With such close proximity to the barriers, Monaco is arguably the toughest race on the calendar for the drivers. A slightest touch with the barriers might necessitate an additional trip to the pits, costing you valuable time. Worse case scenario - retirement. And crashing into the barriers is not the only fear, overtaking is extremely difficult at Monaco, but not impossible, as Adrian Sutil showed before he himself crashed at the exit of tunnel on lap 24. In such circumstances, five drivers stood out of the rest and made it to our Top 5 Drivers of the Monaco Grand Prix list.
Having taken pole position in Monaco for a second year running after inadvertently overshooting a corner and disrupting Hamilton’s flying lap, Nico Rosberg got a great start in the race and retained his lead over the former on the run down to Sainte Devote. Within a few 100 metres, Rosberg had done 67% of the work. Now he had to stay away from the barriers for 78 laps of Circuit de Monaco while at the same time keeping Hamilton at bay. And the gap between the duo never reached below 0.4 seconds, with the result that Hamilton never got a realistic chance of getting his nose ahead of his German teammate. In the end, Rosberg crossed the finish line some 10 seconds ahead of his Hamilton to retake the championship lead.
Daniel Ricciardo was the best-of-the-rest on Saturday after he qualified his Red Bull in third place for the Monaco Grand Prix. Come Sunday, thing didn’t look as bright, at least at the start of the race, with a poor getaway pushing the Australian driver down into fifth place. That fifth place turned into third after Sebastian Vettel retired from the race on reliability grounds and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was forced to pit twice under safety car, having damaged his front wing after an incident with Max Chilton. Ricciardo, now in a podium spot, preserved his tyres for the end and when Hamilton ran into trouble, the 24 year old closed down on the British driver and stayed in his gearbox for a number of laps. While he couldn't pass the 2008 world champion, he went on to secure his second podium finish in Formula 1.
Nico Hulkenberg was expecting a tough race in Monaco after the German was outqualified by his teammate Sergio Perez and only lined up on the grid in 11th place. And while the race was certainly tough for Hulkenberg considering he spent 51 laps on the supersoft tyres on a reverse soft/supersoft strategy, he made it worth with a fine fifth place finish. The result was down to others’ misfortunes and a brilliant drive by Hulkenberg which included a spectacular pass on McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen at Portier corner - a highly unusual place to overtake a car. He also did a formidable of job of holding Jenson Button at bay during the closing stages of the race despite struggling on his worn out option tyres.
Like Hulkenberg, Jenson Button was also outqualified by his teammate and was forced to start the race outside of top 10. However, a mature drive and a great call by Button to come into the pits just after Adrian Sutil’s Sauber hit the wall at the exit of Casino Tunnel meant that the British driver finished the Monaco Grand Prix in sixth place. While in Eric Boullier’s owns words, sixth place is not where McLaren should be, it was still quite a result considering the Woking based outfit finished outside of points in last three races. Jenson Button himself was reasonably satisfied with his performance, saying he would have been happier, had he passed Hulkenberg at the end of the race.
While the two Mercedes drivers continue to grab headlines following with their post-race comments, Jules Bianchi and Marussia were quietly the stars of the show. Bianchi, who started in 21st place following his five place grid penalty, moved up into 16th place by the end of lap 1, overtaking teammate Max Chilton, and Sauber’s Adrian Sutil in the process in the process. However, Pastor Maldonado’s absence from the starting grid created confusion and Bianchi, along with several other drivers were handed a five second penalty for not starting the race from their right grid boxes. After serving his penalty illegally during the Safety Car period, the 24 year old made the all important pass over Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi for 13th place on lap 35. Misfortunes of other drivers worked in his favour and when Kimi Raikkonen had a moment with Kevin Magnussen at the Loews Hairpin, Max Chilton moved up into eighth place. He retained the position until the chequered flag was waved on lap 78 and after five seconds were added to his race time, official results classified the Ferrari academy driver in ninth place. While it may not sound particularly good, it was nothing short of victory for Marussia who’ve been hunting for points since the entered Formula 1 in 2010 as Virgin Racing.
Note: Honourable mention also goes to Lewis Hamilton for staying in Rosberg's mirrors for much of the race and keeping Ricciardo at bay when his vision became impaired.