Formula One: Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari sharpen edge

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel celebrating on the podium after winning in Monaco, watched by Prince Albert II, Princess Charlene and other dignitaries.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel celebrating on the podium after winning in Monaco, watched by Prince Albert II, Princess Charlene and other dignitaries.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Kimi Raikkonen just ahead of Ferrari team-mate Vettel going round the Grand Hotel Hairpin. Though he tried to put up a united front, he would not have been happy with being pitted first.
Kimi Raikkonen just ahead of Ferrari team-mate Vettel going round the Grand Hotel Hairpin. Though he tried to put up a united front, he would not have been happy with being pitted first.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

He extends championship lead after beating Raikkonen with superior pit-stop strategy

MONACO • Sebastian Vettel extended his Formula One championship lead over Lewis Hamilton to 25 points yesterday, after becoming the first Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher in 2001 to win the showcase Monaco Grand Prix.

Finnish team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who started on pole for the first time in nine years but lost the lead in the pit stops, made sure of a Ferrari one-two with Hamilton finishing seventh for Mercedes after starting 13th.

Vettel's 45th career win was the German's third in six races this season. Australian Daniel Ricciardo took his second successive podium with third place for Red Bull.

With the result, Ferrari are 17 points ahead of Mercedes in the constructor standings.

A good weekend then for Ferrari, and a further blow to Mercedes, with Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas able to finish only fourth after starting third on the grid.

How Ferrari achieved the result will raise questions, however, with a strategy that appeared to favour Vettel - who started in second - over Raikkonen.

WONDERFUL FEELING

It's obviously a great day for the team... great to get the points, great to get the win.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL, who is benefiting from team tactics, being the one more likely to be fighting with Lewis Hamilton for the title come the end of the season.

Following such a route even only six races into the season is both legal and makes sense from the team's perspective, given that Vettel is their main contender for the title but it is unlikely to have sat well with Raikkonen.

"For the laps on the older tyres I was giving everything I could," said Vettel of the crucial tactical decision to keep him out longer than his team-mate.

"It feels unbelievable. It was a very tense race. I had a couple of laps where I really pushed and it made a difference.

"It's obviously a great day for the team... great to get the points, great to get the win."

Staying out as long as possible on the ultrasoft tyres appeared to be the route most teams were pursuing, looking to minimise the time on the slower, harder rubber.

Vettel, however, was catching Raikkonen and had the gap down to just over a second by Lap 22.

Four laps later, Raikkonen was into the backmarkers, coming up first on Jenson Button in the McLaren.

Moving through the slower cars, even with blue flags, was sufficient to slow the leaders, allowing Bottas to close on Vettel, but once clear Raikkonen was able to reassert his advantage at the front.

  • MONACO GRAND PRIX

  • RESULTS

    1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1hr 44min 44.340sec

    2 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari +3.145sec

    3 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull +3.745

    4 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes +5.517

    5 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull +6.199

    6 Carlos Sainz Jr (Esp) Toro Rosso +12.038

    7 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes +15.801

    8 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas +18.150

    9 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams +19.445

    10 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas +21.443

    OVERALL STANDINGS DRIVERS

    1 Vettel 129 pts

    2 Hamilton 104

    3 Bottas 75

    4 Raikkonen 67

    5 Ricciardo 52

    CONSTRUCTORS

    1 Ferrari 196

    2 Mercedes 179

    3 Red Bull 97

    4 Force India 53

    5 Toro Rosso 29

    REUTERS

Bottas was the first of the front three to take his single stop, on Lap 33, and Ferrari opted to have Raikkonen match him a lap later. But Bottas emerged behind Ricciardo, who had put in some storming laps while staying out.

Vettel, now in the lead, remained on track in front of the Australian, had clear air and looked to make the most of it, banging in quickest sector after quickest sector.

Staying out and putting in those fast laps paid off and Vettel had around a second on his team-mate, including the stop on Lap 39, and emerged just in front of Raikkonen on track.

Ferrari's strategy for Vettel to stay out for a further five laps worked in his favour.

Raikkonen may feel aggrieved as the pole sitter and leader of the race that he was given the slower strategy of the two cars but Ferrari were always likely to favour the driver who is likely to be fighting for the World Championship at the business end of the season.

"It's still second place but it doesn't feel awfully good," the Finn said. "This is how it is sometimes."

Shrugging his shoulders, he later added: "It is a great result for the team and that is the main thing."

Button, back for one race to replace two-time champion Fernando Alonso, who was due to drive at the Indianapolis 500 later yesterday, retired his McLaren after a collision with German Pascal Wehrlein's Sauber.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2017, with the headline 'Vettel, Ferrari sharpen edge'. Print Edition | Subscribe