1.5 seconds. The incident was initially being dealt with under yellows but eventually Bernd Maylander was called upon.
So we entered the final lap still under safety car conditions. Race Control said that the safety car would pit at the end of the lap. At the time, i felt that you could still overtake after the safety car line, which is a new rule for this year. As Alonso exited Rascasse he got a slide on and Michael Schumacher got alongside and passed into the final corner. For Mercedes a fair move but Ferrari disagreed. The steward's sided with Ferrari and gave Schumacher a 20 second penalty, putting him out of the points and giving Sebastien Buemi a point. Conspiracy theorists will have a field day with the fact Damon Hill was involved in the decision and its something i will try and analyse tomorrow. It's an issue which has certainly divided opinion.
I said Webber needed consistency to have a championship chance and he has stepped uop his game. Sebastian Vettel hasn't been near him these past 2 weekends and the battle is now royally on. Another Alonso recovery drive keeps him in the hunt but things have turned against McLaren, if not at crisis point. Jenson Button had a poor start and then had an enine failure after a bung was left in a radiator. An unexpected mistake from a team like McLaren. Lewis Hamilton had brake issues and ran a conservative pace in the second half of the race. Onto Turkey in 2 weeks for round 7. A mix of slow and fast corners as well as the famed turn 8. Red Bull are the team on top of both championships and they have more upgrades for Istanbul. A frightening prospect.