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Hamilton Wins as Red Bull Bin It

Lewis Hamilton took his first victory of 2016, his first since the U.S GP last year, to cut team mate Nico Rosberg’s advantage to 24 points. It could have been so different had Red Bull not botched Daniel Ricciardo’s pit stop, leaving the Australian to finish in 2nd. A popular 3rd place went to Sergio Perez in the Force India after a brilliant tyre call by the team. Sebastian Vettel was 4th, the only Ferrari to finish after Kimi Raikkonen put his car into the barriers and Romain Grosjean. Fernando Alonso came home 5th of the 50th anniversary of McLaren’s debut at the Monaco GP in 1966. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg beat fellow German Rosberg for 6th place right at the end of the race, with Carlos Sainz, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa rounding off the point scoring positions. The tricky conditions in the principality saw Jolyon Palmer, Max Verstappen, along with Raikkonen put the car in the barriers and retire, whilst the Sauber pairing of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericson took each other out. The major talking point however was the pit stop that caused Ricciardo to lose the race to Hamilton.

The 78 laps of Monaco started behind the safety car as heavy rain made conditions unsafe for a full blown start. After the racing conditions started, Ricciardo pulled out a commanding lead over Rosberg who simply did not have any pace throughout the race. With Ricciardo pulling out a healthy lead, Mercedes switched around Hamilton and Rosberg so the Brit could have a charge at the Aussie who was looking comfortable. The track was beginning to dry out and drivers further down the field were switching from extreme wets to the intermediates and started going quicker. Ricciardo was the first to blink out of him and Hamilton, and came in for the inters as Hamilton continued on wets. Inevitably, Ricciardo caught right up with Hamilton who was starting to struggle with grip but wanted a straight swap to the ultra-soft tyre, bypassing the intermediates. Hamilton eventually pitted and Ricciardo carried on for a further lap before the race deciding incident occurred.

Ricciardo was called into the pits by his team, only to arrive to no fresh tyres, costing him about 13 seconds and most importantly, the lead. Ricciardo came out just behind Hamilton and hustled him until the end. Hamilton’s ultra-soft tyres went much further into the race than they should have, something that seemed to play into Ricciardo’s hands as he was able to stay within a second of Hamilton throughout. It was always going to be difficult for the Red Bull driver due to the nature of the track, and the fact that Hamilton’s car position throughout was nothing short of superb. In the end though it was Hamilton who took the chequered flag, and Ricciardo could not hide is anger. When the team came over the radio to apologies to Ricciardo, he replied with "save it". He went on further to say he felt "screwed" and "ran over by an 18 wheeler for the second time in two races". I can understand his disappointment but he needs to look at the bigger picture if he is to move on from this. He blew Mercedes away this weekend and has an upgraded engine now from Renault. That car for me is aerodynamically better than the Mercedes, only its lack of power keeps them back. Now that problem is being addressed, he can surely look forward to a couple of wins this season.


Tensions Eased at Mercedes

The contrasting fortunes of the Mercedes drivers at the Monaco GP may have been the best thing that could have happened for the team. Nico Rosberg’s poor race in Monaco was looking like it was going to ruin Hamilton’s. Hamilton had fallen 13 seconds behind leader Ricciardo and was stuck behind Rosberg, who was struggling with fuel pressure problems, tyre temperatures and brake issues. Rosberg admitted afterwards that he had lost confidence in his car and allowed Hamilton to overtake to aid the teams push in the constructors championship. Hamilton alluded to this and even called Rosberg a "gentleman". More significantly though for Hamilton, he now only trails Rosberg by 24 points in the standing heading to Canada, a track that Hamilton loves. The very fact that Rosberg admitted he was happy enough to let Hamilton through and Hamilton putting a arm round Rosberg after the race may have eased some of the tension within the team. The pair seemed very genuine in their comments, which will only make the Mercedes team stronger going forward. It could have easily went the other way however, especially the way things have been between the pair since Hamilton won his 3rd World Championship. Rosberg could have made life for Hamilton very difficult and completely ruin Hamilton’s race. Moreover, the events that occurred in Spain lead many think would be the total breaking point for the two drivers. It has not transpired this way and fences certainly have been mended.

Does Palmer Have What it Takes?

When Renault announced it would be taking over the Lotus team and return as a works team, many people including the team itself admitted 2016 would be a teething year for the team. Although it has not been as bad as many feared, it has not been fantastic. Struggling for overall pace and getting out of Q1, the performances of Jolyon Palmer have not lived up to his potential, or his team mate Kevin Magnusson. Magnusson I believe has proven why he was given a second chance in F1. His performance at the Russian GP for example where he finished 7th, scoring the teams only points this season after starting 17th. Palmer has not been as impressive for me however. His highest finish is 11th and his highest qualifying position has been 13th. His performance during the Monaco weekend, a track where he has won at in the past, was not eye catching at all. He had one too many contacts with the barrier during practise, taking valuable running time away from the team, and then in the race he did not make it to turn 1 when the safety car went in as he put his Renault in the barriers on the start finish straight. Renault have made no secret of their desire to have a Frenchman driving for the team, with Esteban Ocon in the third driver role in the team waiting in the wings should Renault decide to replace Palmer. I hope though that Palmer can find the talent that he possesses in order to prove me and many others wrong, and keep his place at Renault for the rest of the season.

Report courtesy of Simon Gray

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