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Behind The Headlines – Monaco – Danke Niki

This year’s Monaco Grand Prix was the race we were expecting Mercedes to face their biggest test of the season, we were wrong. Mercedes while winning their sixth race of the year appeared to have the edge throughout but failed to secure another one-two.

We know that Monte Carlo was a race that Mercedes were fearing, however, Ferrari never turned up to be in the position to challenge them. Mercedes watching them on track through the weekend they appeared to have the better downforce in the low-speed corner. This allowed Red Bull to become its main challenger.

Although Ferrari took second, officially, it was I believe Red Bull who emerged throughout the weekend as the biggest threat as they appeared to have become the official opposition to Mercedes this season. The race I feel for Ferrari unravelled in qualifying.

Charles Leclerc was left in the pits during Q1 as he was pushed down the order, Monaco isn’t a normal race, and everyone knows that a street circuit improves rapidly throughout the weekend. Ironically, it was teammate Sebastian Vettel who knocked him out of Qualifying.

Leclerc said “I asked whether they were sure [to keep me in the pits], they told me we think we are. I asked again… but there were no real answers. We had plenty of time to go out again. The weighbridge was not a problem. We still had the fuel to go again, just had to change tyres.”

Ferrari, have I said before, need to look at a number of things. Firstly the decisions when on track around pit stops, qualifying and strategy as the overall performance during the weekend. Secondly, are they costing themselves the championship, what went wrong in Monaco was qualifying as they couldn’t use Leclerc?

Mercedes have been in effect, handed a free run to the title, they are doing better than their predecessor Brawn GP did in 2009, five one-twos and six wins in six races. I think why they are doing it; they are not being challenged.

I think its wrong to say F1 is boring because of Mercedes domination when they didn’t choose to be in this position they are just doing there job which is to win races and championships.

Hamilton should be proud of that race running nearly ninety per cent of the race on one compound of mediums. He questioned it, but I think between him and Pete Bonnington, race engineer, it was a risky but clever gamble. One we know can spectacularly backfire, as Mercedes showed in 2016.

Eddie Jordan, Channel 4’s chief analyst, made the point that maybe Ferrari has a poor structure in their management side. Mercedes had Toto Wolff as CEO and team boss, Niki Lauda as chairman, James Allison as technical director, James Vowles as Chief Strategist, many of who have been there for ten years.

Red Bull also have a good structure in motorsport boss Helmut Marko, team principal Christian Horner, advisor Helmut Marko and technical officer Adrian Newey. This is stable, unlike Ferrari’s culture I feel is too much of a blame culture with someone needing to blame for its errors.

We don’t see a clear structure at Ferrari, management structure seems to change season by season. What also doesn’t help is Mattia Binotto being both technical director and team principal, unlike Mercedes and Red Bull there is no clear number two.

Red Bull I feel could have won the race if they had got their strategy right and got past Mercedes. Something I believe was a possibility should they have got the strategy right but demonstrates that they have a very strong chassis.

“Danke Niki” that I feel was the words of the weekend, Niki was the teams’ leader that bridge between the drivers and management. He would have been proud of how the team won the race, Niki knew how to win, and this season has been a fairy tale so far.

This season had been the darkest season since 1994, thankfully not because of two on track deaths, with the deaths of Charlie Whiting and Niki Lauda. Two of the most important and influential people in the sport for the last four decades.

Lauda as I Tweeted “The #NikiLauda story is one like a movie, it was, the brink of death following that accident to be champion. A brilliant businessman, a life which saw him become one of #F1’s most influential drivers, union leader, team principals and broadcasters.”

If you haven’t heard the story of that 1976 season, watch the film Rush or the BBC documentary Hunt vs. Lauda: F1’s Greatest Racing Rivals, that will make you understand why Lauda was one of the legends of the sport. His accident at the Nürburgring and his comeback weeks later Monza made Lauda a legend he will be remembered for.

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Jack Fielding
Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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