Monaco Grand Prix 2013: Is romance in F1 dead?

 

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg fulfilled a childhood dream in winning the Monaco Grand Prix, a race held on the streets of the town in which he grew up, as befits the son of a Formula 1 world champion.

Rosberg's victory came on the 30th anniversary of his father Keke's own victory in Monaco, and although the two races were very different, they shared one characteristic - domination.

Nico Rosberg's win was a perfectly judged controlled performance and a fully deserved victory by a man who had been fastest throughout practice and qualifying on the demanding Monaco track.

The show is good to a certain extent but us sitting behind each other is not what the public wants to see

Sebastian Vettel

Normally, it is hard to ask too many philosophical questions about the value of what has been witnessed when the fastest car/driver combination wins a race.

But that did little to remove the sense of unease of many of those in Formula 1 about what transpired in Monaco on Sunday.

The speed Rosberg showed through Thursday and Saturday was rarely in evidence during the race as the German, concerned about tyre wear, controlled the pace to such an extent that he was seconds slower than his and the car's maximum.

That has been the growing complaint about F1 all year - indeed since the start of tyre supplier Pirelli's time in the sport in 2011.

But while there is some doubt about whether the current F1 is always very different from what went before - as we explored earlier in the Monaco weekend - there was none such this time.

Rosberg so reined himself in at the front that the field never got a chance to spread out; the notorious difficulty in overtaking in Monaco ensuring drivers behind could do little about it. Later, in the final part of the race when Rosberg made a small break, it was Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel keeping the field bunched.

This led directly to many of the series of collisions that punctuated the race, and the resultant safety-car periods - or in one case a race stoppage - simply served to make the problem worse.

Monaco GP: Nico Rosberg on 'unreal' victory

Some drivers did make moves stick but in doing so one of them, McLaren's Sergio Perez, tested the boundaries of respectability.

Some of the Mexican's moves were excellent, but there is no doubt that he took a no-holds-barred approach that relied to a large part on many of his rivals taking avoiding action.

Time and again he threw his McLaren down the inside at the chicane and relied on the other driver to get out of the way.

One of those passes was on Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who cut the chicane in avoiding Perez. As is the custom in F1, Alonso was made by the stewards to cede the place to Perez, and he said he had no complaints about it.

But while the decision was correct in one sense it was hard to avoid the sense that it was harsh. Alonso had Perez on his outside and could have made the turn, but he knew that in doing so their cars would touch. As a title contender, he did not want to take the risk and lost out as a result.

Later, Perez tried the same move on the Spaniard's title rival Kimi Raikkonen but both ended up cutting the chicane at the same time. A few laps later, Perez tried again, making a late lunge down the inside of Raikkonen and keeping on coming when the Finn made it clear he was going to defend.

Formula 1: Monaco Grand Prix highlights

The cars touched, damaging both. Raikkonen, demoted from fifth to finish 10th as a result, is famously unemotional and very rarely feels moved to complain about anything that happens on the track. So when he said of Perez he felt "someone should punch him in the face", his level of anger was clear.

Whatever your view of the Perez incidents - and some will see it as refreshing that he was prepared to have a go, and praise his aggression and commitment - they happened because drivers in faster cars were unable to show their pace.

As such, the Monaco Grand Prix was not really a 'race' at all, but a procession of cars circulating around a circuit well below the speed of which they or their drivers were capable.

As Vettel said after the race: "Drivers don't like it as much as we used to. The show is good to a certain extent but us sitting behind each other I think is not what the public wants to see."

The situation has further intensified the uncomfortable spotlight already on Pirelli.

In the early stages of the weekend, paddock discussion was dominated by Pirelli's desire to change the tyres for the next race in Canada, to avoid the PR-unfriendly failures that have happened in some races this year.

As the desire to tweak the tyres has come on the back of vociferous complaints from Red Bull that the rubber is too marginal this year, the world champions' rivals smell a rat and Lotus and Ferrari are blocking them.

As the F1 circus left Monaco, no resolution was in sight for the row. Instead, it has become even more poisonous, following the revelation that Mercedes engaged in a 'secret' three-day tyre test in Barcelona between the Spanish and Monaco races. Among the tyres they tested was the new design Pirelli wants to use in Canada.

Monaco GP: Maldonado crash brings out red flags

This caused uproar and led to a protest from Red Bull and Ferrari - unsurprisingly, seeing as Mercedes were a) along with Red Bull lobbying for the tyres to be changed, and b) have been the team most struggling with heavy tyre usage.

It escaped no-one's attention that the Mercedes' heavy tyre wear was far less of a problem in Monaco than it had been so far this season. This in itself is not a surprise - Monaco is light on tyres - but Mercedes' tyre usage had also eased considerably in terms of how it compared to that of their rivals.

Whether this was coincidental or a result of three days of useful testing in Barcelona is unclear.

Red Bull and Ferrari - and others, who chose to leave the protest to F1's biggest beasts - were mostly incensed by two particular aspects: the use of a current car (and current drivers) and that the test was conducted clandestinely.

However well intentioned it may have been, it does not look good. And it is not the sort of publicity a tyre company will want through its association with F1.

The situation has now been referred to governing body the FIA, and a court hearing seems inevitable.

In an F1 season that had until now been very quiet politically, a row that could have huge ramifications has now begun.