For all the glamour and prestige associated with the Monaco Grand Prix, it’s usually not a very exciting race. The winner starts where he finishes, we see a safety car or two, and Prince Albert II gets to pretend for just one day that he’s one of the homies. Thankfully 2014 turned out to be different, as the usual on-track procession played second-fiddle to the disharmony at victors Mercedes, where a once-friendly rivalry looks set to spill into civil war.
Mercedes Continue to Dominate as Intra-Team Rivalry Boils Over
If there’s two things that are obvious in 2014 about Formula 1, it’s that you can’t help but like Daniel Ricciardo, and Mercedes have the constructors championship in the bag. Now normally when the writing’s on the wall this early in the season, F1 fans have to go fishing around for a narrative to keep things interesting, because we know who’s going to get the driver’s as well. This year is different however, as the dominance is complementary to the turmoil surrounding one Lewis Hamilton.
A quick recap of Hamitlon’s weekend in Monaco:
On Friday, he remarked that “the hunger was different” between himself and Rosberg, as he came “from a not-great place in Stevenage”, while the German “grew up in Monaco with jets and hotels and boats and all these kind of things”. Shots fired.
On Saturday, he was beaten to pole in controversial circumstances as Rosberg’s off at Mirabeau caused yellow flags, negating any attempt to beat his teammate’s time. Afterwards Hamilton asserted he “was on the pole lap”.
Prior to the race on Sunday, during Martin Brundle’s pit walk, Niki Lauda revealed Hamilton had caused something of his own ‘multi 21′ situation in Spain as he had intentionally ignored orders given to both drivers not to use a certain engine setting on his car. After the race Hamilton apologised to Rosberg, who accepted. After Saturday’s qualifying Rosberg had done likewise to Hamilton, who did not accept.
The race itself was the usual irritable Lewis, but a bit more so after something got caught in his left eye. He managed to hold on for second.
Post-race was as frosty as frosty could be. Hamilton refused to acknowledge Rosberg on the podium, and made a veiled dig at his teammate in his interview with Benny Cumberbatch, remarking “fortunately we didn’t make any mistakes” with a big ol’ smirk on his face. In the paddock interview with Natalie Pinkham, he continued to distance himself from his teammate, insisting the pair were not friends (Rosberg later insisted they were) — it should be mentioned the pair have known each other since they were first teammates at 13.
Now some may say this is a story of two drivers who must face the reality that achieving their goals means going directly through the other, and that’s what’s souring their relationship, but that’s not true. This is all about Hamilton. He has to win. It really is that simple. Ever since he came into the sport in 2007 he’s been heralded as the next great driver, and it’s a title he wants as much as the British media wants to bestow it upon him. If he doesn’t win this year, he’ll have lost in the best car he ever had, to the least successful teammate he’s had outside of Heikki Kovalainen. There’s literally no excuses, and that’s why this exceptional 2014-version of Hamilton is so combustible. Hamilton has always been something of a whiny bugger behind the wheel — he’s not exactly adept at hiding his dissatisfaction over team radio, but that’s not exactly unique among F1 drivers. It’s his off-track mind games — the “we’re not friends”, the “I’m hungrier than him”, and the absolute refusal to believe Rosberg’s pole-securing mistake in qualifying was indeed an accident are products of a man who is feeling the heat like he never has before. If this ends in some sort of Prost/Senna fracturing, it’s because Lewis Hamilton took it there.
Marussia Score Points — Yes, I’m Not Kidding and Yes, Points Plural
Among all the tracks on the calendar, the Circuit de Monaco has long held a reputation for being something of a fertile ground for unlikely happenings among the… less-heralded of the F1 fraternity. There’s something magical about those narrow city streets that has seen such luminaries as Oliver Panis and Jarno Trulli record their sole F1 victories, and the worst team in the sport’s history — Andrea Moda, make their only ever appearance on a race grid in 1992. Whatever it is, it struck again yesterday as the Marussia of Jules Bianchi managed to achieve a ninth-place finish, earning the team it’s first two points in F1 after 82 (38 as Virgin, 44 as Marussia — all manged by the same group, Manor Motorsport) tries. If you saw the celebrations in the garage after the race yesterday, you might be forgiven for thinking they’d won the constructor’s title, but trust me, they weren’t being excessive. As it stands, Marussia are ahead of both Caterham and Sauber in the constructor’s standings, which considering the former’s futility should almost guarantee them the final paying spot in the standings. In most cases, the difference between 10th and 11th would be negligible, but in F1, it’s worth tens of millions of dollars, and could be just the boost needed to keep the team alive.
Who said Monaco was boring? Not this year.
Next time: Canada, June 6-8. Expect fireworks.