Sebastian Vettel handed Ferrari it’s first Monaco victory in 16 years and his second in the principality with a win scored after passing team-mate and early leader Kimi Raikkonen during their one and only pit stop. Räikkönen managed to hold onto second place despite pressure from Daniel Ricciardo, with the Red Bull driver taking his third Monaco podium in four years following a fifth-placed start.
When the lights went out to signal the start pole sitter Raikkonen made a clean getaway and led from Vettel, Bottas, Verstappen and Ricciardo. Sainz kept sixth ahead of Perez and Grosjean. Kevin Magnussen, however, jumped past Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat to take P9. Kvyat dropped to P11 just ahead of Lewis Hamilton who had passed McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne at the start. At the rear of the field McLaren’s Jenson Button, who had started from the pit lane, and Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein pitted at the end of lap one, with the German swapping supersoft tyres for ultrasofts. The pair almost collided on the way out from their stops, however, and Wehrlein was subsequently handed a five-second time penalty for an unsafe release.
With ten laps gone, Räikkönen had succeeded in eking out a 2.0s gap to Vettel, with the German enjoying a 3.6s advantage over Bottas. The opening stint then began to settle but as the race headed towards the 20-lap mark Vettel began to edge closer to Räikkönen and by lap 25 the German was just a second behind his team-mate as the Finn began to clear the first backmarkers, Button and Wehrlein. Once past the pair Räikkönen again eased ahead, extending his advantage again, this time to 1.5s by lap 32.
Further back, Hamilton was now in 10th place following the earlier retirement of Hulkenberg with gearbox problems and an early stop for Force India’s Sergio Perez. The Briton was not enjoying the afternoon, however, and a third of the way through was on the radio saying that he could do little as his car was “all over the place”.
Verstappen was the first of the leading pack to make a pit stop, attempting to undercut Bottas on lap 34 with a stop for supersofts. The Dutchman closed hard but when Bottas pitted the Finn emerged just in front to hold position.
Vettel now led the race, 4.7s ahead of Ricciardo, with Räikkönen third. Vettel set the race fastest lap on his 37th tour, a 1:15.587, in the hope of overhauling his team-mate and the tactic played perfectly with the German emerging from his stop for supersofts marginally in front of Räikkönen.
Ricciardo worked his stop for the red-banded Pirellis even better, jumping both team-mate Verstappen and Bottas during his brief halt in the pit lane.
Behind the top five, Hamilton who was still on his starting ultrasofts, had now risen to sixth ahead of Vandoorne, who also needed to make a pit stop. Sainz was eighth ahead of Grosjean and Kvyat.
By lap 45 Hamilton was the only driver still needing to pit, with Mercedes putting the Briton on a long first stint to see how many cars he could jump in the space vacated by those pitting around him. By lap 48 and his stop for supersofts that answer was delivered – six beyond his grid slot – and the three-time champion settled into seventh place, just under 10s behind Sainz.
At the front, Vettel was forging ahead, blasting to a 9.7s gap over Räikkönen over the 10 laps following his stop. Räikkönen’s pace, which had dropped to the edge of the 1m17s bracket, settled into managing the 6.0s gap back to Ricciardo.
Ricciardo was determined to make a fight of it however and on lap 51 the Australian ran 1.2s quicker than the Finn and closed the gap to 4.5s.
Behind the top three, Bottas was not fourth but 13s behind Ricciardo, while Verstappen was a second behind the Mercedes and looking to attack. Sainz was now sixth but behind him Hamilton was closing, with the Briton now just 3.8s behind the Spaniard. Grosjean was now eighth ahead of Kvyat and Vandoorne.
On lap 61 the gaps closed when Button collided with Wehrlein as the pair went through the Portier corners. The German’s Sauber was flipped onto its side and smacked into the barriers on its upper side. The Safety Car was immediately deployed and the medical car despatched, but it soon became clear that Wehrlein was unhurt and once he was freed from the wreck, the work of clearing his Sauber from the track began.
In the meantime, team-mate Ericsson also exited the race. The Swede went to pass the SC to unlap himself, as allowed, but appeared to overcook the move and under braking he lost control and hit the barriers at Sainte Devote.
Racing eventually resumed on lap 67 and Verstappen immediately tried to pressure Bottas. The Finn though could hardly have noticed, so intent was he on swarming over the back of Ricciardo’s Red Bull. All three held position, but the tussle allowed both Ferraris to get away and a lap later Vettel was 3.8s ahead of Ricciardo. Further back Vandoorne’s race ended at the re-start when he outbraked himself and hit the barriers at Sainte Devote.
The final handful of laps settled thereafter. Vettel pulled away again at the front to take his second career Monaco win, the last coming with Red Bull in 2011, while Räikkönen managed to hold on to second place despite continued pressure from Ricciardo who chased the Finn all the way to the flag.
Behind Ricciardo, Bottas also held position, finishing fourth ahead of Verstappen, Sainz, Hamilton and Grosjean. Kvyat should have finished ninth but the Russian was hit by Perez in Rascasse late in the race ending the Toro Rosso driver’s afternoon.
It meant that Massa who had stopped during the safety car period for ultrasoft tyres claimed ninth place ahead of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.
Vettel’s victory means he now had 129 points and leads Hamilton by 25 points in the battle for the drivers’ title. Bottas is now third on 75 points, with Räikkönen fourth on 67 points. Ricciardo’s podium puts him fifth on 52 points, seven ahead of team-mate Verstappen.
In the team’s battle Ferrari now have a 17-point over Mercedes, with 196 points to the Silver Arrows’ 179.
eom/FIA press release