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One Word…Monaco

May 27, 2012

Monaco.  Just one word is enough to conjure up incredible imagery and emotion.  Monaco.  It is a word steeped in history, both automotive and otherwise.  Monaco.  Since the first race was run in 1929 the principality has become legendary in the world of motor racing. Monaco.  Once a year the drivers weave their way through the streets of Monte-Carlo, flying between the claustrophobic fences, mere millimetres away from the barriers and a catastrophic end to their race.  Just one word encompasses all that is Formula 1; the wealth, the glamour, the skill and the determination. Monaco.

The 2012 Monaco Grand Prix had a lot to live up to.  After 5 unforgettable races, which saw 5 different drivers standing on the podium raising the winning trophy, F1 arrived in Monte-Carlo.  Were we going to see the first double race-winner of the 2012 season or was a 6th driver going to stand up and take the glory?  Michael Schumacher, a master around the Monaco circuit, arrived hoping to prove that he has not lost any of his magic.  The Ice-man, Kimi Raikkonen, wanted nothing more than to seal his return to F1 by winning the most prestigious race on the calendar.  We, the fans, wanted a spectacle and we certainly got it.

The practice sessions on Thursday and Saturday morning were nothing to write home about.  A red flag, brought about by the failure of Heikki Kovalainen’s engine, meant that the first practice session ended early with Alonso taking the top spot.  Rain in the second session meant that we were unable to read too much into the times set on Thursday afternoon.  The first hint of things to come came in free practice 3 on Saturday morning.  Nico Rosberg took his Mercedes around in the fastest time of the weekend, hinting at the pace of the Mercedes car, and Felipe Massa, who has struggled so far this season, seemed to find some desperately needed form as he posted the second fastest lap.

The streets of Monaco truly came to life on Saturday afternoon.  The qualifying session was full of action as drivers tried to clinch the crucial pole position for Sunday’s race.  Sergio Perez pushed a little too hard and found himself slamming into the barrier near the swimming pool.  The tension came to a head in Q3 as the top 10 threw everything they had into their attempts to set the fastest lap.  In the last few minutes of qualifying positions were changing faster than you could say “pole-position”.  For a moment it looked like Mark Webber had grabbed the coveted pole but then, in a true display of his former pace, Michael Schumacher rounded the last corner and, even as the commentators were declaring Webber on pole, flew over the line a mere 8 hundredths of a second faster than the Australian, claiming his first pole position since his return to racing.  Or it would have been if not for the 5 place penalty handed to him as a result of his shunt with Senna in Barcelona.  The final result saw Webber at the front of the grid followed by Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Romain Grosjean and Fernando Alonso.

In the blink of an eye it was Sunday and the cars were lining up on the starting grid, ready to set off on the 70th running of the Monaco Grand Prix.  The race wasn’t the most exciting of the 2012 season.  We didn’t see overtaking like we did in China, but overtaking is not something you expect too much of in Monaco.  Instead we saw a classic Monaco Grand Prix, full of retirements, pure racing and as close a finish as you will see in a long time.  The action started in the first corner where Romain Grosjean found himself spinning across the track, ending his race and causing drivers behind him to take evasive action.  Grosjean was the first of 8 retirements on a list that included Jenson Button and Pastor Maldonado.  As the race wound to a close Mark Webber, who had led the entire race aside from a brief stint after his pit-stop, found the 5 drivers behind him closing the gap.  Eventually, as he arrived at the last corner less than 2 seconds covered the top 6.  But it was enough and Mark roared over the line to take his second Monaco victory and become the record 6th winner in as many races in 2012.  He was followed by Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso who both seemed happy to finish on the podium.

As quickly as it started the Monaco weekend was over.  The parties and celebrations will continue long into Monday morning but, once the haze has cleared and the yachts have set sail from the port, the teams will pack up their trucks and prepare for the next stop.  The 2012 Monaco Grand Prix lived up to all expectations.  It was glitzy, it was thrilling and, perhaps most importantly, it kept the momentum of the incredible 2012 season going.  As we head to Canada in 2 weeks time we can only hope for another thrilling episode of the 2012 season.  Perhaps a new winner to bring the total to 7 or maybe one of the previous winners will step up and claim his second victory.  But, we will have to wait another year to return to Monaco.  There it is again, that word.  Those emotions, that history.  One word…Monaco.

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