Seven things we learnt from the Monaco GP

The Monaco Grand Prix has a habit of being a bit of a procession unless rain is involved, and it seemed that would be the case again on this occasion.

With clear, sunny skies above the Principality on Sunday, the race turned into a cat-and-mouse between drivers with few risks being taken, livened up only by the late safety car which led to drama that will surely be discussed on many a public forum for the rest of the season.

Still, there were a few things to notice on Sunday and over the course of the weekend in general.

Things at Mercedes are heating up again

After being the faster of the two Mercedes drivers throughout practice and beating team-mate Nico Rosberg to pole by a handy 0.342 seconds on Saturday, Lewis Hamilton seemed set to win his first Monaco Grand Prix since 2008.

The Briton held onto the lead at the start and over the course of the race seemed to have Rosberg well in hand.

However, Mercedes made the strange call to bring Hamilton in for a new set of supersoft tyres after Max Verstappen’s 64th lap accident at Sainte Devote, ultimately leading to Hamilton losing out to not only Rosberg, but also Sebastian Vettel.

While Rosberg simply did his duty in going on to win the race, Hamilton’s post-race actions made it quite clear that there will be some tense moments at Mercedes for the foreseeable future.


Max Verstappen continues to impress, but still has much to learn

Formula 1’s youngest-ever driver had a generally successful start to his record around Formula 1’s so-called Crown Jewel.

The young Dutchman started the weekend strongly, setting the second fastest time in Thursday’s first free practice session.  While he was eventually out-qualified by team-mate Carlos Sainz, this weekend he showed great courage and maturity to overtake Pastor Maldonado and bridge a 7-second gap to Sergio Perez, even holding the fastest time through sector one  at one point.

A slow pitstop, caused by a problem at the rear of the car, dropped him out of the points and down to 13th place, but Verstappen cleverly used Sebastian Vettel to first pass Valtteri Bottas and nearly pass Romain Grosjean.

Unfortunately, as Verstappen looked to overtake Grosjean for 10th place he misjudged matters and hit the back of the Lotus, ultimately ending up in the barriers at Sainte Devote.

Regardless, the youngster looked calm and assured all weekend, a fact that bodes well for his future.


Formula 1’s safety remains awe-inspiring

There was probably a collective gasp from the entire world as Max Verstappen’s Toro Rosso barrelled towards the barriers at Sainte Devote, leading to a brutal and final end to his efforts for the afternoon.

Verstappen, though understandably shaken by the situation, climbed from the wreckage of his car in good time, unharmed, a strong statement in favour of Formula 1’s continued progress in safety.


Joy and despair for McLaren

McLaren-Honda 2.0 reached an important milestone in Monaco as Jenson Button secured the team’s first points since teaming up with engine partner Honda once more.

While Button earned the result on merit, concerns must be building within the team as Fernando Alonso’s gearbox failed, leading to the Spaniard’s afternoon being cut short.  Alonso was on course for points of his own at the time of his retirement, his third in five races.

This lack of reliability goes to show that while McLaren are making progress, the areas in which improvement is required remain legion.


Daniil Kvyat isn’t ready to be second fiddle yet

Red Bull’s newest addition to the ranks of their senior team has found the going tough so far this season, being generally outperformed by team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

While the young Russian was out-qualified by Ricciardo, his overtake on lap one was fair and square and from there onwards he looked to have matters well in hand, with the team making the effort to tell him halfway through the race what a good job he was doing.

Kvyat, who is only in his second year of Formula 1, undoubtedly has a lot of room for development.  However, Red Bull are not known for their patience when it comes to the results their drivers deliver, and words like “almost”, “second place” and “a little slower than”  are not generally well-received at the Austrian team, which makes the young Russian’s result on the tight and twisty Monaco circuit all the more important.


Kimi Räikkönen needs to find something

Kimi Räikkönen has thus far had a far better time of it in 2015 than he did in 2014, having already secured a podium finish this season, a feat he did not achieve last year.

On race day, the Finn has looked about as fast as – and sometimes faster than – team-mate Sebastian Vettel, but qualifying has remained his greatest problem, with Monaco being no exception.

Räikkönen’s struggles with generating sufficient heat in his tyres are well-documented.  However, the manner in which he was put under pressure by Daniel Ricciardo after the late safety car yet again highlighted how much the problem is costing him.

While Vettel also complained about how the tyres were cold the German was able to get on with the job.  Räikkönen, by contrast, was left behind at the restart and ultimately overtaken by the Red Bull, albeit in a slightly uncouth fashion.

Williams have work to do

Williams enjoyed a revival in 2014 similar to the one Ferrari have gone through this year, earning strong results by virtue of their car’s strong straight-line speed.  From this viewpoint, Monaco was never going to be the strongest of circuits for the team. However, a “bad weekend” would be an understatement.

The two Williams cars qualified in 12th and 16th places respectively before being largely anonymous in the race and finishing 14th and 15th.  While in 2014 they qualified in a comparable 13th and 16th, Felipe Massa managed to eventually bring the car home in seventh place to score some points.

Williams may have made some welcome strides over the past 18 months but in order to truly become a threat to Mercedes they will have to develop their car into a machine that can compete on all circuits.

Adriaan Slabbert