27 May 2012 – Mark Webber has won the Monaco Grand Prix for the second time, defending from five challenging drivers as rain affected the closing laps of the race. Nico Rosberg finished second, with Fernando Alonso taking a sole lead in the championship. Establishing a new F1 record, six drivers have now won as many races in 2012.
With Webber starting from his first pole position of the year, a strong getaway saw him lead Rosberg into Sainte Devote as Lewis Hamilton slotted into third place. Behind, Alonso made up ground as Felipe Massa shot from eighth on the grid to the top five. The Brazilian’s rise was assisted by contact ahead, as Romain Grosjean touched wheels with Alonso; then squeezing Michael Schumacher towards the barriers, the two cars touched and the Lotus was sent spinning into retirement in the middle of the pack. Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber was clipped by Grosjean and lifted into the air, pushing Jenson Button out wide. Behind, Barcelona winner Pastor Maldonado was coming from the back and rammed Pedro de la Rosa before duly crashing at the Fairmont Hairpin. The first-lap carnage left Grosjean, Kobayashi, Maldonado and de la Rosa out of the race as Vitaly Petrov headed for the pit lane.
The race restarted on Lap 4, with Webber keeping Rosberg at bay before setting a series of consistently fast lap times. As he was passed by Sergio Pérez – who, like Maldonado, had started on the final row – Jean-Éric Vergne decide to pit early on Lap 18. The strategy paid off handsomely and allowed the Toro Rosso to run in seventh position. However, six points and his best F1 result to date were scuppered when he made the gamble to switch to Intermediate tyres as rain fell in the last knockings; the showers inappropriately blew over.
With Webber and Rosberg only dropping out of their respective lead and second place during the pit-stop windows, Fernando Alonso jumped Hamilton for the final podium slot – a moment which would prove crucial in seizing upper ground in the title race. For some time during the middle stint, it looked as though Sebastian Vettel could spoil the party for everybody; having started ninth after not setting a time in Q3, the World Champion was the only man in the top ten to begin on the harder, Prime compound tyre. Having stretched out the leading advantage over Webber to 17 seconds before his pit-stop, Vettel finally came in when his tyres dropped off the cliff on Lap 45. Crucially for Hamilton and Massa, the Red Bull rejoined in front to confirm a new order in fourth, fifth and sixth places.
It was a miserable day for Button, who has now failed to score points at three races out of six. The 2009 winner lost ground in the Turn 1 carnage, then failed to overhaul Heikki Kovalainen’s Caterham when exiting the pits. The Englishman finally let frustration get the better of him into the Swimming Pool Complex, diving up the inside and spinning his car. Moment later, Pérez attempted a move on the Finn but overshot at Saint Devote. Although Kovalainen was forced to pit for a new front wing, he impressively delivered his team’s best result of the season – decisively moving Caterham back ahead of Marussia for tenth place in the Constructors’ Championship. Pérez ended what could have been a promising weekend for Sauber in 11th place, not helped by a drive-through penalty for cutting directly across Kimi Räikkönen when diving for the pit lane entrance.
In the bottom half of the top ten, Force India enjoyed a fantastic day as Paul di Resta and Nico Hülkenberg came home in seventh and eighth places. The latter had made the most of his only opportunity to pass Räikkönen, sweeping around the outside when the Lotus driver was baulked by Pérez in the aforementioned pit entry incident. This left the 2007 Champion in ninth place, with Bruno Senna salvaging a point for Williams after benefitting from the late-race decision by Vergne to fit Intermediates. All runners from seventh downwards also moved up by one spot when Michael Schumacher – who was fastest in qualifying - was forced to stop with a problem for the second consecutive Monaco Grand Prix.
As drops of rain became a steady shower, the last ten laps were scintillating. Webber tenuously held the lead from Rosberg, with Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton also attacking. Within minutes, Massa joined the party to deliver a remarkable six-car dice for the lead, following on from a three-car battle at the front of last year’s race. Fortunately for the leader, the downpour did not last long and allowed for a somewhat less nervous drive in the final three of the 78 laps. Even so, the top six was still only covered by as many seconds when the chequered flag flew.
Not only has Webber repeated his Monte Carlo success of 2010 and notched up a remarkable statistic at the start of the 2012 campaign, but Red Bull is the first team to win two races this year. With his last personal triumph since the Brazilian finale of 2011 and an eighth career victory, the Australian equals the sums of Jacky Ickx and 1967 World Champion Denny Hulme. In the drivers’ standings, he is now tied with team-mate Vettel on 73 points, but both trail Alonso by three as Formula 1 heads to Montreal.Formula 1 continues in a fortnight’s time, with Round 7 in Canada marking the first of two trips to North America this year