The glitz, the glamour and the glory; that’s right, it can only be Monaco…
While not a stunning example of F1 at its rampant best (you try passing on a track the width of a pencil), the race had just about enough excitement to keep it interesting throughout. The weekend’s TV coverage also introduced Badger to the startling fact that Monaco could fit into Greater Manchester 677 times. That’s six hundred and seventy seven times. Ridiculous.
- Qualifying: Webber
- Race: Webber
After the Spanish Grand Prix, this column contained the words:
“Pretty much the perfect weekend for Mark Webber. Imperious throughout, his performance suggested there was a lot more in the locker should it have been needed.”
Now, we certainly aren’t ones to blow our own trumpets here in the Sett, but those words proved remarkably prescient. Indeed, there’s probably not much to add, except to say that it was Saturday afternoon where Webber really won the race. Besting Kubica in qualifying set him up perfectly for a relatively stress free Sunday afternoon. Even with all the safety cars he never looked troubled and provided a masterful display of controlled driving. That said, it certainly helped that even if someone had been quick enough to challenge him they wouldn’t have been able to get past.
Vettel’s weekend was good, but obviously not quite as good as his team mate’s. After qualifying third, with a brilliant performance from Kubica to thank, he managed to overtake him into the first corner and stayed there throughout the race. He never really looked capable of closing down Webber to any great degree and was, one assumes, simply happy to get some more solid points on the board. There’s not really much else he could have done, but he’ll need to get his momentum back in Turkey, lest this season slip away.
Badger’s best: Webber
- Qualifying: Kubica
- Race: Kubica
It’s difficult to tell how well Kubica’s wringing the Renault out, as he doesn’t have a team mate from whom outside observers can gain an accurate baseline; but, if he’s not careful, he’s going to find himself in a Ferrari next year. Another masterful display of aggressive driving, especially to qualify second, reminded everyone what a talent he is and what one of the big teams could get their hands on for next year. His one disappointment will be finishing third, one fewer than he probably deserved, after allowing Vettel to sneak through off the start line.
Petrov, on the other hand, endured a difficult race weekend. After crashing out in Q2 to start fourteenth, he then had a puncture during the race and was retired by his team with a five laps remaining after feeling “something wrong at the rear”. All that leaves him with a record of two finishes in six, something he’ll definitely have to improve upon if he’s to make any sort of mark on F1. Kubica’s got the better of him to such an extent, that he’s really fighting for credibility rather than to beat him.
Badger’s best: Kubica
- Qualifying: Massa
- Race: Massa
One of the more eventful Monaco weekends for at least a half the Ferrari team. Massa qualified and finished the race in fourth and we here at Badger can’t remember seeing him do anything of note on Sunday afternoon. He’ll be pleased to have beaten Alonso, no matter how he did it, but the real test will come in Turkey. If Massa can’t beat Alonso there, it’s probably not going to happen for him this season. As we said a few months ago Felipe, it’s time to get at Alonso’s mind. No matter how you have to do it, have a go and see what happens. It’s the only way.
Alonso would have craved the boredom of Massa’s race. After showing good pace in the first couple of practice sessions, he suffered this crash in practice 3. After a rebuilt gearbox and a changed chassis, amongst other things, meant that he couldn’t take part in qualifying, he was forced to start from the pit lane. He made slow but steady progress through the backmarkers and, because of a sneaky stop on lap one and a well timed safety car, was able to pass a number of cars during their pit stops and finish sixth. After the final safety car of the afternoon pulled in just before the last corner of the last lap, Alonso suffered the ultimate ignominy of being passed by Michael Schumacher into the final corner. Luckily for him, the stewards took a dim view of the situation, allowing the Spaniard to finish sixth and collect a number of well-deserved points. At Badger, we sense the missed opportunity will weigh on Alonso’s mind; but for his problems in practice 3, he may well have given Mark Webber a run for his money.
Badger’s best: Alonso
- Qualifying: Hamilton
- Race: Hamilton
For a team that’s won so much in Monaco, McLaren won’t have been happy with the way their weekend panned out.
Fresh from getting amongst the Red Bulls in Spain, Hamilton looked off the pace all the way through the practice sessions and into qualifying and the race. He simply didn’t have the extra gear he needed to challenge the Red Bulls, Ferraris or Kubica’s Renault. Qualifying fifth and racing to a fifth place finish at Monaco is respectable enough, but won’t have been the way Hamilton wanted to build on his great performance last week. At least he got some points this time, eh? In a beardwatch update (Bill Oddie, eat your heart out), we can confirm it’s still there, sitting on his chin like an alien from Star Trek that’s taken over the wearer’s face.
