MONTE CARLO // Sebastian Vettel, after finishing on pole position on Saturday, described the Monaco Grand Prix as “a bit of a casino with a lot of things going on”.
Yesterday, after risking it all in a quest to secure his fifth win from six races this season, he lucked in and won the jackpot.
Red Bull Racing’s reigning world champion finished 1.1 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso with Jenson Button of McLaren-Mercedes another 1.2secs behind.
But he needed more than his fair share of fortune on the streets of Monte Carlo. First, a safety car helped him eradicate Jenson Button’s 15-second lead. Then, with just six laps remaining and employing a high-risk one-stop strategy, a red flag allowed him to change his worn tyres without sacrificing his position at the front of the field to the prowling Alonso.
“I am extremely happy,” Vettel said. “The victory at times seemed far away, but like I said before, Monaco is a crazy place.
“I think the roulette wheel spun a lot [in qualifying] and kept on spinning throughout this race, so I’m really happy. It’s a fantastic result.”
The race was poised for a grandstand finish with Vettel, Alonso and Button all separated by less than a second and the 23-year-old German being forced to defend brilliantly on old tyres to ward off the growing threat of an aggressive Alonso.
But with six laps remaining, Alonso was poised to attack when the trio of front-runners found traffic from the back of the field and a multi-car collision involving Adrian Sutil, Jaime Alguersuari, Lewis Hamilton and Vitaly Petrov.
This resulted in the race being suspended while an ambulance arrived to take Petrov to hospital after he had made heavy contact with the barriers.
The Russian, who drives for Lotus Renault, was later discharged with his team reporting that he had suffered no broken bones or serious injury in the incident.
When action resumed 23 minutes later, Vettel had fresh tyres, fresh impetus and was able to close out his first win at Circuit de Monaco without too much trouble as he built up a one-second lead over Alonso which he was able to maintain.
With McLaren’s Hamilton finishing sixth, Vettel now leads the world championship by 58 points.
“As expected, it was not a normal Monaco Grand Prix,” he said. “We took the risk and in the end we got the reward.”
Speaking of his decision to employ a one-stop strategy, Vettel said he had overruled his team, who had ordered him to the pits.
“I got the call to box, but I said ‘No, I want to stay out’,” he said.
“It was the only way I was going to win the race. [Alonso] was getting closer and closer, then with six laps to go they had to suspend the race.
“Obviously, I was struggling with the tyres, but I think we could have held on.”
Alonso said he and Vettel were fortunate the safety car was deployed earlier in the race following an accident involving his teammate Felipe Massa, who was forced to retire.
“We we very lucky because Jenson was on his way to victory,” Alonso said.
Button, however, was philosophical about missing out on a second success in Monte Carlo to go with his 2009 triumph.
“I don’t know if you can call it unlucky,” said the Briton. “On lap 16 of the race, we thought [three stops] was the right strategy. To be pulling such a lead, even through traffic, was great and the car felt good, but the safety car mixed things up a little bit.
“It just didn’t go our way. It’s disappointing because we didn’t put a foot wrong, but these things happen in Monaco.
“It was good fun to watch these guys tussle. I was waiting for the move to see if it came off or to see if they ended up in the barriers.”
Vettel was able to avoid the barriers, but he had no intention of avoiding the Red Bull swimming pool, which he gleefully leapt into following his memorable win.
Monaco GP race results
1 Vettel, Red Bull 2h09m.38.373s
2 Alonso, Ferrari +1.138
3 Button, McLaren +2.378
4 Webber, Red Bull +23.100
5 Kobayashi, Sauber +26.900
6 Hamilton, McLaren +27.200
7 Sutil, Force India +1 lap
8 Heidfeld, Renault +1 lap
9 Barrichello, Williams + 1 lap
10 Buemi, Toro Rosso + 1 lap
11 Rosberg, Mercedes + 1 lap
12 Di Resta, Force India + 2 laps
13 Trulli, Lotus + 2 laps
14 Kovalainen, Lotus +2 laps
15 D’Ambrosio, Virgin + 2 laps
16 Liuzzi, HRT + 3 laps
17 Karthikeyan, HRT + 3 laps
18 Maldonado, Williams + 5 laps
19 Petrov, Renault 68 laps
20 Alguersuairi, Toro Rosso 68 laps
21 Massa, Ferrari 33 laps
22 Schumacher, Mercedes 33 laps
23 Glock, Virgin 31 laps
24 Perez, Sauber did not start
1 Sebastian Vettel, Germany 143
2 Lewis Hamilton, Great Britain 85
3 Mark Webber, Australia 79
4 Jenson Button, Great Britain 76
5 Fernando Alonso, Spain 69
6 Nick Heidfeld, Germany 29
7 Nico Rosberg, Germany 26
8 Felipe Massa, Brazil 24
9 Vitaly Petrov, Germany 21
10 Kamui Kobayashi, Japan 19
11 Michael Schumacher, Germany 14
12 Adrian Sutil, Germany 8
13 Sebastien Buemi, Switzerland 2
14 Paul Di Resta, Great Britain 2
15 Sergio Perez, Mexico 2
16 Rubens Barrichello, Brazil 2
17 Jarno Trulli, Italy 0
18 Jerome d’Ambrosio, Belgium 0
19 Heikki Kovalainen, Finland 0
20 Jaime Alguersuari, Spain 0
21 Pastor Maldonado, Venezuela 0
22 Narain Karthikeyan, India 0
23 Timo Glock, Germany 0
24 Vitantonio Liuzzi, Italy 0
1 Red Bull Racing 222 pts
2 McLaren-Mercedes 161
3 Ferrari 93
4 Renault 50
5 Mercedes GP 40
6 Sauber-Ferrari 21
7 Force India-Mercedes 10
8 Toro Rosso-Ferrari 7
9 Williams-Cosworth 2
10 Team Lotus-Cosworth 0
11 Virgin-Cosworth 0
12 HRT-Cosworth 0