I don’t know what music Lewis Hamilton listens to (Pussycat Dolls perhaps?) but if he wants to listen to an oldie but goodie, it might just be Toyah singing “It’s a Mystery.’ That’s the theme of his weekend in Monaco as the tyre problems his Mercedes had in Russia continue and he could only finish 14th in qualifying with Kimi Raikkonen on pole.
Sebastian Vettel was again fastest in the final practice session with Lewis Hamilton back in fifth. It was a Ferrari 1-2 with Max Verstappen in third and Valtteri Bottas fourth. Hamilton was 0.835 seconds behind the championship leader as he continued to struggle in Monaco.
Jenson Button has impressed in his one-off return to Formula 1 but the Honda engine problems surfaced yet again. Button was 12th fastest but problems with the MGU-H of his car had been discovered after Thursday’s second practice session. That led to more changes having to be made and as a result Button will have a 15-place grid penalty on Sunday. All of which means he’ll be at the back of the grid which is hardly ideal on a circuit where overtaking is so difficult.
If Lewis Hamilton thought he was having a bad weekend after the practice sessions had ended, it just got worse for him in qualifying. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen will be on pole but Lewis Hamilton finished 14th.
It’s the first time that Raikkonen has had pole since the 2008 French Grand Prix and it’ll again be a Ferrari 1-2 on the grid with Vettel just 0.043 seconds behind. Vettel felt that he could have secured pole position but had pushed too hard on his first lap in Q4 and “got a little bit too greedy” in the second sector. It was a close battle for second with Bottas just 0.002 seconds behind the German. The two Red Bulls will start fourth and fifth with Verstappen finishing just ahead of Daniel Ricciardo.
So, what happened to Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes? The former world champion was continually struggling with his cars tyres saying, “I didn’t get the grip from the tyre.” All very like the problems encountered in Russia a fortnight ago and Hamilton commented, “it’s a mystery. None of us can understand it.”
During Q2 he nearly crashed his Mercedes after oversteering at the Massenet corner. “Something is just not right with the car,” he urgently told the Mercedes engineers. His final chance to get a higher placing on the grid was thwarted when Stoffel Vandoorne crashed.
Hamilton may have qualified 14th fastest but he’ll be 12th on the grid due to two drivers receiving grid penalties. That includes Jenson Button who was a creditable ninth in qualifying but will start the race at the back of the grid. Hamilton was so upset after qualifying that for a while he just couldn’t get out of his car. He doesn’t sound too confident about tomorrow believing it’s going to be a struggle to get in the points.
All of which makes for a vital race on Sunday. Vettel starts the race six points ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari are eight points adrift of Mercedes in the constructors’ championship. A 1-2 here for Ferrari would put themselves and Sebastian Vettel in a strong position, especially if Hamilton struggles to get any points. The start will be so important with Valtteri Bottas hoping to be able to get ahead of at least one of the Ferrari’s. If the Ferrari’s can retain their lead, then a 1-2 is likely. As for Hamilton, it looks like being a damage limitation job for him on Sunday. I’ll be back in June with another blog as the F1 season continues, till then enjoy your racing.