Button endured a very disappointing weekend. After qualifying eighth behind both Mercedes cars, which wasn’t great in itself, a cooling cover was left on the left-hand sidepod at the start of the race which, after the early safety car, cooked the engine completely. This left Jenson smoking quietly by the side of the road after two laps. Gloom aside, as he said in his post-race comments, he’s still only eight points off the championship lead. After being out driven for large parts of the previous two race weekends, Jenson needs to start applying some more pressure to Hamilton.
Badger’s best: Hamilton
- Qualifying: Rosberg
- Race: Rosberg
Both Mercedes cars qualified fairly well this weekend, with the team reverting to the shorter wheelbase car they’d used earlier in the season. Sixth and seventh for Rosberg and Schumacher respectively was probably about par.
During the race, young Nico was passed by old Barrichello and even older Schumacher at the start. After doing a long first stint to try and retake the positions he lost, Kobayashi (of all people) managed to mess it up for him by retiring, letting a number of cars he was holding up through. Indeed, after the first set of stops Alonso had passed Rosberg as well, so it really didn’t go too well. After crossing the line in eighth, Schumacher’s demotion promoted him to seventh.
It now feels like Schumacher’s properly back, doesn’t it? A bit of controversy here, a little bit there and it all ends in a stewards’ decision. Good stuff. After getting past Rosberg at the start, but falling behind Barrichello, he managed to overtake the Brazilian after the first set of pit stops, although he also contrived to fall behind Alonso. So, fast forward to the end of the race, and as the safety car was pulling in on the last lap, Michael passed Alonso up the inside into the final corner. Sadly, after the race, the stewards decided that this wasn’t on and added 20 seconds to Michael’s time, demoting him to the last of the cars still running. Schumacher claimed his understanding was “that the ‘safety car in, track clear’ message meant we were back to racing conditions, so I went for it and overtook Fernando.” Badger, while feeling he should keep the place for sheer audacity, doesn’t really mind too much about his demotion, for it proves once and for all that he’s back.
Badger’s best: Schumacher
- Qualifying: Liuzzi
- Race: Sutil
A role reversal this weekend, with Liuzzi out qualifying his team mate for the first time this season and getting into Q3 for only the second time. Not so many mentions of Paul di Resta now, eh, BBC? Sadly, he couldn’t maintain his form in the race, finishing ninth. His race went something like this: make up a place at the start = good, passed by team mate during pit stops = bad, promoted a place thanks to Schumacher’s penalty = good. He’ll doubtless be disappointed that, after beating Sutil in qualifying at Monaco of all places, he wasn’t able to hold onto his advantage during the race. Better, but still not what he’d want.
Sutil’s race was set in motion by making up a couple of places off the line and then passing Liuzzi during the pit stops, coming home in eighth place. He did, however, admit to having quite a “lonely” race. Aw, bless. He just wanted some company, that’s nice, isn’t it? His focus in Turkey will be to get back into Q3 after missing out in Spain and Monaco.
Badger’s best: Sutil
- Qualifying: Buemi
- Race: Buemi
Both Toro Rosso drivers sounded seriously underwhelmed by their weekends in the principality, with Buemi describing the race as “not particularly exciting” and Alguersuari similarly not expressing any great joy, preferring to see the weekend as a learning experience. Cheer up, lads; it’s Monaco!
Qualifying thirteenth (Buemi) and seventeenth (Alguersuari), didn’t set them up particularly well for points but, combined with the mistakes of others and the stewards’ decision, they were able to make it into tenth and eleventh respectively by the end of the race. This, by Badger’s calculation, is the first race this season where Buemi’s beaten his younger team mate, so he deserves credit for that, as well as for scoring his first point of the season.
Badger’s best: Buemi
- Qualifying: Senna
- Race: Chandhok
Qualifying was yet another last place bonanza for the HRT boys, or would have been had Alonso not been stating from the pit lane. They were the last cars on the grid anyway, holding down twenty second and twenty third places.
