The Ben Evans Column – Thoughts on Monaco

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The Monaco Grand Prix was everything and nothing that F1 should be.

The glamour and sheer exhilaration of the cars flying around the streets was tempered by the shameless commercialism of the event and the total absence of overtaking.

The darling of the British press Lewis Hamilton believes he was robbed of the win by McLaren team orders, although from where I was sitting the blessed Lewis never seemed to be the match of Alonso.

Whichever side of the hype you fall, there is no denying that McLaren were the class act of the Grand Prix and Alonso in particular was imperious, never driving harder than he had to, but always comfortably faster than the opposition.

However the McLaren moment of the weekend was Ron Dennis’ face on the podium – 150 GP wins, a McLaren 1-2 and the ever cheerful Ron looked like Prince Albert told him the cat had just died.

Ferrari were clearly second best although Felipe Massa did his best to keep the McLaren’s honest in the opening stint of the race. Kimi Raikkonen seemed to be at a loss -Sunday’s in-car footage showed his Ferrari to be viciously understeering particularly in the slow corners.

2007 is not proving to be the Raikkonen benefit many expected, and at present it is hard to see him challenging Massa – let alone the McLarens.

BMW are having a 2007 much like BAR did in 2004 – i.e. the best of the rest and ready to pounce when the frontrunners falter. Except that it seems unlikely that both McLarens and Ferraris ever will – no-one else has even got on the podium yet.

Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica seem perfectly matched as team mates and one hopes that sense will prevail and that neither driver will be shoved aside in favour of Sebastien Vettel. The team deserve better than their current run of fourth, fifth and sixth places.

All credit to Nick for pulling off one of very few overtaking moves in the race – on Nico Rosberg into the first corner. That crucial move ruined Rosberg’s race.

It was pleasing to see the preposterously tall (in comparison to most midget racing drivers) Alex Wurz finally get some points on his return to F1. It must seem a lifetime ago that he was dicing with Michael Schumacher around the streets of Monte-Carlo.

However much Rosberg’s result was an injustice, it was nothing compared to the own goal scored by Honda, managing with breathtaking ease to transfer a points paying one stop strategy into a nul points two stopper.

Some of the brightest people in the world are employed in F1, so how come the Honda approach seemed like an E grade GCSE answer?

An even worse fate has hit Jenson Button – in the pre-race ITV coverage he’s been relegated from the Brundle grid-walk to a chat with Louise. He’s only a bad qualifying session away from a pre-race chat with Ted Kravitz. Worrying times for the boy from Frome.

At least Honda can be heartened that no matter how bad their weekend was, it was nothing compared to Toyota’s. Ralf Schumacher in particular deserves the Oscar for his painfully abject drive. I am honestly struggling to recall a worse performance from a paid driver.

Gasp as Ralf gets boxed in at the first corner, marvel as he falls in behind Christijan Albers in the Spyker. And stays there. For 30 laps! I predict a mid-season P45 for Ralf, and not a moment too soon.

Following a reasonable qualifying session Red Bull had a turgid race. Mark Webber didn’t even make it to the first pit stop, whilst TV viewers were tuned in to the Red Bull pit wall trying to motivate David Coulthard in his fight for fourteenth. The overall package is improving but for regular points the race pace still need to improve.

Toro Rosso’s gruesome twosome had a weekend of mixed fortunes. Tonio Liuzzi waited until the second lap before parking in the Armco. The shots of Liuzzi walking back to the pits for his bollocking from Gerhard Berger almost made my Sunday – never has a sportsman shown such fear.

Scott Speed surprised many by putting in the strongest drive of his career and he was unlucky not to score a point – he made up more places than Raikkonen.

Monaco 2006 must have seemed very distant in the Renault pit. Giancarlo Fisichella was a remote fourth – yes, its solid points – but Fisi was never in the hunt for the podium. Heikki Kovalainen on the other hand is having a torrid time. He alternates between being competitive and totally lost. The Finn has the talent but something is clearly not clicking.

Super Aguri, buoyant after points in Spain, could never have expected a match in Monaco although both Anthony Davidson and Takuma Sato showed well.

The good news for Spyker was that Adrian Sutil waited until the closing stages of the race before falling off, the bad news was that he did a good job of it when he did.

Next up is Canada which is usually an entertaining race that can throw up an unusual result. Ferrari have blinked – let’s see if McLaren will as well. A successful North American tour could see Ron’s merry men clearly in the ascendant position.

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Ben Evans
Motorsport commentator Ben is RaceFans' resident bookworm. Look out for his verdict on the latest motor racing publications on Sundays....

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4 comments on “The Ben Evans Column – Thoughts on Monaco”

  1. Ben Evans quote,”…..the blessed Lewis never seemed to be the match of Alonso.”

    DITTO !!!

  2. “…it was nothing compared to the own goal scored by Honda, managing with breathtaking ease to transfer a points paying one stop strategy into a nul points two stopper.”

    Honda are well beyond the own-goal hat trick.

    I find Fisichella’s distance from the podium depressing as all signs of improvement among whom I will now simply refer to as “The Field” (that’s everybody except the two McLaren and Massa) were erased in Monte Carlo.

    The words aimed at Ralf would seem harsh if they were aimed at one of the Spyker or Aguri drivers, or Scott Speed, but I agree his performance was way too poor for someone that has that much money and energy spent by other people, trying to make him appear to be great.

    Perhaps The Field should try a super-light fuel strategy so that they appear to be competitive for three laps, and pray that Alonso finds the marbles. He won’t, of course.

  3. At the end, the people that know about f1, saw that at monaco, during the race, hamilton could not match alonsos pace, even if he tried. In an qualyfing lap,is not that clear, at least at monaco. Lets keep watching…

  4. Scott Speed also pulled off one of the few (three, if my memory serves me correctly) overtaking manouevers after the first lap – on Barrichello, admittedly on Rubens’ out lap after a pit stop. Button also managed it on Barrichello in similar circumstances, only to be re-passed on the same lap. Scott pulled away after the pass.

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