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2015 Monaco GP Post-Race report

Posted on 25 May 2015

By Bob Constanduros

How could that happen? Lewis Hamilton was leading the Monaco Grand Prix by 25s with 14 laps to go when Max Verstappen had a big accident at the first corner, Ste Devote. Lewis stayed out for a lap under first a virtual safety car and then a proper one, but then 1) saw his Mercedes AMG Petronas team readying pit equipment in the pit lane on a giant screen, and then 2) was called into the pits for a change of tyre.

The rest of the world called Why? Why come into the pits when the safety car is out for an accident which even the efficient Monaco marshals are going to take a few minutes to clear? Why should you need new tyres when it’s massively difficult to overtake around the 3.340 kilometer circuit? Remember Nigel Mansell trying to overtake Ayrton Senna? It’s virtually impossible, however much quicker you are.

But having seen the pit crew getting ready, and having been told to come in, Lewis duly did so, took on tyres, rejoined third and consequently lost the Monaco Grand Prix. It wasn’t his fault but if he had followed his instincts, he probably would have stayed out on circuit and won a race that was his.

He had set a fantastic pole lap, had driven a brilliant race and done all he had to do to win. But the closing stages, with the field controlled by the safety car, resulted in a real thriller, particularly as the Red Bull cars battled for position.

It was a typical Monaco Grand Prix: initial excitement but with a quiet midfield period – my co-commentator let out a massive yawn – followed by a thrilling denouement. It’s what happens in Grands Prix, particularly if the tyres give up their grip. But then you have to be able to overtake and that’s not easy around the streets of Monte Carlo – easier at Singapore.

It is a fascinating Grand Prix but it does have its boring bits. You’re trying to analyse what’s going on, who is where, while these drivers are flinging these cars around the circuit. Battles are coming and going. You get some star performances while others are disappointing.

One of the star performances had been 17-year old Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen, the only driver in the field who had never raced anything at Monaco before. Everyone else had raced something. But he did a brilliant job, quietly working away at his performance – although second fastest in the first practice was scarcely working quietly. It was a tremendous performance.

He qualified tenth as well, never over-extending himself as confidence often promotes, although he did back the car into the wall at the final corner. In the race, he was in and out of the top ten and right on the tail of Romain Grosjean for tenth place when he ran into the back of the Frenchman under braking for Ste Devote, the first corner. It resulted in a pretty heavy impact from which the Dutch youngster emerged unscathed and for which he receives a penalty of five grid places in the next Grand Prix. But once again, he had made his mark.

At the other end of the scale was the Williams team, so promising in so many races, but here in lots of trouble with a failure to warm Pirelli’s new compound supersoft tyres. They qualified 12th and 16th and ended up 14th and 15th. One suspected that they just couldn’t wait to leave Monaco.

But this typifies a street circuit such as Monaco or Singapore. There is always an unknown, something waiting around a blind corner, a difference from the status quo, something to stop anyone from yawning – whatever the time of the race. It’s why drivers love street circuits, it gives competitors a chance to win points where perhaps they wouldn’t on conventional circuits. Lewis probably wouldn’t agree this evening but then Nico will. It will be marked as an amazing race, and Mercedes AMG Petronas will still be happy that they won. It doesn’t get more bittersweet than that.

Bob Constanduros is the on-circuit commentator at most Grands Prix worldwide. After a career in motor sport journalism dating back to the late sixties, he was officially asked to provide English language commentary at Grands Prix in the mid-eighties and hasn’t missed a Grand Prix since 1985, totalling over 550 Grands Prix. Despite his Greek name, he was born in England and lives there, not far from the Goodwood circuit where he saw his first motor sport in the fifties. He has taken an interest and worked in all forms of motor sport from karting through rallying to sports and touring cars, and has commentated at every Singapore Grand Prix since the race began. He has worked in all forms of media, and still works for the FIA and FOM as well as individual race promoters.

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