By Carol M. Creasey
Mercedes knew they had a mountain to climb when they arrived in Monaco this weekend. Athough the team have worked hard to cure their porpoising issues, the car was bouncing again in practice, and for the rest of the weekend.
It was interesting to see that, although he is considered to be the number two driver at Red Bull, Sergio Perez beat Max Verstappen in every practice session, and then again in qualifying, as he was third and Verstappen was fourth. At the front was Charles Leclerc, followed by Carlos Sainz, while George Russell was sixth and Lewis Hamilton eighth. In his last flying lap, Lewis had been faster than Russell in Q1 and Q2, but was unable to complete the lap when Sainz and Perez crashed and brought out a red flag. Afterwards Lewis said when interviewed that he believed his bad luck was bound to change, and reminded everyone that Mercedes are here to fight.
Of course the derision from the trolls continues, which will of course fuel Lewis to get the very best that he can out of the car. Last week in Spain was an example of Sir Lewis being plunged temporarily into a pit of despair when he was hit at the beginning of the race, and had to pit with a puncture, but he then rose again and drove a magnificent recovery race to finish in P5. He regained his confidence when told that he was lapping on old tyres as fast as the leaders on new tyres.
It has been a difficult time for Lewis since the rules were broken in Abu Dhabi last year to deny him the race win and his eighth championship. Toto Wolff has stated quite frankly that he believes Lewis will never get over what happened, but he still continues to perform in spite of difficult circumstances.
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As for those who maliciously try to pit Hamilton against Russell, it’s important to point out that Lewis has been very gracious in praising Russell for the great job he is doing within the team. He has sacrificed his points in races by running sensors on the car, and different setups, for the good of Mercedes, rather than himself, and George has been vocal in saying how inspiring he is at the factory, constantly working with the engineers to develop and improve the car. George realises that he is reaping the benefit in a difficult car because his team-mate has years of experience and knowledge to be able to liaise with the engineers to improve the car.
After the fine weather on Friday and Saturday, everything was turned on its head on Sunday when the rain came down heavily. It delayed the start of the race by an hour, and the FIA decided to make it a rolling start. The procession of cars headed off but on lap 18, whilst Lewis was trying to overtake Esteban Ocon, the French driver turned into him and hit him. Later Ocon was given a five second penalty, and Lewis sustained a broken front wing. Ferrari lost the lead during pit stops, And Perez led with Sainz second and Verstappen third. Leclerc went down to fourth position. George Russell had been able to move up to P5, when Lando Norris pitted.
The race was stopped for the second time when Mick Schumacher crashed, his car split in half, but luckily he was unhurt. The red flag allowed Lewis to have his car repaired before racing resumed again.
Racing resumed after another rolling start, and Lewis was stuck behing a much slower Fernando Alonso, whose lap time was almost four seconds slower than the frontrunners. Alonso then used the characteristics of the narrow Monaco circuit to keep Lewis behind, and in turn created a caravan of cars behind him. I know this is legal, but to hear Alonso talk about this with pride afterwards, when it was obvious that it ruined the race of all the drivers behind him, is fairly ridiculous.
Alonso has obviously never forgiven Lewis for matching him in his rookie year of 2007, and it seem that even after all this time, Alonso sees holding him back as some sort of revenge. It was a real shame, as after posting a few fastest laps, it was obvious Lewis had the pace to try and climb up the order and make it an exciting race.
My congratulations go to Sergio Perez, he outclassed his team-mate all weekend, and thoroughly deserved the win. I think having to move over for Verstappen last week may have given him an extra spur to prove that he can beat the Dutch driver, and I am sure it will give his team a headache if his present form continues, as they will have to wonder who is actually the driver to pin their championship hopes on.
Sainz was second, Verstappen thirs, Leclerc fourth, and Russell maintained P5. Lewis had to languish down in P8, which is such a shame, as the race pace of the car is better than the single lap pace. In two weeks we move onto Baku, so let’s see which way the pendulum swings then.
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