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2011 Grand Prix of Monaco Observations

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The Memorial Day race weekend got off to an incredible start and set the stage for what promised to be a great day of racing.  The narrow streets of Monaco played host to what almost turned out to be an epic Formula 1 race.  Those that cried that you can’t overtake at Monaco were surely disappointed because there was passing.  There was interesting strategy.  There was almost a three way fight for the win between world champions.  In the end I learned something new about Formula 1 rules and hope that they’ll change their red flag rules.  Post race, there were some unfortunate comments made that I hope don’t overshadow what was a pretty good race.

 

  • Red Bull screws the pooch on pit stops. Can Alonso capitalize on it? #F1  The first stops were a series of unusually bungled stops for both Vettel and Weber in which the Red Bull team seemed unprepared for the stops.  As a result, both drivers lost time and track position.  Strangely enough, Red Bull says the tire error for Vettel on this stop caused them to change to the strategy which may well have given them the win (although we’ll never know because of the red flag – more later).
  • Now a bungled pit stop by McLaren for Hamilton! This is developing into a strange race. #F1  In VERY un-McLaren like fashion, McLaren’s pit crew appeared to be simply not ready when Lewis Hamilton came in for his first pit stop.  In his post race interview, Hamilton said that the team called him in but the crew wasn’t ready when he got there so it sounds like there was probably a lack of communication between the engineers on the wall and the rest of the crew in the garage. One can’t help if this led to Hamilton’s overly aggressive driving during the remainder of the race and helped contribute to his meltdown in the BBC post race interview (more later).
  • They have to penalize Hamilton for that if they penalized DiResta for what he did. #F1   Hamilton made the first of his two overly aggressive moves in the hairpin almost exactly like rookie Paul DiResta did.  Hamilton tried to go inside of Massa at the hairpin and made contact with the Ferrari as Massa tried to complete his turn.  This incident quite possibly contributed to the issue Massa had later in the lap which resulted in him hitting the wall in the tunnel.   Later in the race, Hamilton also made an overly aggressive maneuver on Pastor Maldonado, ruining Maldonado’s race, which was a shame because Maldonado was actually having a good race.  Had their positions been reversed, Hamilton would have been livid.
  • If Vettel and Alonso stay out, I just don’t think Button can pass them. #F1 Would like to see myself proven wrong though.  The end of the race was shaping up to be a 3 car race between champions:  Vettel, Alonso, and Button.  Vettel was staying out on tires 50 laps old and Alonso was also on old tires.  Even though Button was on new tires, I just don’t think the situation fit his driving style.  He’s not an aggressive overtaker and I’m not sure he would have taken the chances necessary to pass Vettel and Alonso.  As it turned out, it wouldn’t become an issue.
  • Vettel, Alonso, Button nose to tail. This could turn out epic or it could turn out stoopid.  I’m hoping for epic. #F1  As I mentioned, the race was developing into a fight between three world champions on differing tire strategies.  They were literally nose to tail! Even better the fight was developing within the tight, twisty confines of Monaco where bold moves could lead to glory or even more easily lead to agony.  What more could you ask for?
  • Please, no! Let’s restart this thing and finish it right!  Oh no! Red Flag!  A group of cars crashed in front of the leaders as they approached to put them a lap down.  The officials red flagged the race to clear the track and at first it appeared that the race was over.  Thankfully, common sense prevailed and they announced that the race would be continued.  It appeared that the race would pick up where it left off…
  • Meh. The tire change during Red Flag took the edge off of this race. #F1  Good Race but an anticlimactic finish due to the tire changes during the red flag. #F1  But no, the race would not pick up before it left off because F1 rules allow the teams to work on the cars during red flag stoppages.  What?  Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other series where this happens.  Amazingly, the F1 rules allowed teams to fix the cars (i.e. Hamilton’s damaged rear wing, much harder to fix than a front wing) and change tires (i.e. Vettel’s, which had to be massively worn).
  • Very impressed with how Vettel ran before the red flag on EXTREMELY old tires. #F1  I was pleasantly surprised to see how Vettel was able to perform on such old tires late in the race.  I’ve never thought of him as a driver that was able to manage tires or work with extremely worn tires but I saw differently yesterday.  Vettel proved that he is more than just an aggressive and extremely fast driver.
  • On the other hand, Hamilton drove a terrible race. It was a performance unbefitting a champion. #F1   What can I say about Hamilton yesterday?  It’s as if after the bungled pit stop at the beginning of the race he just quit thinking and drove the rest of the race in the red mist.  You really would have expected more self control and better decision making from a world champion.
  • RT @antdavidson: Wow what a race. Big confusion at end with red flag. Shame they’re allowed to work on cars. Ruined a great scrap to the end  I can’t agree more; Anthony Davidson hit the nail on the head.  Instead of continuing the great race that was underway, we were given a whole new sprint race in which drivers had new tires and repaired cars.  It completely changed the complexion of the race.  Let’s hope that the FIA and F1 change that rule over the off season.
  • Just watched Lewis Hamilton’s post race interview. Lost Respect. Unchampionlike. “Maybe it’s ’cause I’m black.”Please. #F1  First, I can only hope that he was truly joking when he played the race card.  He might have been joking but when you take the lid off of that jar it’s hard to put it back on. That interview is going to end up going far beyond the motor sport world and it is going to tarnish the reputations of both Hamilton and F1.  I don’t see how he can possibly think he was done in by the stewards in this race.  In the first incident he was penalized the same as a previous identical incident; he was treated equally.  In the second incident he was penalized with time (even though it didn’t affect the running order) because the decision was made after the race was over.  I can’t comment on the qualifying penalty because I never saw the incident in question.  Hamilton should have had sense enough to decline the interview at the time, taken some time to collect himself and then give the BBC the interview when he had calmed down.

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