By: Cyril Nikitenko
The grand Monaco covfefe is a big mystery: sometimes you can get it so wrong, but sometimes it can surprise you in a very unexpected and positive way. And boy, it certainly did in zë principauté in 2017!
I’ve mixed feelings about the place: it’s SO not suited to Formula 1 any more, still the history of this particular race is overwhelmingly impressive. We were reminded about it when a couple of old Renault F1 cars took to the track in the hands of Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Alain Prost (to celebrate Renault’s 40th anniversary in the sport); it was amazing to watch for me, the angry sound of the original turbos is something else! I’ll touch briefly on Enstone/current Renault Sport F1 Team below, don’t underestimate that phoenix, their pace is not on the level today, come back tomorrow and they’ll be fighting at the front.
Yet another Mercedes win in Spain failed to excite me (and even BBC F1 crew judging by their post-race podcast!), I wanted more from the Ferrari-Mercedes battle, maybe #Kimi7 bouncing back from the bouncy #Bottas’ lap one moves. After all, it was 17 years ago when the Scuderia last won in Monaco, with Michael and Rubens 1-2 and Eddie Irvine completing the podium in his mean green (slow) machine.
Spooky. Talk about history repeating!
Funnily enough, 17 years later Jaguar’s direct genealogical descendent occupied P3 once again, Daniel Ricciardo outdriving and outfoxing his team-mate and swearing Dutch kid Max33; the young Verstappen later turned the airwaves blue and referred to the situation as a “******* disaster”. Tough luck, Max maxed out his team’s Pirelli credit card in Monaco roulette.
Personally, I don’t mind a bit of NASCAR in F1 (now that the cowboys are in charge of the F1 saloon), radioactive is quite addictive. Look at Kyle Busch dropping mics and doing all sorts of weird things that get you and your sport noticed. I say let Daniel get ahead of Max more often!
Mark Webber was spot on regarding Jenson’s F1 racing comeback: “It’s a non-story, Jenson at Monaco; he goes out, has fuel pressure problems in FP1, qualifies 17th, retires on lap 12 of the race, whatever, who cares?” In reality, I understand Jenson’s lack of enthusiasm, passion and desire to race in F1; he’s rich, he’s famous, he’s almost 40 and when you’re almost 40 you don’t give a damn about your younger self. Doing other things suddenly becomes a priority. It might have been a good PR stunt from McLaren – coupled with Alonso and McLaren’s sponsors taking over the Indy 500 – they made their point, however they still sit on zero point in the constructors’ championship. SAD. WRONG.
Having tweeted that, Vandoorne shouldn’t have done Ocon and Stroll in qualifying and the race, plus Jenson (a returning veteran who had no real taste of the 2017 machinery prior to FP1) edged out Stoffel in qualifying. It’s definitely a no-no for a young driver who is labelled as the next best thing. I’m convinced SV will get it together for the next races and will even score some point – provided his powerless unit can stay in one piece over 60 or 70 odd laps.
There was a lot of talk in the media prior to the event about wheelbase and why Mercedes could struggle around the tight streets of the Principality with their latest challenger. It surely wasn’t the case in FP1 because Lewis managed to set the fastest ever lap of the classic F1 track; from then on, things certainly looked grim for the rapping champ.
With Mercedes failing to make the tyres work properly on one of the cars (it was Hamilton’s turn this time) and coupled with Vandoorne’s messy business meeting with the barriers, Lewis was out in Q2, the British ace was having a visible shocker in the cockpit of his temperamental Mercedes.
Sebastian Vettel had quite a few reasons to smile when he crossed the finish line in P1 and plugged his latest “grande lavoro” catchphrase over team radio. Zee German is not adored by most journos in the paddock, especially in the light of his anti-Webber antics on the track in the past. I will defend Seb based on the fact that he prefers violent F1 cars to politically correct early turbo hybrids. He’s had a stellar start to the season, one that ultimately wins you the drivers’ crown, 100% deserved.
I don’t want to speculate on Kimi’s 😕 face on the podium: the Iceman did a superb job in qualifying, he did drive beautifully, to quote our blog’s friend Peter Windsor. Inch-perfect, almost touching the barriers, such a pro! This is the difference between a paid driver and a pay driver. Kim will most likely go out of F1 in style. Kudos 👊.
Did Ferrari perform Irvine’s lost wheel tactics on Kimi to favour Seb? I guess they kinda sorta did. One wouldn’t expect anything else from the Prancing Horse jockeys given Kimi’s massive points gap to the front. Not gonna happen! A shame though, would’ve been a popular win with the fans.
I have to say during an ordinary ROS vs HAM type of F1 season I’d be paying much more attention to F2 (GP2), that’s where most action/gearhead satisfaction would lie in those days. I’m ashamed to admit it: I only looked at F2 race results and realised Ferrari junior, F2 championship leader and Monaco native Charles Leclerc (royalty!) was equally having a Lewis-style shocker at his home Grand Prix, at least Lew salvaged a few points in the end! I promise to like F2 more next time they hit the track.
One F1 team who is yet to win one since they made their official comeback is Renault. Yes, I know. RF1 had a dismal week in Monte-Carlo, no points and a fresh retirement for the unlucky Hülk with gearbox gremlins.
No hope you’d think.
Renault are going through 2001-2002 déjà vu phase, one should never underestimate Enstone. In Hülkenberg they have a solid quintessentially Benetton-esque line-up of Fisichella, while in jolly old Palmer’s chest beats Alexander Wurz’s Wiener Schnitzel Austrian heart (Piquet Jr’s? 😂). All they need is a new Alonso to energize the team. Oh, and a better chassis coupled with a more powerful PU.