Like father, like son for Nico Rosberg in Monaco
Mercedes' ice-cool German wins on 30th anniversary of his father's victory thanks to a flawless display of concentration
the Circuit de Monaco
Sunday 26 May 2013
Keke Rosberg chuckled when somebody wished him a happy 30th anniversary before the Monaco GP, and his son Nico duly delivered the gift as he emulated his father's victory of 1983. Keeping cool under intense pressure, he saw off Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton and the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, a red flag incident and two separate safety car deployments, to deliver the most convincing performance of his career.
As Rosberg told the world, "Winning here, in a silver arrow, is just so special," Hamilton admitted, "I wasn't good enough today."
But despite the son in the sun, the race began under a cloud as Red Bull and Ferrari pledged to protest after Mercedes had conducted a secret test for Pirelli after the Spanish GP.
Red Bull were offered the chance to conduct the test for the Italian tyre maker but declined. "We felt that would be unfair," Red Bull's Christian Horner suggested, taking the moral high ground.
Heavy tyre wear has been a deciding feature of most of the races held this year, but this time Rosberg and Hamilton had no problem. But for the incident on the 30th lap which triggered the first safety car intervention and obliged Mercedes to pit Rosberg and Hamilton at the same time, Hamilton would have kept second place. Instead, he dropped to fourth and finished there.
"I don't put it down to bad luck," Hamilton said. "It was my mistake today. I miscalculated the gap I needed to leave Nico when he had to pit. I was told to have a six-second gap, and I had a little more than six seconds and I lost out. But big congratulations to Nico and the team. They did a great job today and I have to keep working harder."
Monaco is always a processional race because of the difficulties presented by the track layout. Rosberg took the lead from Hamilton, with Vettel and Webber in line astern ahead of Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus and Fernando Alonso's Ferrari, and the duelling McLarens of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez. But just as the pit stop window approached, and Webber, Raikkonen, Button and Alonso and Vettel had stopped for fresh tyres, Felipe Massa repeated his Saturday morning practice crash at Ste Devote, giving himself a nasty bang on the head. Officials immediately deployed the safety car, forcing Mercedes to pit both drivers and necessitating stacking Hamilton for agonising seconds.
After the racing resumed on the 39th lap, after Massa had got his wind back, Hamilton was getting his second wind and giving Webber a hard time when Pastor Maldonado, who had already collided at the start with Giedo van der Garde's Caterham, came into contact with Max Chilton's Marussia on the 45th lap. The young British rookie failed to see the Venezuelan as he moved back to take the line into the Tabac corner, and Maldonado's Williams momentarily took off before crashing almost head-on into the protective plastic wall. As debris was spread all over the track, officials red-flagged it as the leaders were on their 46th lap.
Fortunately, Maldonado was unharmed, but Chilton subsequently received a drive-through penalty for causing a collision. After all the remaining cars had stopped in race order on the starting grid, and the considerable mess had been cleared up, the racing resumed again on the 48th.
All that might have unsettled a lesser driver, but Rosberg demonstrated the same coolness that had made his father a legend, and controlled the rest of the race to achieve something that even the legendary Hill family could not – a father and son succession.
"It's special to hear that, but it was not what I was thinking when I crossed the finish line," Rosberg said. "I'm extremely happy to win this race, with such a difficult time behind us where we'd take pole positions yet drop back in the races, and that was in my mind today. But the team gave me a great car and it's fantastic to see how much it has improved in a short space of time, though this track suited us already."
Behind him, Vettel, Webber and Hamilton pushed one another hard without any of them looking like changing position, but in their wake there was further mayhem.
After fighting McLaren team-mate Button tooth and nail early in the race, Perez overtook his team leader at the chicane on the 41st lap, then passed Alonso three laps later. But an attempt to pass Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus for fifth resulted in the Finn dropping back to an eventual 10th-place finish, and the Mexican retiring with suspension damage.
Button had no answer to Adrian Sutil's well-driven Force India, but was able to pass Alonso at the Rascasse corner on the 70th lap when the unhappy Spaniard got caught in the traffic jam behind Sutil and had to back off.
"My opening laps were good – I overtook Sutil and tried to have a go at Alonso at the hairpin," Button said. "So I wasn't really paying attention when Checo [Perez] put a really good move on me under braking for the chicane. After the restart, Adrian also made a really good move on me into the hairpin. Then in the last few laps, Checo and Raikkonen tangled, and suddenly there was a battle behind them because they were circulating slowly in their damaged cars. I took the opportunity to jump up the inside of Fernando at Rascasse, and came home sixth."
After his horrible qualifying, Paul di Resta put in a blistering drive to ninth for Force India, right on the tail of Alonso and Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne.
But the day belonged to Rosberg. "For me it was a normality having a father who was a world champion. I grew up with that, so it was never extra pressure. And I've never felt the need to emerge from his shadow.
"Winning at Monaco feels unbelievable, because it's such a special race and it's also my home race. My first memories were of watching Ayrton Senna here with his yellow helmet, and one day dreaming to win the Monaco GP. Because it's my home race, the feelings are incredible, and these emotions make up for all the bad things before."
Raikkonen brands Perez 'an idiot'
Kimi Raikkonen accused McLaren's Sergio Perez of driving like an idiot after a collision that almost ended the Finn's 23-race run of scoring finishes.
The Lotus driver and the Mexican made contact at the entrance to the chicane while Raikkonen was defending fifth place.
Perez's attempt to pass ended in contact, with Raikkonen suffering a rear tyre puncture that dropped him right down the field.
"Actually that [idiot] is a nice word compared with what he really said," said the Lotus team principal, Eric Boullier, when asked about Raikkonen's radio outburst.
"He hit me from behind and that's about all there is to it," said Raikkonen. "If he thinks it's my fault that he came into the corner too fast then he obviously has no idea what he's talking about."
Stats magic: Grand prix in numbers
50 Sebastian Vettel became the youngest F1 driver to reach 50 podium finishes.
7 A German driver won in Monaco for seventh time in last 19 years.
23 Kimi Raikkonen finished in the points for the 23rd consecutive race – one shy of Michael Schumacher's record.
20 Races since Rosberg last finished on the podium.
2 Rosberg's only other victory came in China last year.
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