Sebastian Vettel took the win at the Monaco Grand Prix, beating his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen into second and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo in third. With Lewis Hamilton starting from 13th on the grid and able to advance only to seventh, it gives the German driver a considerable advantage in the world championship battle. He has extended his lead over Hamilton in the drivers’ championship to 25 points, with 129 to the British driver’s 104.
A good weekend then for Ferrari, with a one-two, and a further blow to Mercedes with Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas able to finish only fourth from third on the grid. Vettel had won here only once before for Red Bull in 2011, the year he went on to take his second title with the team. It his third win this season, having taken the flag in Australia and Bahrain, and his 45th career victory. For Ferrari the celebrations will go long into the night, after their first win here for 16 years, since Michael Schumacher’s victory in 2001.
How they achieved the result will raise questions, however, with a strategy that appeared to favour Vettel over the pole-sitter, Raikkonen. Following such a route even only six races into the season is both legal and makes sense from the team’s perspective given that Vettel is their main contender for the title but is unlikely to have sat well with Raikkonen.
“For the laps on the older tyres I was giving everything I could,” said Vettel of the crucial tactical decision to keep him out longer than his team-mate.
The Finn had made the best of his pole position, holding the lead into Sainte-Dévote, and the rest of the leaders also made a clean getaway, while Hamilton made up one place from 13th to 12th passing the McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne on the opening lap.
The Finn then used the clean air to his advantage and by lap 10 had a two-second gap over Vettel in second and almost six seconds on Bottas in third. Hamilton had closed on Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso but Mercedes were sticking to their strategy, looking to go long into the race before the one stop required to take the supersoft tyres. Hamilton’s pace was not a huge amount off that of his team-mate despite a car that was still a handful to manage but he could not convert it into moving forward through the field, holding station just over a second back from Kvyat but by now 29 seconds off the lead.
Staying out as long as possible on the ultrasoft tyres appeared to be the route most teams were pursuing, looking to minimise the time on the slower, harder rubber. Vettel, however, was catching his team-mate and had the gap down to just over a second by lap 22. Four laps later Raikkonen was into the backmarkers, coming up first on Jenson Button in the McLaren, who had started in the pit lane.
Moving through the slower cars, even with blue flags was sufficiently slow to concertina the leaders, allowing Bottas to close on Vettel, but once clear Raikkonen was able to reassert his advantage at the front.