Sunday, 27 May 2018

Monaco: post-race analysis 2018

A tense rather than dramatic race, but I’m really pleased Ricciardo won. He put in a phenomenal performance to win despite losing his MGU-K early on in the race (luckily after his pit stop) and thoroughly deserved the win.

Speaking of wins, the terms on the bet shifted overnight from top three placed to top two placed. On the former terms, on which I made the bet, it was green. On the latter, it was red. So, how would it be settled?

In unrelated news, I reserve the right to make a voodoo doll of Mr. Sandpit. He backed No Safety Car, which we’ve both backed for several years here, and I chose not to. And there wasn’t one. A great 7.5 or so winner, even though it has annoyed me quite a bit.

Before the race began there was bad news for Sirotkin. His wheels weren’t attached by the designated time and he got a 10s stop and go penalty, which is pretty damned harsh.

Off the line it was pretty much formation flying. Vettel started well but the Monaco start is short and tight, like a gnomish miser, so nobody at the sharp end made any head way. At first, all seemed as expected. Ricciardo was leading the way (although commentary suggested he was being a smidge slower than necessary to put his rivals off from attempting an undercut due to congestion), and the top five were pulling away from the field.

Verstappen made progress, no mean feat on such a narrow track, in a rather more circumspect fashion than his been his modus operandi for much of the year.

Hamilton pitted early for the ultrasoft, and the other top chaps did likewise, excepting Bottas who went onto the supersoft. The gap to the field at this stage was enormous. Discounting those yet to stop it was circa 40s or so.

Then, disaster. Ricciardo had a significant engine problem. At the time, Coulthard (commentating) suggested it was battery problem, very late on Red Bull radio confirmed he’d lost the MGU-K, which is worth something like 160bhp. Despite this enormous difference, he was able to keep Vettel behind him (perhaps aided by excellent tyre management, tyre graining causing significant loss of pace for both Vettel and Hamilton late on).

Gasly pitted late and managed to emerge ahead of Sainz. Whilst Hulkenberg, who also stayed out a long time, was behind Sainz the German was clearly faster and his team mate gallantly let him through, whilst holding up Verstappen, who was on the Renaults’ collective tail.

Alonso had a power loss problem which sounds very similar to Ricciardo’s, and then his gearbox gave up the ghost, leading to his first DNF of the year (and the first race at which he’s failed to score points, meaning only Vettel and Hamilton have scored at every race).

A more serious failure afflicted Leclerc. Coming out of the tunnel, right behind Hartley, he lost his brakes. Wisely, the Monegasque put his Sauber as close to the barrier as possible, trying his best to avoid the Toro Rosso if possible and to minimise the impact if not. This put the Sauber down the escape road, and ruined the rear of Hartley’s car (the rear wing somehow holding on), forcing the Kiwi to retire in the pits. But it kept the safety car from emerging, with just a virtual safety car. That means Monaco is the first race of the year not to see a safety car. Which is rather unexpected.

Anyway, unfortunate for both drivers, but Leclerc’s good thinking in sudden adversity will do his already rising stock no harm at all.

Ricciardo restarted well, Vettel very much the reverse, probably due to the tyres being as much use as a shield made of cheese. The top three kept their positions, Hamilton also on the podium (after a race full of grumbling). Very pleased Ricciardo won. Not only an amazing drive to retain the lead and snatch the win, but after the misfortune of a couple of years ago (the only occasion I’ve seen him be other than happy and enthusiastic) it’s apposite.

Raikkonen and Bottas finished 4th and 5th. Despite having a seemingly better tyre, Bottas was able to only stay close, not to pass. He may have expected those ahead of him to pit.

Ricciardo’s compromised pace, and his pursuers suffering with tyre wear, enabled Ocon to close right up on Bottas by the end of the race. He ended up a few seconds back, barely ahead of Hulkenberg, who was barely ahead of Gasly, who was barely ahead of Verstappen. The final points position went to Sainz, himself less than a second ahead of Ericsson.

A tense race, though, as usual, on-track action was minimal. Speaking of the MGU, it’s said that in 2021 the MGU-H will be ditched.

The standings now look like this:
Hamilton 110
Vettel 96
Ricciardo 72
Bottas 68
Raikkonen 60

The gap at the top has narrowed very slightly. Still a two horse race in my book, and Vettel is still very much in with a shot.

Mercedes 178
Ferrari 156
Red Bull 107
Renault 46
McLaren 40
Force India 26
Toro Rosso 19
Haas 19
Sauber 11
Williams 4

Ferrari have narrowed the gap to Mercedes, and Red Bull are gaining on the Silver Arrows as well. But for many DNFs, they’d be right there. Renault extend, slightly, their advantage over McLaren, Force India have leapt ahead of Toro Rosso, who themselves have just nudged ahead of Haas. Given how many points Haas could’ve amassed, to be 8th with just 19 points is pretty dreadful.

Upon checking, my bet did not pay out, even though it should’ve. I’m going to send a query to Ladbrokes.

Truly, this is the Year of Woe.

The next race is in Canada, a rather good circuit, in a fortnight.

Morris Dancer

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