Fernando has taken his second victory of the 2007 Formula One season, and now leads the championship by virtue of wins, but is tied with team mate Lewis Hamilton for points. The young rookie driver in the sister McLaren came home second after an intense battle with Alonso that went right up until the final round of pit stops. Ferrari managed to gain some points with Felipe Massa finishing in the final podium place, although Kimi Raikkonen had a tough race and could only manage eighth.
From the start it was clear that McLaren had the Monaco Grand Prix under control. Lewis Hamilton darted right to cover Alonso’s rear from Massa, which forced the Brazilian driver to back down and let the two McLaren’s through Ste Devote unchallenged. From here, both title leaders pulled away, and although the gap wasn’t overly large, it allowed McLaren to dictate the pace and control the race from the front.
Lap two saw Italian driver Vitantonio Liuzzi clout the outside wall that runs around Massanet and into Casino. His Toro Rosso was damaged beyond repair, and he parked up and walked back to the pits. His inexperience shining through as the difficult Monte Carlo takes its first victim of the race. Kimi Raikkonen made up ground on the start, making a superb dash from the line and squeezing his Ferrari into twelfth. Unfortunately, eleventh place driver Jenson Button was a little more difficult to pass, and Raikkonen spent much of the first stint looking at the Honda’s rear wing.
On lap 18, Mark Webber pitted with a gear box problem. The Australian had lost third gear, and while he attempted to continue, the rear tyres were locking, and a problem like that will only result in “putting it in the wall” as the man himself stated. Red Bull Racing are having some real problems with their ‘box, as David Coulthard ran the final laps of the Spanish Grand Prix sans third gear. The cars do have pace, particularly at the high-aerodynamic circuits like Bahrain and Catalunya, but they really need to sort out their reliability.
Also on lap 18 the McLaren drivers really started to put the hammer down. First Lewis Hamilton, who seemed to be lacking in pace to begin with, opened up and slammed in a fastest lap, considerably faster than Alonso’s best. Fernando was busy dealing with traffic and couldn’t immediately respond, but as soon as he passed Jarno Trulli at Portier (who then let Takuma Sato through in error) the throttle was opened and Alonso set about rectifying the challenge made by Lewis. Lap 22 saw the fastest lap return to the Spaniard, despite travelling sideways in more than one corner. 1m15.7s was the new benchmark.
Lap 24 saw the first round of stops for a lot of drivers and the majority retained their hard compound tyres, choosing to run the soft in the final stint. Alonso and Massa stopped on lap 26, signaling Hamilton to go for it. The British driver popped in a 1m15.372s, but it wasn’t enough as Lewis entered the pit lane on lap 29 for fuel and fresh rubber.
Anthony Davidson was given a drive-thru penalty for not adhering to waved blue flags, which the Brit took on lap 38. All this time both McLaren drivers were keeping up the relenting pace at the front of the field, sharing fastest laps and yo-yo-ing the gap back and forth. It seemed as though one always had the other pegged for pace.
In terms of damaged cars, Monaco 2007 was a relatively uneventful race. Liuzzi’s Toro Rosso made a mess of Massanet on lap two which ended his race, and David Coulthard managed to damage his front wing part way through the afternoon. Anthony Davidson also clipped a barrier somewhere has he too had damage to the front, and Heikki Kovalainen suffered from a slow puncture after kissing the wall midway through the Grand Prix. But these little incidents did not cause a race retirement (aside from Liuzzi), which goes to show just how strong the modern day Formula One car is.
Lap 51 brought about the start of the second round of stops, and Alonso came in for his final set of tyres – the super soft compound – and was fuelled to the end. Lap 54 was Lewis’ turn for rubber, and the Brit had to concede defeat to Fernando has he exited the pit lane, knowing that a challenge in the final stint would be risking the result too much. From this point onwards, both McLaren’s cooled down their pace and drove to the finish line.
Scott Speed – the Californian who sounds great on the team radio – contacted his race engineer to complain that his brakes had grown too long. “The brakes are on the floor”, he exclaimed, indicating that the pedal was pressed right down and the brakes weren’t gripping as much. The American managed to get his Toro Rosso to the end though, and apart from Liuzzi’s encounter with the armco, Monaco ’07 wasn’t a too bad race for the team, finishing just outside of the points in ninth.
22 laps from the end saw Adrian Sutil make it three retirements as he mirrored Vitantonio’s accident and skated around the outside of Massanet at the top of the hill. And a few laps later, the much improved Honda’s running in seventh and eighth started to unravel their race by pitting. First Rubens Barrichello came in on lap 62 for a splash-and-dash, then Jenson Button popped in almost in sympathy. It is hard to work out what exactly Honda were attempting to do by running this strategy, but I’m sure questions will be answered by the end of the day. Both Honda’s were relegated out of the points, and Kimi Raikkonen was promoted into them.
The final stint of the Monaco Grand Prix was relatively boring as most drivers were simply running to the finish line. Even Massa in third place appeared to give up, knowning that McLaren would instant respond to any challenge by lowering themselves in the mid-1m15s. Overall though, Monte Carlo provided another excellent race and now means that both McLaren drivers are up front in the title race with equal points on 38. Because Alonso has won more races though, it is he who officially leads the championship. Massa remains in third place with team mate Raikkonen in forth. McLaren are running away with the constructors at the moment, leading with 76 points to Ferrari’s 56.