Weekend at the Races
With Monaco being the hardest circuit of the year to overtake on, the emphasis was on tyre strategy to help move drivers forward during the race. Red Bull’s Mark Webber became the season’s sixth different winner in six races – a new record – underlining just how closely matched the cars are this year. Red Bull becomes the first team to win twice this year, following Sebastian Vettel’s victory in Bahrain.
With the possibility of rain predicted halfway through the race, the drivers concentrated on making their first set of tyres last for as long as possible, in order to minimise the potential number of pit stops. The timing of the pit stops is always crucial in Monaco, in order to ensure that cars do not feed out into traffic that is difficult to overtake. A flawless one-stop strategy from Red Bull ensured that Webber was able to convert his pole position into a second win at Monaco.
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg was the first of the leaders to pit for the harder compound, banking on no rain coming and hoping to undercut Webber in the stops. Two laps later, Webber also pitted but crucially Rosberg was unable to make headway on new rubber, allowing Webber to retain his position.
Vettel’s long first stint meant that he was able to take the lead by the halfway point of the race, building up a significant advantage by the time he finally pitted for supersoft tyres on lap 46, having put in a series of rapid laps. But it was not quite enough for him to keep the lead after his stop: Vettel re-joined in fourth position behind Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, who now heads the championship standings.
The anticipated rain finally fell lightly with just over 10 laps to go, creating a grandstand finish in Monaco for the second year in succession. The top six ran nose to tail to the flag, covered by just six seconds at the finish.
- Di Resta
World Rally Championship
Despite the current turmoil in Greece, Rally Acropolis was a huge success this weekend with the traditional drones of Greek supporters braving the heat to catch the WRC spectacle. A spectacle which saw Sebastien Loeb extend his Championship lead to 31 points as he sealed his fourth win of the season.
Jari-Matti Latvala, returning to his Fiesta WRC after missing Argentina with a broken collarbone, led on Friday morning before losing time with a driver error and handling issues. By the end of the opening day however he was back within a second of Loeb. Saturday only brought more problems for the Finn, who picked up a puncture and brake damage that left him four minutes off the lead by the end of the day – he eventually finished third.
Petter Solberg, in the other works Ford, made a poor tyre choice on Friday, leaving him languishing behind the leaders. After a brief scare on Saturday he began eating back into Loeb’s lead – only for his event to come to an abrupt end after a crash on Sunday morning.
Loeb’s Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen, ran a steady event and thanks to troubles suffered at the Ford camp inherited second place on the final day. Loeb was left with a sufficient margin to hold the lead after he had to stop and change a punctured tyre with three stages to go.
So a strong challenge from both of Ford work’s drivers and a puncture on the final day meant Loeb’s victory was not an easy one, despite the commanding lead shown on the timesheets on Sunday – the Frenchman also secured bonus points by winning the power stage.
- Sebastien Loeb (Citroen)
- Mikko Hirvonen (Citroen)
- Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford)
- Mads Ostberg (Adapta Ford)
- Martin Prokop (Czech Ford)
Bridgestone Productions Cars: Round 4
Team Sasol Racing’s Hennie Groenewald put in a command performance at Zwartkops Raceway to dominate the 4th round of the Bridgestone Production Car Championship and extend his championship points lead to 16 points and set a new circuit lap record as an added bonus.
The Subaru WRX STI started two races from pole position, claimed three victories and set three fastest laps but team principal Carel Pienaar cautioned that the Subaru team had an element of luck in their races. “We know other teams were quicker than us in practice but didn’t convert their pace into race performance whereas we had a strategy that worked perfectly. Hennie was on top form but the cars he passed in race two were more as a result of other driver’s errors than out-and-out pace”.
Richard claimed his best qualifying performance of the season so far, planting his Sasol Subaru WRX STI in 6th on the grid but his vein of poor luck continued in the Pretoria races.