During the race, Senna made a pit stop under the safety car on lap two and could have finished thirteenth had it not been for those pesky hydraulics…again. There comes a point where you just have to take the entire system back and say, this is rubbish, design the damn things again and get it right. Chandhok, on the other hand, had an altogether more exciting exit from the race. Racing Trulli with only a few laps to go, he ran a bit wide at Raccasse, Trulli stuck it up the inside, they touched, and Trulli performed a neat little pirouette over the top of Karun’s head. Not an accident for the faint hearted. Personally, this correspondent blames Badger’s editor, Adam, for saying “all we need now is an accident” just before it happened.
Badger’s best: Chandhok
- Qualifying: Kovalainen
- Race: Trulli
Lotus qualified the best of the new teams again this weekend, with Kovalainen in particular impressing in qualifying. He basically just threw the car about, having a couple of spins and looking as though he was pushing the car to the limit and beyond. An eventual grid slot of eighteenth, one slot ahead of his team mate, didn’t really reflect how gloriously mental he was in the car.
Kovalainen described his race as “fantastic”, claiming he was able to almost keep up with Petrov’s Renault. However, twenty laps from the end, his steering alignment started to become uneven. Indeed, in another indicator of how mental his weekend was, this is what he had to say: “on the right hand corners I had to use maximum lock, even in the tunnel, and it got to the point where it didn’t feel safe anymore”. Really Heikki, you don’t say? Retiring was probably the best option.
In contrast, Trulli wasn’t happy at all with his race. Delays in his pit stop meant he emerged behind the HRTs, leading to his attempted pass on Chandhok and we all know how that ended.
Badger’s best: Kovalainen
- Qualifying: Barrichello
- Race: Barrichello
The weekend was going so well. Ninth place in qualifying for Barrichello and eleventh for Hulkenberg reflected good performances by both, but it all went a bit wrong in the race resulting in some seriously mashed Williams’.
First to fall was Hulkenberg, who had a problem with his clutch at the start of the parade lap, meaning he had to start from the back. His reflections on the first lap were as follows: “I’m then not entirely sure what happened in the tunnel. The car felt odd one minute and the next I was in the wall.” It transpires that, after touching the back of an HRT in first corner, the front wing was damaged and failed in the tunnel. Then, bosh, and we’re done.
Barichello managed to get through thirty laps before his rear suspension failed, leading to this rather impressive shunt. His reflections are similar to Hulkenberg’s: “I had such a good start but the car started to feel really strange after the pitstop. The steering wheel, in particular, didn’t feel normal. The problem continued to get worse and then I crashed.” Anyone who keeps driving at Monaco after their steering wheel feels odd deserves credit for being, as Alan Partridge would say, a mentalist.
Badger’s best: Barrichello
- Qualifying: de la Rosa
- Race: Kobayashi
Another about par qualifying performance for the Saubers, starting line astern with de la Rosa in fifteenth and Kobayashi in sixteenth.
From then on it was all a bit dull; unlike the Williams pair, Sauber couldn’t even do the viewing public the courtesy of hitting a wall or two. No, rather, de la Rosa developed a hydraulic problem after about twenty laps, with Kobayashi only going a few further before retiring with gearbox problems. After twelve combined starts, they’ve finished twice. Not good enough and means this is always difficult to write (poor me, etc etc); we can’t keep judging them on who goes furthest. In possibly the most obvious statement ever made on Badger, this is F1 not the long jump.
Badger’s best: de la Rosa
- Qualifying: Glock
- Race: di Grassi
Another race, another retirement. The fastest of the new cars at the beginning of the season but sadly compromised in getting to the end of the race, they’ve now managed to fall behind the Lotus cars and still look like they’re made from spiders’ webs and fairy dust.
Glock out qualified di Grassi again, further cementing his number one driver status, but both retired within three laps of each other, only going a combined total of forty seven laps before rear suspension and wheel problems struck. Not much more to say, really, apart from the fact they need some inspiration from somewhere.
Badger’s best: Glock
Driver of the weekend
Webber. We like to be a bit different most of the time and not go for the race winner, but this time there’s no other option. He drove beautifully, describing it as the best day of his life and was untouchable all through the race. He’s got what Alan Partridge would describe as “bouncebackability” for, after finishing at bottom end of the top 10, in three of the first four races and getting passed for the victory by Vettel in the other it was all looking a bit dark. Then, like a phoenix from the ashes (too much?) he’s won the last two races from pole. Bish, bash, bosh. Job done and a very big congratulation to possibly-the-most-likable-driver-on-the-grid from all at Badger.