By Alan Davies, Formula One correspondent
Sunday, May 27, 2012
FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton failed to get on the podium in the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix as Mark Webber took the chequered flag for Red Bull Racing.
The 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver from Hertfordshire finished fifth around the Monte Carlo street circuit.
Watched from above the pit garage by Men in Black 3 superstar Will Smith and girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger, Hamilton started from third on the grid.
However, he was unable to challenge pole-sitter Webber for victory, the Australian controlling the race from the front.
Webber became the sixth different driver to win this season when he crossed the finish line first in his Red Bull.
Nico Rosberg was second for Mercedes GP, with Fernando Alonso taking the third step on the podium for Ferrari.
Reigning F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel took fourth place in the grand prix results for Red Bull ahead of Hamilton, with just four seconds splitting the top five.
Felipe Massa was sixth for Ferrari.
There was drama at the very start of the grand prix as Mercedes GP’s Michael Schumacher and Frenchman Romain Grosjean collided at the first corner, forcing the Lotus F1 driver out of the race on lap one.
The safety car came out on the second lap following the first-corner collision between Pastor Maldonado’s Williams and the car of Pedro de la Rosa.
After complaining about his slow getaway at the start, Stevenage-born Hamilton said over the team radio: “I went through a lot of debris at Turn 1. Please check my tyre pressures.”
As the race turned green once again, Tewin F1 hero Hamilton – on super-soft tyres – was almost caught by Fernando Alonso with the Spaniard’s Ferrari right on his tail.
Fortunately for the 2008 F1 world champion, DRS wasn’t enabled and the McLaren man was able to protect his third place behind early race leader Webber and Rosberg.
1 Mark Webber (Red Bull)
2 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
3 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
4 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
5 Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
6 Felipe Massa (Ferrari)
7 Paul di Resta (Force India)
8 Nico Hulkenberg (Force India)
9 Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus)
10 Bruno Senna (Williams)
Hamilton’s teammate Button found himself down in 14th place after 18 of the 78 laps.
However, the pitwall told him: “We are still expecting rain, Jenson. This could work out well for us.
“Rain is expected on lap 34.”
With first pitstops due any lap, the McLaren pitwall told Lewis: “Let’s keep going. The cars behind are a lot slower than us. Let’s see what happens with this rain.
(After round six, top 10 only)
1 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 76pts
2 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 73
3 Mark Webber (Red Bull) 73
4 Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 63
5 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 59
6 Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 51
7 Jenson Button (McLaren) 45
8 Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 35
9 Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 29
10 Sergio Perez (Sauber) 22
“No-one is wanting to pit at the moment because of the rain. You’re 2s per lap faster than most of the field.”
The rain on the horizon never came to much and Rosberg was the first of the front-runners to duck into the pits from second for new tyres, promoting Hamilton up a place.
Hamilton did enter the pits on lap 30 for the harder prime tyre.
However, the McLaren driver was jumped during the first round of pitstops by Alonso following a slick Ferrari stop. That dropped Lewis down to fifth overall, with Vettel – still to stop – now leading the race from Webber.
1 Red Bull Racing-Renault 146pts
2 McLaren-Mercedes 108
3 Ferrari 86
4 Lotus-Renault 86
5 Mercedes 61
6 Williams-Renault 44
7 Sauber-Ferrari 41
8 Force India-Mercedes 28
Vettel, who started on the harder compound, lasted 45 laps on his first set of tyres and came out just in front of Hamilton, with Massa just behind the McLaren in sixth.
As the Red Bull came in for tyres, Hamilton was told over the radio: “We’re going to be racing Vettel at the end of the pits.”
After Vettel had sneaked out ahead of him, Lewis told the team over the radio: “You should’ve kept me updated man...”
The reply came: “Understood Lewis. But there are still 31 laps to go; there’s a lot of racing to be done.”
With just six seconds separating the top six with 24 laps to go, the pitwall told Hamilton: “We’re expecting the cars in this pack to get to the end of the race without stopping.”
Hamilton responded: “You’re expecting me to get to the end of the race on these tyres?”
The pitwall reply was: “That’s going to be the way to get the most points. Vettel managed 45 laps on a set of primes at the start of the race.”
Hamilton was later told: “You’re still only 6s away from the leader. Everyone is managing their pace and looking after their tyres.”
With 22 laps left, Hamilton was informed: “Some info: Massa behind has been told to look after his tyres in order to attack us at the end of the race.”
With the clouds getting darker, Hamilton said: “It’s starting to rain.”
The team replied: “Understood. But we should only pit if it’s heavy enough for inters.”
In the closing laps the front runners closed up as Webber slowed, with five cars directly behind him in the train.
The pitwall said to Lewis: “Webber is really slowing down. The field is bunching up for the last 10 laps of the race.”
In the end, just four seconds separated the top five and the rain that had threatened throughout much of the race finally came after the podium celebrations.