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An entertaining though not exceptional Monaco Grand Prix saw a Red Bull in the lead from start to finish as Australian Mark Webber won his first race of the season and his second win here to storm into contention in the World Championship. Webber's win made it 6 different winners in 6 races to start the 2012 season, the very first time this has ever happened in the history of Formula One. The 25 points that Webber collected took him to joint second in the world championship alongside teammate Sebastian Vettel, who lead the race for a brief period due to a variant tyre strategy, and eventually finished 4th. Nico Rosberg was consistent in his second place finish as was Fernando Alonso in third. Both men were within a second of Webber, and kept the pressure on him right through the race. Alonso's podium finish meant that he took over the lead of the world championship with 76 points, nudging him 3 points clear of the two Red Bulls. It was a disappointing race for Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher, both of whom retired late in the contest.
A terribly exciting start to the race saw pole position man Mark Webber make a clean start with Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton following suit behind him, but Romain Grosjean got bumped by the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso and was pushed in the direction of Michael Schumacher, who came perilously close to brushing against the barrier. Grosjean sustained rear suspension damage and was spun 180 degrees, bringing an early end to his race. The Lotus man was perhaps lucky to have escaped further damage as the rest of the field evaded his parked car in the middle of the track. While that incident did not bring out the safety car, an error from Pastor Maldonado on the next lap did, as the Barcelona winner banged into the back of the HRT of Pedro de la Rosa, bringing an early end to both their races.
There were some interesting tyre selections in the middle of the field with some drivers opting for the soft tyres while most of the front runners were on super-softs. That meant that the midfield runners could do a longer run on their first set of tyres, and make up time with some clear track ahead of them.
When the action resumed at the end of Lap 4, the top 10 were Webber, Rosberg, Hamilton, Alonso, Massa, Vettel, Raikkonen, Schumacher, Hulkenberg and Senna. Felipe Massa was looking the most aggressive driver on the track and was heaping the pressure in truckloads on his teammate Alonso in front of him.
The race settled into a rhythm, and with overtaking virtually impossible on this track, it was a question of the teams waiting for the first round of pitstops to see any movement of positions.
The tyres were lasting a lot longer than one would have expected at the start of the race, and one couldn't help but wonder if the teams were staying out on the track in anticipation of some rain, which didn't really seem forthcoming.
One man who appeared to be struggling more than most was Kimi Raikkonen in 7th place, causing a traffic jam behind him, and opening up a significant gap for the Ferraris and Sebastian Vettel ahead of him.
Nico Rosberg was the first of the front runners to take a chance and came out ahead of Raikkonen in 6th. Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton pitted a lap later, Webber came out ahead of Rosberg, but Hamilton lost out to a charging Fernando Alonso, who took a place on the Brit through the pits.
Sebastian Vettel meanwhile had started the race on the soft tyres, and as a result stayed out longer, taking P1 from his teammate. Vettel was really on a charge, and was posting some incredibly fast laps despite being on a worn out tyre. With rain still expected to play some role in this race, Red Bull might have just hedged their bets perfectly.
Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button, a couple of other drivers who had started on the soft tyres, pitted on laps 35 and 39 respectively, while Vettel continued to hang on and maintained a 16 second gap ahead of his teammate.
Vettel finally pitted on lap 46 and took on a set of the super-softs. He was able to come back out in 4th place just ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who was all over the German for a few corners before Vettel's tyres came up to speed. The top 6 were separated by under 6 seconds, but there was just no room for the speed demons to overtake!
There were mixed feelings around the paddock when it became clear that rain would not interfere with the race today, that meant that the entire field could pretty much go through on a one-stopper with Vettel clearly proving that the soft tyres had the ability to go the distance.
Michael Schumacher meanwhile appeared to be struggling and conceded 7th place to Jean-Eric Vergne on lap 63, with the youngster doing brilliantly considering he was in 18th place about 40 laps ago. Schumacher was in obvious trouble and soon found himself out of the points, dropping 3-4 places a lap. The veteran German retired on lap 65, which brought Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus up to 10th place.
With 8 laps to go the top 5 were all bunched up as a result of Mark Webber's tyres taking a beating.
There were suddenly a few spots of rain on the track and Jean Eric Vergne took a gamble on lap 72 to come in for intermediates. It was a massive decision for the Toro Rosso, who sacrificed 7th place for maybe a chance to steal a podium had the drizzle get heavier. It proved to be a poor decision by his team with Bruno Senna in the Williams benefiting to grab 10th place.
There was to be no late drama as Mark Webber kept his cool to win the dash to the flag ahead of Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso, with Vettel sticking to the back of the Spaniard till the very end.
It was also a good race for Force India with both cars finishing inside the points.
Current Top 10:Â·Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Paul di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg, Kimi Raikkonen and Bruno Senna.
Other Finishers (11th - 15th): Sergio Perez, Jean Eric Vergne, Heikki Kovalainen, Timo Glock and Narain Karthikeyan.
Retirements: Jenson Button, Daniel Ricciardo, Michael Schumacher,Â·Vitaly Petrov, Kamui Kobayashi, Romain Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado, Pedro de la Rosa
Photos Courtesy: Red Bull Racing
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