Mark Webber became the sixth winning driver in six Formula One races this season by finishing first the Formula One Grand Prix of Monaco. This was the Red Bull’s driver’s second Monaco win in three years, and red Bull became the first constructor to win two races in 2012.
Webber started from the pole, handed off the lead to his teammate Sebastian Vettel after pitting for tires, then retook the lead when Vettel pitted. The Red Bull veteran then worked hard to stay ahead of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg despite decaying tires and a brief rain shower.
Despite the race only being 160 miles, Webber was exhausted by the time the checkered flag waved; the intense concentration needed to negotiate the narrow walled course at racing speed left him mentally drained.
It was not just the looming walls which demanded constant attention; the competition was equally demanding. The top six cars finished within six seconds of Webber, the top four within 1.2 seconds.
When asked in the post-race press conference at what point he felt he had the race won, Webber told formula1.com, “Lap 78, out of turn 19. That’s Monaco. I watched the 1983 or ’82 Monaco Grand Prix. Prost was leading with two laps to go and he crashed. So you never get ahead of yourself around here, because you’ll get bitten really hard. So after the last corner was when I thought I was going to win.”
Nico Rosberg took second for Mercedes, and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso finished third, moving into the lead in championship points. Alonso gained track position by turning in a blazingly fast in-lap, and getting out of the pits right in front of Lewis Hamilton.
Vettel finished fifth after stretching his tires several laps longer than the rest of the field, hoping the rains would come. When it did, the precipitation was too light and too brief for intermediate tires; instead, everyone slowed down a little and slid a little more until the track dried.
Vettel also made an aggressive move leaving the pits to stay ahead of Hamilton. At Monaco closely matched cars cannot pass; Vettel got aggressive at the one time when it would make a difference and it paid off.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton finished fifth; while the competition gained on him on pit stops, Hamilton fell from second to sixth when he pitted. His weekend was better than teammate Jenson Button’s.
Button started 12th, dropped to 15th after pitting, and then got stuck behind Heikki Kovalainen for most of the race, until lap 78 when Button made an excessively hopeful passing attempt, spun in the new chicane, and punched the Caterham driver in the rear, ending both drivers’ days.
Michael Schumacher also had a miserable race. The Mercedes driver made a bold charge at the start, blasting down the left side, hoping to make up for his five-grid-spot penalty.
Fernando Alonso nudged Roman Grosjean, who squeezed Schumacher into the Armco and slammed the Mercedes’ right front with the right rear wheel of the Lotus. Grosjean spun, collecting Pastor Maldonado, Pedro de la Rosa, Sebastian Vettel and Kamui Kobayashi. Vettel and Schumacher managed to continue; the others were not so lucky.
Schumacher might not have emerged unscathed; an unidentified mechanical problem sidelined the Mercedes driver later in the race.
A safety car was summoned to give track workers time to move the damaged cars, but by lap three the filed was back in action.